Ayer Ski Hill
Ayer, MA

History ~ Comments/Memories ~ Current Photo

Many thanks to Dick Kenyon, who has discovered this nearly forgotten lost ski jump in Ayer, MA! Below is the history he has dug up, along with images of this lost jump.



Was Ayer Ski Hill a success or a disaster?

Imagine this scenario. It’s February 1935. A group of dedicated ski jumpers decide to fill a need for a ski jumping and winter sports venue in southern New England, closer to those wishing to engage in winter sports who cannot afford to travel north. Led by Anton Lekang, 1932 national jumping champion and Strand Mikkelsen, 1929 champion, members of the group drive over 2600 miles in southern New England seeking a hill that meets five criterion. It must: be near a highway and railroad to make access easy; have a north or northeast exposure to preserve snow longevity; have adequate height and slope; have acceptable prevailing winds; be in a region of reliable snow.

In April they choose Pingry Hill in Ayer, Massachusetts. Located just off then Route 2 and 110, on Willow Road near a railroad, the hill also meets the other criteria. A large trestle ski jump, designed by Anton Lekang, is constructed in the fall of 1935 with an opening planned as soon as enough snow falls. The entrepreneurs, now known as the Ayer Ski Club, expect to attract paying spectators to watch ski jumping contests, and other folks who want to participate in various winter sports on the couple of hundred acres surrounding the jump. Parking areas are prepared for 5000 cars. The complex is named Ayer Ski Hill.

(To the right is a map from a flyer, showing how to reach the area)

A flyer is issued listing the design features of the ski jump, showing the location on a small map and offering the slopes for skiing, tobogganing, bobsledding and snowshoeing. According to the flyer, “Ayer Ski Hill is The Largest Trestle Ski Jump in the United States, over 700 feet from top to bottom. The distance from take-off to level is 709 feet; Take-off is 409 feet; To top landing 125 feet; From landing to level 175 feet; Starting platform is 75 feet in height; Take-off is 35 feet in height; Skier must jump straight out into the air a distance of 125 feet before a safe landing can be made; It calls for a great outward jump – not a falling one.” 

(To the right is the flyer, showing all the details on the jump)

The snow is late in coming and the opening is delayed until January 25, 1936. The snow has been packed on the ski jump by Clem Curtis and is finally in great condition. The judges’ booth is draped with red, white and blue bunting and American flags. At the opening Anton Lekang takes the first jump, starting half-way up the in-run, but fails to make the full distance between the take-off and the down slope of the landing ramp. He bounces on the landing trestle, takes a nasty fall and slides down the rest of the ramp to the ground, breaking his ankle. Jumping for him is over for the rest of the winter. Only one successful jump is made this day and the demonstration is stopped prematurely so adjustments to the jump can be made to improve safety. On January 26th other jumpers perform as scheduled, watched by thousands of spectators who park free but pay one dollar admission. On subsequent weekends admission is reduced to fifty cents.

(To the right is a Boston Globe article showing the jump in January 1936. Click on image for larger picture)

So much for the scenario. Newspaper articles document further contests and demonstrations including nighttime jumping under floodlights during February 1936. Spectators arrived by auto and ski train. The lack of snow that year forced an early end to activities. Data taken at the Blue Hill, Massachusetts weather observatory in eastern Massachusetts, showed a little over 12 inches of snow for 1936, the least of any year since 1885.

That brief time from late January through the end of February 1936 seems to be the only period of operation of this ski area. Weather, the unpredictable element in the scheme, short-changed the Ayer Ski Club that winter and finished them off that summer. According to a note on the back of a photograph in the possession of the Littleton, MA Historical Society, the in-run portion of the trestle blew down in August 1936. It was not rebuilt. Perhaps this is the shortest life of a ski area yet recorded.

(Left-from the pamphlet on the area, showing the jump)

Was Ayer Ski Hill a success or a disaster? The historical facts supporting one conclusion or the other are still to be discovered.

Comments and Memories of the Ayer Ski Hill:

Dick Kenyon, Westford, MAIn late July I was accompanied to the site of Ayer Ski Hill by Alan Fletcher, owner of the Nashoba Valley Ski Hill. In the early 1950’s he owned most of the property on Pingry Hill on which the ski jump once stood. He remembered seeing footings and cables at that time and thought he could find them again. Unfortunately, after plowing through the woods, underbrush and poison ivy we did not locate any prior evidence save for an area that appeared to have been dug out of the side hill at one time which he believed was where the end of the landing trestle was located. The area is now overgrown. There is a commercial building at the foot of the hill on Willow Road and a tire recycling operation further up and back on the hill. There is a cell phone tower on top of the hill. (See picture below.)

The following statements were collected by Dick Kenyon:

Clem Curtis, Stowe, VT“Ayer Mass. was something else. What a disaster that was. I don’t know who sponsored or built it but, I’m sure somebody lost a bundle. Strand Mikkelsen made all the arrangements. I was asked to go there and prepare the hill. I stayed at the farm that owned the land the jump was built on. Wonderful people ‘cept the farm house had no water closet and it was a cold seat. In the thirties there wasn’t a lot of people that could afford 50 cents to park in the parking lots when they could see it all from most any place. The thing stuck up there like a poor ski jump. Which it was. I doubt if they took in $100.00.” (July 2005)

(Note. I think Clem intended to say the 50 cents was the admission to the ski premises since the advertising flyer stated parking was free. His point still is valid. Park for free and watch from the car.)( Dick Kenyon))

Denis Kane, Westford, MA – “My uncle, Bert Little, owned a turkey farm only a quarter mile from Pingry Hill. I was required to work there around age 10 in the summers and at other times and watched the ski jump from the farm premises. I remember that the trestle blew down but can’t recall the year. The wreckage lay on the hill for years afterward and my uncle and I scavenged lumber from it.” (August 2005)

Gertrude Membrino, Westford, MA –“ I remember going out to Ayer as a child to watch the ski jumpers. I was worried that the jumpers wouldn’t be able to stop before reaching the road. The landing are was quite close to the road.” (August 2005)

Stanley Kimball, Westford, MA – “I recall going to Ayer at that time to watch the ski jumping. There were a lot of cars along the road.” (August 2005)

Current Photos

A topo map of the area, showing Pingry Hill. The ski jump was likely on the east facing slope.

An aerial shot shows little of the lost jump.
The overgrown jumping site. No trace of the jump could be found. Note the cell tower.

If you have more information on this area just let us know.  

Last updated: September 5, 2005

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