Norge Ski Club, one of America's oldest ski jump institutions, is not in Colorado, or any other mountainous state, as you might imagine. It's based right here in Chicagoland. The sport of ski jumping was born in Norway in the early 1800s, and Norwegian immigrants brought it to America in the 1880s, first to Minnesota and Michigan, and soon after, to Illinois. The Norge Ski Club was founded in 1905 in Cary, Illinois, a suburb west of Chicago, where the skiers found a hill suitable to the sport. Hills, however, are in short supply in Chicago proper. To host ski jump competitions here, the Norge Ski Club had to ski on constructed ramps.
The first competition held in the city took place in 1905 at Chutes Park, an amusement park that was in Chicago's East Garfield Park neighborhood. The Chicago Tribune article covering the competition made a special point to report that women would be participating.
The following year, in 1906, the West Chicago Park Commission constructed a ski ramp in Humboldt Park. A 1907 Chicago Tribune article about the ski slide explained how to pronounce "ski," showing how unfamiliar the sport was to Chicagoans.
Ski jump meets were first held in Soldier Field in 1936, and in 1954, a 184 foot high ramp was built over the Soldier Field stadium for a summer competition. Crushed ice was brought in since there was no seasonal snow in September. Norge Ski Club staged events at other unlikely Chicago landmarks including Wrigley Field in 1944, and Navy Pier.
If you're interested in taking up ski jumping as a new pandemic hobby this winter, Norge Ski Club is still operating with its constructed ramp in Fox River Grove.
Learn more about the variety of events held at Soldier Field at our current exhibit From Swamps to Parks: Building Chicago's Public Spaces. And visit Special Collections to explore further the history of Chicago's green spaces.