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Destruction of the Fargo Ski Jump, 1942

6/6/2016:

In North Fargo, a gigantic ski jump once stood, high above the banks of the Red River. The ski jump towered over the landscape from the time of its construction in 1935 until 1942, when it was torn down. The ski jump had to be demolished because the worst thing that could happen with a high place had happened. A young man, age 20, fell from the jump and died.

News of the tragic death appeared in the Bismarck Tribune on this date in 1942. It was a June night, near midnight, when Mickey Herrick and his buddy, 20-year-old Gordon Bunes, drove north from Fargo to the ski jump. Accompanying them were two young ladies. It seemed they all wanted a whisper of risky adventure.

They ascended the ski-jump to view the sparkling city lights. It was Fargo’s tallest structure back then. Officially called the Dovre Ski Club Slide, its tip-top height of 140 feet made it the highest ski-jump scaffold in the U.S. Other jumps were built into hillsides, and did not require a lofty superstructure. But Fargo, located in the flat Red River Valley, needed to build the scaffold, which merged onto a 60-foot-long riverbank landing zone. The jumpers’ flights ended on the river’s ice.

Built in 1935 by workers funded by the Cass County Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the ski-slide contained about 25,000 feet of lumber in two jumps, the main one for advanced skiers and a smaller one for beginners.

The Dovre Ski-Club held competitions there as snowfalls allowed. The ski-jump had been built to last for decades, but it all changed on that fatal June night. As the four young people were climbing down the jump’s stairway, Mickey Herrick slipped, falling 85 feet to instantaneous death. The other three, traumatized, drove to town to report it, and Herrick’s death was ruled an accident.

Two days after the death, someone poured kerosene on the slide and started it burning, but an alert watchman extinguished the flames. Two months later, the Dovre Ski-Club announced the ski-jump’s demolition, citing government concerns that it posed a hazard for airplanes using the nearby airport.

Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, MSU Moorhead History Department.

Sources: “Fargo Youth Is Killed In Fall From Ski Slide,” Bismarck Tribune, June 6, 1942, p. 1; “Youth Falls From Ski Slide, Dies,” Moorhead Daily News, June 6, 1942, p. 1.

“Dovre Club Sponsors Building Of Ski Jump With 200 Foot Scaffold,” Fargo Forum, January 13, 1935, p. 1.

“Fargo Youth’s Death In Fall Held Accidental,” Fargo Forum, June 7, 1942, p. 14.

“Attempt Made To Burn Dovre Ski Slide Near Fargo,” Fargo Forum, June 9, 1942, p. 4.

“U.S. Amateur Champion Skier Soars Through Air As 900 Watch At Fargo-Moorhead Meet,” Fargo Forum, March 9, 1936, p. 6.

“Ski Slide To Be Razed,” Fargo Forum, August 16, 1942, p. 4.

“Ski Jumps, Fargo, N.D.,” Dovre Ski Club (Fargo, N.D.), NDSU Institute for Regional Studies, Fargo, ND, at Digital Horizons, digitalhorizonsonline.org, accessed on January 17, 2014.