The Aurora Ski Club
Red Wing, Minnesota 1886-1951
Web page provided by SkiJumpingUSA.com Newspaper insert (pdf 2.8MB)
Kudos to Jerry Borgen, Fred Johnson, Annie Stumpf, and Kayla Staub for this impressive publication!
Fifteen years before Orville & Wilbur, it was Mikkel & Torjus!
Ski jumping was introduced to the United States by Norwegian immigrants in the 1880s. By the middle of that decade, the sport was appearing in several midwestern communities. The first recognized North American distance record was set by Mikkel Hemmestvedt, who flew a distance of 37 feet at Red Wing, Minnesota in 1887. Mikkel and his brother Torjus are at the center of the photo at right; click photo to view more photos!
The Aurora Ski Club of Red Wing was one of the first to be formed, and although it had hosted several national championships in that community, its membership dwindled, and it was disbanded in the early 1950s. There's an excellent book about the history of that club, "Sky Crashers" by Fred Johnson. It's available through the Goodhue County Historical Society Museum
Several folks, including Johnson and Jerry Borgen, the last active jumper with the Aurora Ski Club, are helping with the development of this page, and working toward a more permanent recognition in Red Wing that will provide a window into the early history of ski jumping in the United States. For more info, please visit AmericanSkiJumping.com.
Red Wing, Minnesota’s Aurora Ski Club In American Ski Jumping History
Aurora club members introduced, in the 1880’s, what became known in the United States as “Red Wing Style” ski techniques, actually Telemark form. The term "Red Wing style" continued in use in America well into the twentieth century.
Aurora’s February 8, 1887 ski competition was named by the National Ski Association as America’s “first ski tournament.”
Aurora formulated, printed and distributed, for an 1890 tournament, the first list of rules for an American ski competition, a standardization concept later adopted by the National Ski Association.
Aurora became a leading and charter member of the original Central Ski Association (1890), the nation’s first such group and earliest forerunner of the National Ski Association.
Aurora was recognized by the nation’s leading news magazine of the era, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly (New York, Feb 2, 1893) with a cover illustration of Aurora ski jumper Torjus Hemmestvedt and an article on Red Wing ski jumping.
Aurora was credited by Carl Tellefsen, the “father of American Skiing,” with providing the crucial support needed for the 1904 founding of the first national ski organization, the aptly named National Ski Association. Aurora became a charter club in the NSA, and saw two club members chosen for the first seven-person board of directors.
Aurora’s second generation of ski jumpers, trained by veteran club members, became known nationally as the “All Americans” since each member was born in the United States. In 1911 the Aurora All Americans captured five of the top ten places at the NSA nationals including a first place by Red Wing’s Francis Kempe.
Aurora hosted two NSA National Ski Jumping Tournaments (1928 , 1936). Harris Andersen, Aurora club president and former team champion with the “All Americans”, became NSA president in 1928.
Additional narrative by Fred Johnson ...
The first North American ski jumping record, Mikkel Hemmestvedt's 37-foot flight in 1887, was established at the Aurora Ski Club's McSorley Hill.
Led by the legendary Hemmestvedt brothers Mikkel and Torjus, Red Wing, Minnesota’s, Aurora Ski Club stood unchallenged as the nation’s top skiing group at the dawn of organized skiing competition in the America. As the 1890s began, Aurora piled up several important “firsts” in national skiing:
The Aurora legend began at Ishpeming’s Lake Superior Hill in January 1891 during the new Central Ski Association’s first national tournament. Aurora jumpers overwhelmed their competition, with the Hemmestvedts wowing the crowd. Torjus finished in first place, but Mikkel turned in the longest jump, a stunning 78 feet. Auroran Bengt Hjermstead placed third. Besides claiming most of the prize money, Aurora jumpers captured the hearts of the spectators. An awed reporter attached the label “Sky Crashers” to the men from Red Wing.
Aurora Ski Club’s influence over the new American sport continued. When Carl Tellefsen, the “Father of American Skiing,” began plans to establish the National Ski Association, he implored Aurora skiers and club leaders to come to Ishpeming to help. The NSA formally began operation in 1905, with Ishpeming putting three men and Aurora two on the first seven-person Board of Directors.
In 1908 Aksel Holter, NSA secretary and another giant in American ski circles, honored Aurora, calling it “…the Old Banner Club of the United States which has produced more real American skiers than any other club in the country and who for years held the Championship.” Holter had seen Aurora emerge as the nation’s leading ski group and now was impressed with a new generation of Red Wing ski jumpers.
Holter witnessed demonstrations of Aurora’s strengths soon after the retirement of the Hemmestvedts. By 1908 a new generation of Sky Crashers was in place, proudly bearing the name Aurora “All-Americans. ” Indeed, they were all Americans. Every team member had been born in America—and all but one in Red Wing — unlike other clubs who were still largely Norwegian American. In 1911 Aurora’s All Americans dominated that NSA nationals, claiming five of the top ten places. Red Wing’s Francis Kempe, of German parentage, took first place.
World War I slowed the progress of American and International skiing, and Aurora also went into a temporary eclipse. In the mid-1920s, Aurora was back in ski headlines, thanks to the addition of Halvor Bjorngaard, a new club member. Bjorngaard had burst into the top rank of jumpers in 1925 when, as a Class B competitor, he surpassed all A level jumpers during the NSA nationals at Canton, South Dakota.
By 1928, Aurora’s Harris Andersen held the NSA presidency and was pleased to host the NSA national tournament in Red Wing. Andersen, a top skier himself and a former Aurora “All American,” helped organize the two-day affair that drew a crowd estimated at 25,000. Eight years later the NSA returned to Red Wing for its 1936 national competition.
Aurora continued in operation and competed through the 1950s before halting operations. Its last generation of ski jumpers are still active supporters of American ski jumping are involved in the effort to establish a permanent historical display in Red Wing, and to lay groundwork for an American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame. For more info, please visit AmericanSkiJumping.com.
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