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Boom Lake ski jump provided high-flying fun in Brainerd

The Brainerd Ski Club in 1938 built the Boom Lake ski slide with Works Progress Administration labor. Ski jumpers landed on the Brainerd lake’s southeast shore. The ski slide no longer exists.

Vintage photo of a Boom Lake ski slide sitting atop a bluff over by snowy Boom Lake in Brainerd
The Brainerd Ski Club was responsible for the 1938 construction of a ski slide along Boom Lake in Brainerd that was used by ski jumpers.
Contributed / Crow Wing County Historical Society
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BRAINERD — While people revel in the high-flying, death-defying feats of ski jumpers in the Winter Olympics, local residents enjoyed their own version of the activity starting in 1939.

Ski jumping has been a fixture of the Winter Olympics ever since it made its debut at the inaugural Winter Games at Chamonix in France in 1924, according to Olympic officials.

There will be five events in ski jumping at Beijing 2022, including a mixed team event, which will be making its Winter Olympic debut. The winter games began Friday, Feb. 4, in Beijing and towns in the neighboring Hebei province in China.

Boom Lake inaugural ski jump tournament advertisement
An advertisement for the inaugural Brainerd Ski Tournament at the Boom Lake ski slide promises participation by area ski jumpers.
Contributed / Carl Faust

The first ski tournament in Brainerd at the Boom Lake ski slide included ski jumpers from the Norwegian American Athletic Club of Minneapolis, the Lone Lake Ski Club of Aitkin and the Brainerd Ski Club.

A ski slide along Boom Lake near Kiwanis Park was built in 1938 after the Brainerd Ski Club made the push a year earlier to build a ski jump in Brainerd at a meeting of the sportsmen’s group at the Iron Exchange Building that attracted about a hundred people.

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“Reports on progress were given at last night's meeting by G.C. Flaata and Jake Preston, who have been most active in attempting to secure the slide,” according to the Nov. 8, 1938, edition of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch.

Ski jump along Boom Lake in Brainerd
A ski slide (or ski jump) was constructed in the 1930s along Boom Lake in Brainerd.
Contributed / Crow Wing County Historical Society

Construction of the ski slide was estimated at the meeting to cost about $250 and would be built as a Works Progress Administration project. The money would be raised by various city organizations.

“The question of who would maintain the slide and the liability for injuries received considerable attention. President Gil Hokanson appointed a committee of Mr. Preston, Mr. Flaata, Harold Carlson and Les Hickerson to work on the project,” according to the Brainerd Daily Dispatch.

After the business meeting, six reels of film on beavers, vacation areas, hunting and other similar topics were shown, according to the newspaper account, and the film was furnished by the state Department of Conservation, and the machine and operator by the Mills Motor Co.

Frozen Boom Lake in Brainerd in February 2022
Snow covers the frozen Boom Lake in Brainerd near Kiwanis Park on Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, where a ski jump once existed but was dismantled at an unknown time later.
Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch

The Brainerd Ski Club’s request to install three light poles on the Boom Lake ski slide was granted by the city in 1939 and workers from the water and light department did the work. The 500-watt bulbs allowed for night ski jumping and for night slalom skiing on adjacent slopes.

“Ski jumpers will ‘take off’ to the northwest, directly facing Boom Lake itself. Very little dirt fill or excavation is necessary to give the proper slope to the hill,” according to the Brainerd Daily Dispatch.

Carl Faust, a local historian, said, “I did put a marker down at the bottom of the hill a few years back, and it has been thrown into the lake a few times, so I set it in concrete.”

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The ground was broken for the Mississippi Landing Trailhead Park project in Brainerd in June. The planned greenspace with trails and pathways, a community amphitheater and an outdoor classroom with

Blueprints for the former ski slide were published in the Nov. 8, 1938, edition of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch at the start of the ski jump’s construction near Kiwanis Park along East College Drive.

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“Workers have poured cement for the footings and will begin constructing the wooden framework within the next week,” according to the newspaper.

Faust said, “Walk in at the top on the corner of Park and Pennsylvania streets and you can find the dozen or so concrete footings still there, under the snow now, perhaps.”

Boom Lake ski slide with geese on it
Ducks or geese take advantage of the Boom Lake ski slide to use as a launching pad in this photo circa 1939.<br/>
Contributed / Crow Wing County Historical Society

Use of the ski slide was permitted at no cost to “anyone who proves capable of using it.” But the Second World War that began in 1939 and ended in 1945 upended many lives for a time.

“The ski slide located at the southern end of Pennsylvania Avenue which was abandoned during the war will be used again this winter,” according to the newspaper account of the ski jump that no longer exists today.

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchFL.

I cover arts and entertainment, and write feature stories, for the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper. As a professional journalist with years of experience, I have won awards for my fact-based reporting. And my articles have also appeared in other publications, including USA Today. 📰
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