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Encyclopedia Dubuque

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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.




SKIING

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Kaufmann Avenue ski slope showing the tow rope for skiers. Photo courtesy: https://www.facebook.com/ykyguidiiyr/
Development of the Longview Ski Slope north of Dubuque along the Peru Road led to more record-breaking jumps in the early 1940s. Photo courtesy: John Gronen.

SKIING. Long before SUNDOWN MOUNTAIN, Dubuque was a mecca for skiing enthusiasts. In 1932 a Works Progress Administration project called for construction of a ski hill along Kaufmann Avenue near Bunker Hill. (1) Workers were supplied by Nicholas SUTTON, director of the Iowa Emergency Relief Administration. Much of the inspiration for the effort came from Ernest Keller, a Swiss immigrant, who is often credited with popularizing skiing in Dubuque with the DUBUQUE SKI CLUB. (2) Supervising the work was Carl Grabow, city recreation director, who expected experienced jumpers to reach 120 feet. At the time, this was considered an excellent feat for any area outside of traditional skiing areas. Using the city-built course, the longest jump through March 1932 was 62 feet made by Keller. He believed jumps of 80 feet were possible. The club in 1932 had an estimated twenty members. It was believed that more people would have joined had there been a better snowfall during the season. (3)

Dubuque's first professional ski jump tournament was held on February 7, 1934 at the Bunker Hill site. (4) Joe Herreide of New Glarus, Wisconsin set the record at 57 feet. A record jump of 62 feet was established in 1935 by Ernest Keller.

The third annual tournament was held on January 12, 1936 with thirty-six skiers from Wisconsin and Iowa. The second was held the following week with fifteen participants from Milwaukee, New Glarus, Ococomowoc, Wisconsin and Rockford, Illinois in addition to Dubuque skiers. Keller was then predicting 100 foot jumps being possible. (5) The next year's tournament had to be cancelled due to weather. With high interest growing in the sport, the site was prepared for 120 foot jumps. Construction during the GREAT DEPRESSION was supplied when the County Board of Supervisors approved the city's first "work relief project." Workers were hired through the Works Progress Administration. (6)

Dubuque skiers also competed outside of town. Keller, representing the Dubuque Ski Club, won second in the B class by jumping 85 and 86 feet in his two jumps at a meet held in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin in February, 1936. (7)

Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

Ski jumping tournaments continued annually. In 1938 a new record was set when Steve Egeness soared 77 feet. For beating the hill jump record of 72 feet, he won a medal from Carl Grabow. (8) The threat posed by mild weather in 1939 was solved when the Dubuqueland Ski Tournament, sponsored by the DUBUQUE SKI CLUB and the GREATER DUBUQUE ASSOCIATION committee-in-charge announced that enough snow had been placed on the scaffold, slide, takeoff and runway to insure success. (9)

Long View c. 1947 Photo courtesy: Larry Friedman and Bob Reding

On February 4, 1940, skiers waited with anticipation for the opening of the LONGVIEW SKI JUMP off Peru Road. Built as a 300 foot jump, it was subject to high winds which closed a contest in 1941. (10)

Dubuque was the home of Robert L. MARTIN, one of the few AFRICAN AMERICANS to be a ski jumper. Martin was given an extended furlough in 1943 by his commanding officer so that he could join the Longview Ski Club in a tournament held in Madison, Wisconsin.

In 1947 the Recreation Department hosted ski lessons at the DUBUQUE GOLF AND COUNTRY CLUB. Held in January, there were forty people who enrolled, but more older people were encouraged to join the advanced classes. There were two classifications--beginning and advanced. (11)

In 1949 Ernest Keller approached the Dubuque Recreation Commission for funding to help develop a winter sports area near the Kaufmann Avenue water level station. Keller explained that the DUBUQUE SKI CLUB had spent twenty years helping children learn to ski. At the moment, the club was building a junior ski slide at the site on Kaufmann Avenue and would like to construct a downhill course there. (12)

The ski tow along Kaufmann Avenue. Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

In December 1952 Ernest Keller of the DUBUQUE SKI CLUB announced that a new ski tow at the Kaufmann Avenue site would be open by the holidays. The tow was operated by a gasoline engine and had ropes that a skier could hold to be pulled back up the hill. The tow was located on the ski area developed in the 1930s. (13)

In the 1960s Veterans Memorial Ski Hill began operating a downhill ski run along West 32nd Street. It had been proposed to the Dubuque Recreation Commission by members of the SNOMAD SKI CLUB which proposed that the group would offer manpower to clear and develop the hill and would patrol the area during the skiing season. The club also offered to purchase and install a tow rope and mechanical power supply to operate it. The estimated cost of the project was $500. (14) To keep skiers from sliding too far, bales of hay were stacked along the roadside. (15) In 1960, the City Recreation Commission voted to purchase and install a new ski tow at the Bunker Hill site. (16) Financed by the City, the site closed in 1982-1983 as a result of budget cuts and a drop in volunteer help. In 1991 remains of the short run could still be seen west of the intersection of North Grandview and West 32nd.



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Source:

1. Kruse, Len. "Ski Jumping in Dubuque," My Old Dubuque, Center for Dubuque History-Loras, 2000, p. 329

2. Ibid.

3. "New Ski Hill is in the Spotlight," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, March 24, 1932, p. 14

4. Kruse

5. "New Ski Hill..."

6. Kruse

7. "Keller Places Second in Jump," Telegraph-Herald, February 17, 1936, p. 16

8. Kruse, p. 330

9. "Mild Weather to Boost the Crowd at Meet," Telegraph-Herald, January 8, 1939, p. 25

10. Kruse, p. 330

11. "40 Enrolled in Dubuque Ski Classes," Telegraph-Herald, January 5, 1947, p. 15

12. "Winter Sports Area Proposed," Telegraph-Herald, December 2, 1949, p. 3

13. "Recreational Ideas Backed," The Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, February 11, 1953, p.31

14. "Park Ski Run is Sought Here," Telegraph-Herald, July 11, 1967, p 1

15. Lyon, Randolph. Personal observation

16. "Ski Tow is Promised For Bunker Hill Slope," Telegraph Herald, January 31, 1960, Dubuque News P. 3