I recently came across an awesome picture of an anonymous downhill racer coming across the finish line of the Thunderbolt Ski Trail. It was incorrectly identified as Greeny Guertin, famous Adams native skier and member of the Ski Runners of Adams. One look at the face and body, and I knew it wasn’t Greeny. Didn’t know who the heck it was? But it wasn’t Greeny. But as I looked at the sharp image closer, the history geek in me kicked in, and I thought maybe it was possible to figure out who this guy was and in what race he was competing.
The patch on the skier’s arm shows a large D bordered by smaller letters S and T….Dartmouth Ski Team? A quick e-mail to some friends and the New England Ski Museum confirmed that it was most likely some kind of a Dartmouth Ski Team patch. The NESM had others in their collection that were similar. With that, I began to scour through my files looking for any race in which #53 was a Dartmouth skier. The only match was the 1940 Eastern Downhill Championship race on February 25th, 1940.
Dartmouth Ski Team patch?
The list of entrants lists #53 as Dartmouth skier Jack Tobin. A quick check of the statistics of that race also shows #53 finished that day in 14th place. So here at least I had a racer from Dartmouth with #53 who clearly finished the race. Could this be Tobin?
It sure seemed like a good bet that this unknown racer was Jack Tobin. The nail in the coffin was when I came across an old grainy newspaper clip of the 1940 race and noticed that the finish line banner was folder over itself. This same folded finish line banner can be seen in the race picture.
O.K. I’ll admit, this is probably pretty boring stuff. But for history buffs, and especially ski history buffs, this is what it’s all about….preserving the legacy of the Thunderbolt Ski Run and those who came to ski it. What was once an incorrectly identified pic can now be traced to a particluar skier during a particular race.
Jack Tobin’s thoughts about the Thunderbolt from his book "The Fall Line: A Skier;s Journal", Meredith Press, New York, 1969:
"By my second winter at Dartmouth I had at least established myself as the best downhill skier in the sophomore class. The last of the big names…had graduated the year before. …The weekend before Dartmouth Winter Carnival I went with the B team to the Williams Carnival, where we all were skiing as four-event men. The downhill race was held on Mt. Greylock’s Thunderbolt, a trail I had skied the three previous weekends, once in practice and twice in races. Because the course was icy that day, a half-dozen control gates made of heavy saplings had been strategically place to slow us down and keep us out of the woods. The gates, however, had the effect of tripping up many of the best runners, including the hotshot Bob Merservey, who as a freshman was skiing for our Dartmouth B squad. More than a few racers had bruises on the bodies as well as their egos. As for myself, my ego was sky-high since I was at home on the icy course, and I won my first victory on skis, 20 seconds ahead of the others."
Other neat facts about the 1940 race:
And an article in the New York Times about Tobin winning a different Thunderbolt race….