SALISBURY — There’s the 20-meter “baby” hill; the 30-meter, slightly more challenging hill; and the big one — the 70-meter hill. At the Salisbury Winter Sports Association’s annual JumpFest and 95th annual U.S. Eastern National Ski Jumping Championships, there’ll be competitors on all three of those hills.
The weekend event will take place from Feb. 12-14 at Satre Hill in Salisbury. The entry fee is $15 a person, and is free for children age 12 and under.
SWSA’s JumpFest is one of six ski jump competitions on the East Coast. Jumpers come from professional jumping programs in Lake Placid, New Hampshire and Vermont. This year, however, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, only jumpers from Connecticut and New York are allowed to compete.
According to event organizer Willie Hallihan, of Canaan, SWSA is a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization. The JumpFest and championship is SWSA’s biggest fundraiser every year, with proceeds going to SWSA’s ski programs and facilities.
About 12 to 30 jumpers compete at JumpFest annually, including some of the best junior ski jumpers in the U.S., according to Hallihan. Most of the jumpers in the competition are ages 12 to 19.
Judges evaluate jumpers with points on their takeoff, landing, and distance. Winners in each age category earn medals.
The same skiers jump on all three days, with each day reflecting different kinds of jumping. Friday night involves target jumping.
“We paint a big red bullseye target on the landing hill,” Hallihan said. “The kids that land closest to the landing in the middle of the bullseye get a cash prize.”
On Friday, beginning at 6 p.m., is “a fun night with a local vibe,” he said.
There is no judging.
“We light up the whole facility and we have bonfires going so people can warm themselves,” he added.
On Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m., is an invitational tournament put on by SWSA where participants can earn trophies. Later in the day, at 1 p.m., there’ll be a competition by the Development Team, composed of an elite group of jumpers from around the country.
On Sunday, at 1 p.m., is the Eastern U.S. Ski Jumping Championships, where skiers compete for a spot on the Junior National Ski Team. This year, that team will compete in Steamboat Springs, CO.
Proceeds from the event go toward maintaining and improving SWSA’s facilities, as well as its ski programs such as a jump camp, which is held from Christmastime to around March.
All JumpFest competitors have prior skiing experience — especially those who tackle the biggest hill.
“For a jumper to go off the big hill, they’ve gone through all the other level hills,” Hallihan said.
The mission of SWSA’s ski program, which is for children ages 7 and up, is to provide the ability for kids to learn “all kinds of skiing and not just ski jumping,” Hallihan said.
JumpFest typically draws between 2,500 and 5,000 people. However, because of the coronavirus pandemic, attendance will be limited to 400 people per day. Tickets can only be purchased in person, and participants can gain entrance as others leave the facility. All COVID-19 social distancing protocols will be place and face masks are required at all events.
“Despite the pandemic, we wanted to hold this event this year. It’s an outdoor event where distancing is possible, and we felt we could hold it safely,” Hallihan said. “It’s fun and different, and in the middle of winter, people are clamoring for something to do.”
For more information on JumpFest, including a breakdown of the weekend schedule, visit www.JumpFest.org.