When we visited Fox River Grove towards the end of last year, it was before all the snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures were upon us, which was rather ironic because the first place we went to was the village’s number one attraction, the Norge Ski Club, the oldest, year-round ski jump facility in the USA.
I’d heard of this place from other people who had been there for the annual winter tournaments but I was curious to see how this thing worked without snow. As usual when I visit somewhere new, I like to find out as much as possible and the first person that I spoke to gave me an interesting rundown on the place. His grandfather was one of the original members of the club which was started back in 1905 by a group of Norwegian men who evidently missed one their homeland’s most favorite pastimes.
The idea became so popular with these ski jump enthusiasts, who traveled in, mostly from Chicago, that they built cottages on the surrounding land for use while they were constructing the facility and which later served as somewhere to stay at weekends.
Over the years the club has held some spectacular promotional events, at one time renting Navy Pier where they set up a jump which saw the participants landing in the water, and another time erecting an enormous wooden scaffold at Soldier Field, using crushed ice on which to land.
The Club is open to all ages and when we were there we saw several young people taking to the slopes. There are three different levels, for learners to the most advanced participants, and I was invited to climb to the top of the highest platform in order to get some good shots of the jumping. It seemed like a ‘piece of cake’ from where I was standing but after scaling the first tier of wooden boards I gave up and took the easy route, driving around the outside of the club on a narrow road that gives access to the end of the tallest jump.
I don’t have a good head for heights so I declined the offer of a spot at the very top of the jump, but there was a splendid view from the take-off point and, as the skiers whistled down the slope, I tried to capture their graceful movements as they soared into the air. They were moving so rapidly that most of the time they were out of shot before I could hit the button but I did eventually manage to get a few images that weren’t too blurred and actually had someone in the frame.
I was full of admiration for these young athletes. They seemed to have no fear even though one or two took a nasty tumble upon landing. They just got up, dusted themselves off and returned to the top of the tower. One mother who I spoke to when I returned to the clubhouse told me that she had three sons who participated in the sport, the youngest starting when he was only four years old. I don’t know if my nerves could handle watching my three girls hurtling off into the void like that but there were several young ladies there who proved that they definitely had no second thoughts about it.
I promised myself that I would come back out to the club in January to watch the tournament but as I get older I find the winter weather less and less appealing so I opted for the comforts of home and missed it. Shame on me!!
While looking out over the surrounding countryside we’d caught a glimpse of the Fox River, so after we left the ski club we made our way over there to watch the boats skimming back and forth along the waterway which is a 202-mile-long tributary of the Chicago River. Despite the fact that flooding
seems to have been a regular problem throughout the years, many communities have sprung up along the banks of the Fox River and, according to the 2010 census, some 4,854 people called Fox River Grove their home.