Throwback Thursday

Last week I highlighted the great lost tradition of Winter Carnival at the University of Maine and with the snow still flying I figured another winter throwback was in order.
Current students and recent alumni looking to go skiing are probably familiar with that 2-1/2 hour drive to Sugarloaf, the closest major ski resort to the campus. Others might remember learning to ski at Hermon Mountain, which is located about 20 minutes from school and offers just a hand full of trails and night skiing. But back in the day our fellow Black Bears used to strap on the long boards and head over to Orono’s old ski hill. For this week’s Throwback Thursday we look back at the one and only University Ski Jump.
In the 1930’s the Maine Outing Club was really hitting its stride with two cabins deep in the woods of Maine and countless hiking and camping trips offered during the school year. The club hatched an idea on Maine Day in 1938 to build a ski cabin across the Stillwater River which they could use as a home for their ski operations. For years students had strapped on homemade skis and pushed across the frozen river to climb the hills behind Riverside Cemetery and zip down through the trees.
The MOC took on the task of adding a rope tow on the hill during the fall of 1938, and that was no easy task. The site was located well into the woods off Bennoch Road, so materials had to be hauled in little by little to construct a platform for the rope tow and the top and bottom pulley systems. By early 1939 the rope tow and ski cabin were fully operational and anywhere from a dozen to almost a hundred students could be found using the ski trail, toboggan run, and warming hut.
Perhaps the best known element of the trail was the “ski jump” itself where people would fly down the hill and hit a bump that would throw them through the air before having to stick the landing to avoid going into the Stillwater River. During the coldest of winter months both skiers and those on sleds could actually get enough speed up on the hill to shoot almost entirely across the frozen river almost reaching the Steam Plant Lot.
The University Ski Jump remained operational through the 1940’s and early 1950’s until the cabin was taken apart and relocated to Carrabassett Valley near Sugarloaf where it is still in operation today. 

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Maine Outing Club

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