Chester Bowl – Historical Timeline
1888 Duluth’s City Council creates the first four city parks. Cascade Park was 49 acres on Mesabi Avenue. Portland Square was one block at 10th Avenue East and 4th St. What was then known as Lincoln Bank followed Miller’s Creek in the West End.
Chester Park was at its present location, between Skyline Parkway and St. Scholastica, and 14th and 18th Avenues East. Chester Park was named for Charles Chester, one of the earliest homesteaders in Duluth’s East End, who became a major property owner in the city. Many mistakenly assume Chester Bowl is named after Chester Congdon, but he did not come to Duluth until 1892, and did not move into his famous mansion Glensheen, until 1908.
1893 Martin A. Strand, born in 1863 in Norway, was living in New Richmond, Wisconsin, where he is credited with making the first U.S. skis for commercial sale. By 1940, Strand’s factories had manufactured over 2,000,000 pairs of skis for the burgeoning U.S. winter recreation industry.
1905 The National Ski Association was founded at Ishpeming, Michigan with Carl Tellefsen, former jumper and head of the Ishpeming Ski Club, elected first president, following the first national jumping championship at Ishpeming.
The Duluth Ski Club was formally organized at a November 21, 1905 meeting at the St. Louis Hotel. The leaders and outstanding skiers of this early phase of skiing and jumping in Duluth were primarily Norwegian immigrants. Club organizers were: H. H. Borgen, Hans Wannebo, Peter Wright, John J. Wangenstein, John Jenswold, J. D. Mahoney, Dr. H. Hovde, Chris Evans, Ludwig Haldorsen. Skiers were: Ole Feiring, John Evanson, Olaf Larson, Gustave Bye, John Mangseth, Elling Diesen, Arnold Olson, Ingvald Hendrum, Harold Landry. While a few tournaments were held at a hill in Hunter’s Park, most were held in upper Chester Park, near the site of the present ski hill and jumps.
1908 The Duluth Ski Club was officially incorporated in Minnesota on February 7. Among its objectives were to “create, develop and maintain the sport of skiing in the city of Duluth” and to “cooperate with the Parks and Recreation Department of the City of Duluth in the development of the area known as Chester Bowl and the area known as Fond du Lac as Winter Sports recreation centers…”
The Duluth Ski Club hosts a National Ski Jumping Championship. Scheduled for Sunday, Feb 12, it had to be postponed to the 13th, due to rain. John Evanson of Duluth won with a jump of 110 feet.
1909 To attract more people and give them more to do at the park, the Duluth Ski Club built toboggan slides at Chester Park. These were popular rides that were kept in use through the 1930s.
A club house with a huge fireplace was also built for toboggan parties and other social gatherings.
1911 C.A. Lund of St. Paul founded a ski factory, later called the Northland Ski Company. Its hickory skis dominated the market into the 1940s.
1915 The Duluth Ski Club hosts a second National Ski Jumping Championship, and over 12,000 spectators attended in ideal winter weather. By this time, a grandstand had been built on the west side of the landing slope, and bleachers on the opposite slope of the bowl. A clubhouse was built at the bottom of the hill.
1916 The wooden ski slide blew down during the summer. During the years of WW I, most of the land in the Chester Park ski bowl was sold to the City of Duluth parks department.
1920-22 A small ski hill was built at Miller’s Creek in the West End, andtournaments were held there for three successive winters. Among the organizers were Helmer Sather, Thorwald Seglem, Guy R. Olson, Fred Tronsdal, Egel Nilsen and Theordore Anderson. Ole Mangseth and his sons from the Coleraine ski jumping hill, took part in these tournaments. Sverre Hendricksen, who made Duluth his home following WW I, won the Class B national jumping championships in 1918 and 1920.
1922 By the fall, renewed enthusiasm in winter sports allows for the reorganization of the Duluth Ski Club. At a meeting in Sloan’s Hall in Duluth’s West End, the following officers were elected: Ben Rasmussen, President; Thorvald Seglem, Vice President; Helmer Sather, Secretary; Fred Tronsdal, Treasurer. Two successful jumping tournaments were held in Duluth during the winter of 1922, and a team of eight jumpers competed at the nationals in Minneapolis, wearing the new green and white colors of the Duluth Ski Club.
1923 At a November 5th meeting of the Duluth Ski Club at the YMCA, a decision was made to rebuild the ski hills at Chester Bowl.
1924 Additional land near Chester Bowl was purchased by the Duluth Ski Club and donated to the city, and the 115-foot “Big Chester” wooden ski slide was built. The first tournament was held on January 14, with Barney Riley of Coleraine winning with a jump of 137 feet. A new club house and toboggan slide were built soon after.
The very first Olympic Winter Olympic Games were held at Chamonix, France, with Nordic ski events only. Norwegian Thorleif Haug won the 18-km and 50-km cross-country, the Nordic combined, and a bronze medal in jumping. Norwegians took home 11 of the 12 gold medals.
1926 In January, a steel slide was built at Chester Bowl, which was then the largest steel slide in the world. Duluth banker W. W. Spring led the effort to obtain funds and credit for the steel slide’s construction. The National Classic Ski Jumping competition is held in Duluth.
1930 The accounting ledger of the Duluth Ski Club lists income from the National Ski Association and the American Olympic Ski Association.
1932 Lake Placid, New York hosts the third Winter Olympic Games. Downhill and slalom are still excluded from the Olympics.
1940 The large 88 meter ski jumping hill was constructed. Besides Chester Bowl, Duluth area ski jumps included Old Maple Hill, Lincoln Park and Fond du Lac.
1941 In February, a new 60-meter ski jump is inaugurated at Fond du Lac. 5,000 spectators attend its dedication on February 2nd, to see famed Norwegian jumper Torger Tokle set a hill record of 203 feet. The tournament is staged in anticipation of Duluth hosting the National Ski Jumping Championship in 1942.
1942 Duluth hosts the National Ski Jumping competition, with events taking place on its various hills, including Chester Bowl. Thousands of spectators line the hills to watch, and the events are broadcast and publicized nationally.
1955 Golden Anniversary of the Duluth Ski Club (1905-55). A 50 Year History of Our Duluth Ski Club is written by Ben A. Rasmussen, a veteran club member and its historian. On Feb 6, the Golden Anniversary Ski Jumping Tournament was held.
1969 On Dec. 31, Duluthian Terry Kern took the first jump off the new 55-meter ski slide at Chester Park when the ski area reopened. The Chester Bowl facility also included 15- and 35-meter jumps, an intermediate hill and a slalom course.
1971 The “Little Chester” K35 ski jump was officially inaugurated. It had a steel in-run tower, which had been set up in 1969. At this point there were a total of 5 jumps at Chester Bowl. The youth competition called the “Annual Lions Junior Invitational” began. It was held every year in December.
1977 The playing field at Chester Bowl was the site of the area’s first soccer tournament. Teams from East, Central, Denfeld and Cathedral vied for the championship. A trophy was awarded to the winner, and was housed at the Chester Bowl chalet.
1984 The “F” lift that had serviced the beginner’s area at Spirit Mountain was moved to Chester Bowl.
1990 Big Chester Ski Jump is evaluated by Krech & Ojard, Consulting Engineers. Recommendations for both Big and Little Chester Ski Jumps are made by Northern Tier Constructors, Duluth.
2008 Because of financial difficulties, the City of Duluth is no longer able to fund the Chester Bowl Ski Program through the Parks and Recreation department. The Chester Bowl Improvement Club, which had existed as a support mechanism, assumes operation of the ski hill program. With its many dedicated volunteers, the ski program continues successfully.