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Winter Park Sports Foundation eyes Fraser for revival of Nordic ski jumping

by Stephanie Miller
Sky-Hi Daily News
Courtesy photoNordic ski jumping thrived at Winter Park Resort from 1957 to 2004. Now a nonprofit group is hoping to revive the sport in the Fraser Valley near the Tubing Hill.
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After three years without a jumping hill, Nordic ski jumpers may have found a home in Fraser.

The Winter Park Sports Foundation, a nonprofit organization vying to bring ski jumping back to Grand County, is looking to place a couple of Nordic jumps next to the Fraser Tubing Hill, on land owned by Grand Park.

Clark Lipscomb, president of Grand Park, has agreed to donate the land for the foundation’s use provided it can obtain its own insurance. The group is working with the Fraser Valley Recreation Metropolitan District to see if a program could be developed under its umbrella.

Scott Ledin, director of parks and recreation, presented the idea to the district’s board of directors Tuesday night. He informed them that he had contacted the district’s insurance agent to find out if any additional premiums would be involved. He also plans to get together with the group and discuss more options. So far he has had “very preliminary discussions,” he said.

“I think it would be great for the jumping program to be rehabilitated. It’s definitely an idea I support, if it’s fiscally possible,” Ledin said during a phone interview. “If we can help somehow, we’ll definitely look into it.”

Fraser resident Andy Miller is a member of the Winter Park Sports Foundation, and although the idea of having a program in Fraser is only in its beginning stages, he is excited about the possibility. Nordic jumping has had a 65-year history in Winter Park, and the foundation has been trying to restart what was once a viable program for a long time, he said.

The Nordic ski jumping program existed at Winter Park Resort from 1957 to 2004, next to the Gemini Chairlift. It ended when Intrawest decided to expand its beginner terrain and regraded the runout to the Nordic jumps.

“It was real disappointing, but since then Winter Park Resort has been supportive,” Miller said. For instance, resort officials said the lift that used to serve the jump hill is still available for the organization’s use, and if the Fraser location pans out, it will be relocated there.

The foundation has had a couple bumps in the road in the past four years. After the program ended at the resort, members sought a location at the end of Arapahoe Road in downtown Winter Park, but it was met with resistance by surrounding homeowners, who let their voices be heard by the town of Winter Park. Since then the idea has been tabled.

“It’s still a great site for much larger jumps,” Miller said of the Arapahoe location. “Fraser would be a good starting point and could possibly be built bigger (in the future), but the hill is not big enough for large jumps.”

Miller figures the site in Fraser could be used for two smaller jumps ” a 10 meter and a 20 meter jump ” and perhaps a third jump eventually at 30 meters. Dennis McGrane, chief operations officer for the sports foundation and a former Olympic Nordic jumper, believes the location would be “great” for younger kids, ranging from 8 to 12 years old.

“Basically, my intent is to introduce the sport to young kids. Because we can’t build big jumps (due to land constraints) . . . It’d be more of ‘let’s go out and play,'” McGrane said. “It (would) evolve from a basic introductory program to hopefully something bigger.”

McGrane, who lives in Mead, plans to coach on weekends if the jumps are built. He started jumping when he was 9 years old and started coaching in 1992. To McGrane, jumping is the greatest sport known to man.

“Every kid’s gotta try it. Everything you encounter in life, ski jumping prepares you for,” he said, chuckling. “It prepares you to fly high, and it prepares you to crash and burn.”

A partnership with the recreation district would be a “great thing,” he added. If the foundation sought its own insurance coverage, the cost would probably be around $3,500 a year.

“I’d rather spend that money on buying equipment for the kids,” he said.

McGrane said he hopes the district will see the program as a low-risk program in a low-cost, controlled environment. Safety, he added, “is huge to us.” Although there is a stigma about Nordic jumping, Miller and McGrane say it’s a safer sport than free-style jumping. In fact, Nordic jumping is the safest of jumping disciplines, Miller added. And McGrane says he has never broken a bone in his life.

“Everything is designed for jumping and landing safely, so it’s a much safer sport,” Miller explained.

The foundation expects roughly 30 to 40 kids ” mostly from the Denver area “” will be interested in the jumping program. Although the Fraser hill isn’t ideal for jumping, it is close to town, Miller pointed out, which would let kids walk or cross-country ski to the area with little or no assistance from parents. Since cross-country skiing and Nordic jumping complement each other (Nordic Combined is an Olympic event), the idea of both sports in that area is appealing to the foundation.

Grand Park’s Lipscomb said the foundation is a “fantastic group that’s been without a venue for a long time.” He understands the hill in Fraser isn’t ideal for a full-scale program, but he feels the location would provide a benefit for everyone, he said.

Grand Park plans to turn the hill into a sledding hill in the near future, and the Nordic jumps would be located between the Fraser Tubing Hill and Grand Park’s tubing hill.

Miller and McGrane are hoping it works out. Nordic jumping provides an opportunity for children to develop into Olympic skiers, Miller said. It also teaches them dedication, he added. The progression is slow, and athletes must be focused. Kids that want instant gratification walk away.

“Of all the disciplines, Nordic jumping really involves the most thrill. But it also calls for the most patience,” Miller said.

Patience seems to be key for the local Nordic jumping program as well.

“We had a dream of building another hill, of having a really large facility that people in town could go to,” McGrane said. “But it just isn’t going to work out that way. We’re going o have to start with something incredibly small, go with our strengths and build from there.”

For more information on the Winter Park Sports Foundation, visit wpkids.org.

– To reach Stephanie Miller, call (970) 887-3334, ext. 19601 or e-mail smiller@grandcountynews.com.


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