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The History and the Thrills of Ski Jumping in New England

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Every February, the Salisbury Winter Sports Association (SWSA) hosts Jumpfest at Satre Hill in Salisbury, Conn., a weekend-long competition for ski jumpers. While she will not be competing in the event’s 96th rendition in 2022, seasoned jumper Ariel (Picton) Kobayashi’s book details the winter sport and its impact on the Northeast.

Kobayashi, whose new book is “Ski Jumping in the Northeast,” is no stranger to Jumpfest. While she had been skiing since she was 3 years old, Kobayashi’s jumping career started when she attended Jumpest at the age of 9.

Part of the attraction for her, even at that young age, was Salisbury.

“It’s an awesome community and it was great to be a part of that community. You really get to know everyone.”

Kobayashi started competing throughout the Northeast and even competed in Anchorage, Alaska, and Steamboat Springs, Colo., during the Junior Olympic competitions in 2003 and 2004  — events which are now called Junior Nationals and Junior Championships. This year’s Junior Nationals will also be held in Salisbury, at Satre Hill, from Feb. 22 to 26.

Eventually, however, it just became too difficult for Kobayashi to get training and practice time.

“Ski jumping is largely a volunteer-run sport in New England,” she explained. “You need volunteers to get the hills ready. Most of the coaches are also volunteers.”

Eventually, she said, “the only time I was  able to get time to practice was on the weekends. It became really hard to advance in the sport.”

Although she had been a very successful jumper, Kobayashi took a hiatus when she was 15 — but returned to the sport several years later, while living in Vermont. She began to watch jump competitions and her love of the sport was rekindled.

She decided to return to the Northwest Corner of Connecticut  in 2016, to coach young  Salisbury jumpers. She stuck with it for four years, but then moved to New Hampshire and started a family.

“Ski Jumping in the Northeast,” began as a senior project while she was a student at the State University of New York at  Purchase. Over the years, it developed into a history of the sport here in New England, with nitty gritty details of the competitions.

“I hope this book inspires more people to get involved in ski jumping, as a volunteer or as a jumper,” she said. “It’s a tight-knit but welcoming community to be a part of. I think that’s why I love the sport so much.”

The book will be useful for the many fans of ski jumping in the Tri-state region — but perhaps it will be most valuable to those people who have never come out to the hill in Salisbury to watch the annual jump competition. This year’s Salisbury Winter Sports Association Jumpfest will be held from Feb. 11 to 13. Keep an eye on the website at www.jumpfest.org for the schedule and for details on COVID-19 precautions.

“Ski Jumping in the Northeast” by Ariel (Picton) Kobayashi can be found at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com and can be ordered through local bookstores.

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