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Local view: Chester Bowl ski jumps: Consider alternatives to destruction of Duluth’s historic ski jumps

A historic postcard of Chester Bowl ski jumps. (Contributed photo)

I applaud Rocci Contardo, an excellent former Duluth ski jumper, for his  comments in the Aug. 1 story, “Former ski jumper urges city to keep Chester Bowl ski jumps.” His sentiments expressed the feelings of most “old-timer” jumpers, I’m sure.

Whether ski jumping can or should be returned to its glory years has been debated for decades along with the ongoing controversy over what to do with the old jumps at Duluth’s Chester Bowl.

Ski jumping is a strong part of the immigrant heritage of Duluth. Thousands used to gather on winter days to watch spectacular competitions. Duluth’s ski stars were known worldwide; many became Olympians.

Currently, the city, in its wisdom, has decided to destroy the jumps. It seems prudent to consider alternatives unique to our city. In Oslo, Norway, arguably the birthplace of ski jumping, there is the Holmenkollen Ski Jump and Heritage Center, probably the best-known such place in the world. Visitors yearly, by the thousands, climb stairs there for the spectacular view and to wonder how jumpers survived.

We have a similar opportunity in Duluth. Stairs to the top of our jumps and a glass-

enclosed viewing room there and interpretive center would offer an unsurpassed visitor experience, rivaling Norway and dwarfing our Enger experience. As money becomes available, an elevator to the top would be ideal.

Further, if we expand our imagination, we could contact thrill-ride suppliers to design an attraction simulating the heart-pounding experience of a ski jumper accelerating down a slide and launching into the air. This concept is possible and could become an unrivaled tourist attraction. Over time, money generated could pay for up-front costs and maintenance.

Of course there are challenges; we can overcome them by working together. No other city in the world has this opportunity. Let’s not lose it. Casual conversations I’ve had with locals even indicate a willingness to offer financial support.

George Hovland is the owner of Snowflake Nordic Ski Center in Duluth.