To Get to the 1932 Winter Olympics, You Had to Tame the Canton Ski Hill
Every time we take a family road trip to my hometown of Rock Valley, Iowa to visit grandma and papa, my kids always ask, “why don’t we go tubing down that hill“ as we're looking south from Highway 18 just east of Canton, South Dakota. “I don’t know. Because I’ve never seen anyone tube or ski there." Maybe they do. I’m not sure. But it one time the snowy bluff overlooking the Big Sioux River was a big deal. Like Winter Olympic big.
As South Dakota Public Broadcasting points out in this informative four minutes video, if you were going to get to the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York in 1932, you had to get through the Canton Ski Hill first.
It goes back to when Augustana college was in Canton before moving to Sioux Falls. Norwegian students descended on the campus for a trip who saw the hill and thought it would make an excellent run for a ski jump. After a student-led effort to clear the trees it became the Sioux Valley Ski Club. It quickly gained fame throughout the United States.
When some of the best ski jumpers in the world began arriving to try it out fans came in droves. By some estimates of the times, some 20,000 people stood on the hill to watch the best of the best soar through the frozen South Dakota air.
The hill has a great history of winter sports. Unfortunately, a huge storm took out the jump in 1944. The video is fascinating. Check it out to see which celebrities and athletes showed up, and also an invitation that went unheeded by the American President at the time.
If you get a chance, check out the bronze plaque that still stands along the highway east of Canton. With the Winter Olympics in full swing, it’s fun to see how South Dakota played into them at one time.