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Musick: Norge ready for liftoff

Published: Friday, Jan. 24, 2014 11:17 p.m. CST • Updated: Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 11:40 a.m. CST
(Kyle Grillot –
Jenny Smith of Cary brings a bag of snow to the next volunteer on the Norge Ski Club ramp Wednesday in Fox River Grove. The club has done it the same way for the past 109 years. A snowblower at the bottom fills bags of snow, and people line up on the tower, shoulder to shoulder, and pass along lap bags filled with snow. "It can take four or five hours, if we have 30 to 40 volunteers," said Guy Larson, a parent of a ski jumper.

FOX RIVER GROVE – Let’s go back to 1905.

That was a long time ago.

The Cubs were on the verge of winning the World Series.

Shoeless Joe Jackson was a rookie for the Philadelphia Athletics.

George Halas was a 10-year-old kid.

Yet 1905 was when the tradition started at Norge Ski Club, and it endures today.

This weekend, ski jumpers from around the world will arrive in McHenry County to showcase their skills at the oldest, continuously open ski club in the United States. Saturday will include the junior competition and junior national championship, while Sunday will mark the senior meets, including the long-standing competition.

Tickets are $15 and will be available at the entrance to the club, which is near Routes 14 and 22. Children 12 years old or younger will receive free admission.

Make the trip to Norge, and you’ll play the part of a time traveler.

You will see ski-jumping stars of the future, with at least a few of the young athletes likely bound for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

You will have an incredible view of humans flying in the present, soaring from the jump, pointing their skis and angling their bodies to achieve maximum distance.

And you also will see traces of the club’s long, storied past.

Take the 70-meter jump, for example.

It’s not easy to prepare the jump for the club’s annual ski-jumping competition. Then again, it’s not complicated, either.

How do they do it?

The same way since 1905. Grueling, old-fashioned, manual labor.

This week, about 40 people gathered at Norge to form an assembly line of sorts. They lined up shoulder to shoulder and began the process of filling lap bags with snow, passing the bags forward up the hill, and finally emptying the bags onto the jump so skiers would have a smooth surface from which to launch.

John Glasder of Cary was part of the crew. He held a rake, and his job on the assembly line was

to smash down the snow after it had been placed on the jump.

Single-digit temperatures prompted a record finish, Glasder said.

“I think it was extra incentive,” Glasder said with a laugh. ““I think it used to take us between 4½ and five hours. This time, we did it in 3 hours and 45 minutes. That’s like an all-time best.”

Simplicity is one of the beauties of ski jumping.

Yes, equipment has come a long way.

Yes, results can be measured with more precision than ever.

But ultimately, all you really need are a pair of skis, a hill and a bunch of snow.

Well, that plus a few dozen manual laborers to prepare the jump in perfect shape.

“It’s a lot of work,” Glasder said. “But it does work.”

And the crew’s muscles still work, despite nearly four hours of filling and emptying thousands of bags of snow.

“After you get done,” Glasder said, “it’s actually a pretty good feeling.”

• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at and on Twitter @tcmusick.

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