High Flying: Vt.'s only Olympic-size ski jump crowns winners
By Kevin O'Connor
STAFF WRITER | February 18,2013
Dana Sprague Photo
Chris Lamb, 23, of Andover, N.H., leaps off Brattleboro's Harris Hill on Sunday, besting athletes from Canada, Japan, Slovenia, the Netherlands and Ukraine to win the 91st anniversary Fred Harris Memorial Tournament at Vermont's only Olympic-size ski jump.
BRATTLEBORO — A New Hampshire native bested almost 30 world-class ski jumpers — and gusts that toppled slopeside warming tents — to win Sunday's 91st Fred Harris Memorial Tournament during the once-a-year weekend opening of Vermont's only Olympic-size ski jump.
Chris Lamb, 23, of Andover, N.H., leapt off a wind-swept Harris Hill launch and onto a frozen landing surrounded by 2,300 spectators Saturday and another 1,750 Sunday.
“I always like this hill — it's a good feeling to come back,” said Lamb, who set the jump's long-distance record (102 meters, or 335 feet) in 2010 and is now living and training in Norway.
The Brattleboro competition doubled as the only International Ski Federation Cup contest scheduled for the United States this season. It drew elite athletes from Canada, Japan, Slovenia, the Netherlands and Ukraine, as well as one hometown boy: Spencer Knickerbocker, 20, a member of the U.S. Nordic combined development team.
“I'm happy, considering these are the best jumpers,” the Vermonter said of his 14th-place showing. As for the on-and-off gusts that lifted some and lashed others: “It's an outdoor sport — you just have to deal with the cards you're dealt.”
The contest also featured three U.S. women who, after decades of exclusion from the male-only event in the Olympics, will finally be able to complete in the Winter Games in 2014.
Harris Hill is the only 90-meter ski jump in New England and one of just six of its size in the nation. But because volunteers maintain everything — they added the snowmaking pipe in 1985, a new $20,000 judging stand in 2003, a new launch ramp in 2009 and a new coaching tower last year — the jump opens only one weekend each February.
Lamb has won the Harris title once before, in 2010. With a third victory, he'll be the sixth athlete to retire the trophy since the hill's creation in 1922.
“To be a part of history,” Lamb said, “would be great.”