Fond du Lac Park’s Winter Sports Center

From Lost Duluth: Landmarks, Industries, Buildings, Homes, and the Neighborhoods in Which They Stood, copyright © 2011, Zenith City Press, Duluth, Minnesota

The Fond du Lac Winter Sports Center included cross country ski trails, a toboggan slide, an alpine ski hill, and a 325-foot (60-meter) ski jump (pictured). In the summer, the cross country trails were used as bridle paths. Built by the Works Project Administration in 1940, the Winter Sports Center was accessed by an entrance at the convergence of East and West Mission Creek Parkway. It became a popular recreation site, and winter activities included skating and sleigh rides. It also became another home for the Duluth Ski Club which hosted tournaments at the site while continuing to train at Chester Bowl.

The ski jump was first used in a tournament in February 1941, when five thousand spectators turned out for the facility’s dedication and an exhibition by  famed Norwegian jumper Torger Tokle, who set the hill’s initial record at 203 feet. The following year the national ski-jumping championships were held at Fond du Lac. By 1949 the ski hill had been nicknamed the Ojibway Bowl. During a 1954 competition at Fond du Lac, Duluthian Joe Nowack jumped a record-setting 226 feet. His Ojibway Bowl record was tied in 1960 by Gene Kotlarek, also of Duluth.

In 1964 the ski jump was increased to 70 meters, but nature doomed the jump’s future. The spring floods of 1972 eroded the land around the ski jump, making it dangerous to leave the jumps standing. The ski jump was removed and the erosion damage to the hill was filled; it has been reseeded and planted to prevent further erosion.

Duluth also had ski jumps at Old Maple Hill in West Duluth, Lincoln Park in the West End, and of course Chester Bowl in Chester Park, where the Duluth Ski Club started jumping in 1908.