Ski Jumping Camp in Lebanon Sees Young Skiers Flying Down the Slopes

  • Owen Morency, 12, of Salisbury, N.H., listens to pointers from Erling Heistad as he looks down the hill from the top of the 10-meter jump at the Storrs Hill Ski Area in Lebanon, N.H., during a ski jumping camp on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018. This was Morency’s very first jump. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

  • At the Storrs Hill Ski Area Sarah Bush, 12, of Grantham. N.H. walks up the hill to the ten meter jump during their ski jumping camp on Dec. 29, 2018, in Lebanon, N.H. This was her first day jumping. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

  • Elet McCusker, 4, of Bethel, Vt., puts himself in position for his next jump at the Storrs Hill Ski Area ski jump camp on Dec. 29, 2018, in Lebanon, N.H. McCusker gave a quick look back at his father Angus McCusker and brother Galen, 5, before jumping. Both boys are in their first year of ski jumping. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/29/2018 11:32:08 PM
Modified: 12/31/2018 1:50:31 PM

Lebanon— Jacob Morency is sitting at the top of the ski jump at Storrs Hill Ski Area in Lebanon as a cold drizzle falls from the gray sky on a Saturday afternoon.

Down below, his parents, Nicole and Andy Morency, and brother, Owen, 12, of Salisbury, N.H., anxiously wait for him to push himself off and ski down the slope to make his first 25-meter leap into the air.

Twenty minutes later, Jacob is still sitting, and his parents are still waiting.

The drizzle of rain turns into a pelting.

“When he’s ready, it will just happen,” assures Nicole Morency, with the confidence of a mother who knows her son well.

Finally, Jacob, a 16-year-old with a mop of reddish-brown hair, stands up and moves to the edge of the ramp. He checks his boot fasteners. Then he bends his knees, swings his arms like wings behind him, leans forward and thrusts himself down the slope.

At the jump line, he straightens up and sails into the air, then lands with a thump onto the snow and glides to the bottom of the hill — where he spills and falls on his bottom.

Cheers and whoops of “good job!” and “nice!” erupt among the observers below, which include Kathleen Doyle, the ski jumping coach at Merrimack Valley High School in the Concord village of Penacook. Jacob stands up, his face lit in a toothy grin and beguiling smile, and hugs his mother.

“You did it!” Jacob’s father, Andy Morency exclaims as he wraps his arm around both his son and wife in a family hug.

“It’s rough,” Jacob says of his first intermediate jump. “But fun.”

Jacob’s first was one of many at “ski jumping camp” on Saturday at Storrs Hill, where the Lebanon Outing Club helped skiers as young as 4 years old get a taste of the sport.

It’s a valuable introduction for many, helping skiers get experience and building confidence for the next assault on gravity.

“Once you’ve done it, you’ve done it,” Doyle said,

Despite un-ski like temperatures in the mid- to high 30s and a disappointing drizzle instead of snow, about a dozen kids and their parents showed for the two-hour ski jumping session organized and coached by Outing Club volunteers.

First-time jumpers began on the 10-meter jump before moving on to the 25-meter jump (the meters measure the “fly zone” between the jumping-off line and the landing spot) which some, like Jacob Morency, are ready to do after only a few preliminary jumps.

“We welcome anyone who wants to learn as long as they can already alpine ski and stop,” explained Cheryl Tourville, the vice president of the Lebanon Outing Club whose husband, Ed, is one of the ski jumping coaches.

Both their two boys, Matthew, 9, and Timmy, 7, are now jumping.

Tourville said her sons began learning to ski jump when she advised her husband he needed “to have something to do with the boys that doesn’t involve mom.”

Although not a skier herself, Tourville now helps with fundraising for the club and said that learning to jump has greatly helped their younger son to overcome his social anxiety disorder.

“It gave him the self-confidence he was lacking,” Tourville explained, without the pressure of participating in a team sport.

“We’ve seen this with quite a few kids here,” she said.

At the top of the 10-meter jump slope, Erling Heistad, whose family has been involved in the Storrs Hill Ski Area since its founding more than 90 years ago, was coaching the kids before they made their first run down the slope. Heistad has seen a lot; he remembers when he was 14 years old and his father, also named Erling, built the 50-meter jump platform.

“Jumping is all in your head,” explained Heistad, 79, who stopped ski jumping four years ago after he “had a knee replaced.” It’s also about overcoming fear with “confidence and knowledge.”

It was just such confidence and knowledge that Heistad was helping to instill in the novice jumpers on Saturday.

“OK, Matthew, show me that jump again,” he said to Matthew Tourville. He instructed the 9-year-old to bend his knees on the way down but straighten his knees when he reached the jump line. “You can do this, OK?”

Matthew proved him right, pushing off and bombing down the slope, making a flawless jump and stopping where his parents were watching at the bottom of the hill.

Next up was Sarah Bush, 12, of Grantham, who had already jumped “six or seven” times previously.

“It’s really fun flying through the air,” Sarah said, admitting she was a “little bit” scared her first time.

“OK, get your head down,” Heistad said, coaching Sarah as she readied to make her next run down the jump.

Max Olson, 7, of Lebanon — “my real name is Maxwell but a lot of people call me Max,” he explained authoritatively — began jumping last year, but he remembers his first jump like it was yesterday.

“It was pretty easy,” Max said with the cool confidence of a seasoned pro.

Perhaps that’s because the Olson family — Max’s mom Amy Olson is on the board of the Lebanon Outing Club and manages the organization’s website — are active skiers.

“He had a pretty solid base before he started,” said Max’s dad, Tim Olson, a Lebanon architect.

Kricket and Angus McCusker, of Bethel, brought their two boys, Galen, 5, and Elet, 4, for some practice.

“They went off it last year and just loved it,” Angus McCusker said.

What’s more, ski jumping is the perfect activity for a couple of high-energy boys, McCusker explained.

“You hop in the car, drive down here and get that energy out before bedtime,” he said.

As Elet nonchalantly pushed himself off the ledge and effortlessly whizzed down the slope on his way to a clean jump and landing, Heistad marveled at the 4-year-old’s skill.

“I want to see him in the next five years. He’ll be flying high,” Heistad said.

While the joy of watching the younger generation fly through the air was infectious, the desire for the same thrill didn’t necessarily leap to every parent.

“It looks fun, but I’ll enjoy it through him,” said Tim Olson, father of Max.

But the enthusiasm may have extended leapt back a generation in at least one family.

“I have never ski-jumped in my life,” Angus McCusker said. “But I’m curious about it. I might try it out someday.”

John Lippman can be reached at


Tim Olson is an architect in Lebanon. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated  where his practice is located.



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