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As I recall: Ski slope had short lifespan

In January 1935, a ski slide was constructed under the sponsorship of the Dovre Ski Club of Fargo and Moorhead. The club had dismantled their slide north of Moorhead and used the lumber in building the new slide. Other materials were donated by l...

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In January 1935, a ski slide was constructed under the sponsorship of the Dovre Ski Club of Fargo and Moorhead.

The club had dismantled their slide north of Moorhead and used the lumber in building the new slide.

Other materials were donated by local merchants and labor was provided by the Cass County Federal Emergency Relief Administration.

Hans Rosenberg designed the hill and supervised construction of the ski slide. Cost was $7,000.

The new slide was west of the Cass County Hospital, which is now the site of Trollwood Park in Fargo, and across the road from the sewage disposal plant. It faced northeast. A steep hill along the river protected the snow from sun until late in the winter.

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Made entirely of wood, the structure rose 140 feet above the bank of the Red River. (The Black Building in downtown Fargo measures 122½ feet.)

It was more than 300 feet long, allowing jumps estimated at 160 to 170 feet. The speed of a skier going down reached 80 to 90 mph as they flew into the air and landed on a hill below where they glided across the river and into Minnesota. The hill was made of dirt left from the building of the sewage plant.

The club planned to bid for major tournaments, such as those held by the Central United States Ski Association. The week the building of the Fargo ski slide was announced, Olympic trials were being held at Devils Lake, N.D., where the highest slide in the state with a scaffold of 100 feet high was located.

The Fargo slide would not only be the highest in North Dakota when it was finished, but it would be the highest in the country.

In a story from March 1936 written by Hank Hurley, local skiers who placed in a tournament were Kaare Rosenberg, Trygve Stone, Donald Smith, Herb Larson, Floyd Bjorkland and Olaf Rosenberg. Nine hundred onlookers observed the event.

It was hoped that among the first skiers to use the slide would be Casper Oimoen of Minot, captain of the 1936 Olympic ski team in Hamburg, Germany, and Peder Falstad of Devils Lake, also a former member of the Olympic team. However, there is no report in The Forum files that they ever did.

Apparently the ski club was not able to attract the tournaments it had hoped to and the winter weather did not lend itself to skiing during some of those years. By 1937, the lumber bill at the Chesley Lumber and Coal Co. had not been paid. How this was resolved is not evident in the clipping files, but it indicates that the ski club was in trouble.

The last story regarding the ski slide was written in August 1942. The headline says "Ski Slide To Be Razed." The Dovre Ski Club carried out a request of the civil aeronautics authority, which claimed that the slide, which was two miles west of the nearest runway, was a potential hazard for planes coming in for a landing. Good thing they didn't get a bead on the Black Building.

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Whether Oimoen ever rode the Fargo ski jump is a mystery. But his reputation is not. He won 95 percent of the meets he entered, which added up to more than 400 trophies in his skiing career.

Oimoen was born May 8, 1906, in Norway. In 1923, he settled in Minot where he became a bricklayer. In the mid-1960s, he and his wife moved to Ashland, Ore., following his retirement. He died there in July 1995 at the age of 89.

He was inducted into the Skiing Hall of Fame in 1963 and received the North Dakota Rough Rider Award in 1973. He was posthumously inducted into the North Dakota Sports Hall of Fame in 1998. A statue of Oimoen is featured at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot.

In 1935, Oimoen shattered the American distance record by 15 feet at the Western U.S. Ski Jumping Championships at Big Pines, Calif., when he jumped 255 feet.

A reporter for the Los Angeles Times wrote: "Somewhere high above these frozen peaks and pines, Uller - god of winter - must have chuckled in silent satisfaction as he looked down on the master ski hill here today. For winging his way as if from the very clouds floating lazily by above, Casper Oimoen ... sailed out 255 feet to establish a new American amateur record and to win the western American ski-jumping championship before 20,000 frost-bitten fans."

I wish I could have been there.

Readers can reach Forum history columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com

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