The above photo was snapped one frosty Thursday morning in Ishpeming, a town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The date is February 22, 1906. The large crowd is watching a dog sled race through Ishpeming’s streets. Although the race is well attended, it’s not the week’s main attraction.
A National Event
That main attraction was the National Ski Association’s annual National Championship Tournament. Officially, this 1906 contest was the Association’s “second annual” tournament, as the organization’s final by-laws were approved just before the tournament of the previous year. A tournament WAS held in February 1904, however, so, technically, the 1906 “second annual tournament” was really the third annual tournament.
A ski tournament in Ishpeming, circa 1904-1915
Regardless, this 1906 ski jump competition was held at Jackson Hill, located in the Ishpeming area. In their book A History of the Ishpeming Ski Club, Burt Boyum and Jamie LaFreniere note that Ole Fiering of Duluth, Minnesota won the tournament. They also note that this “broke a local chain of victories” as Ishpeming residents Conrad Thompson and Ole Westgaard had won the tournaments in 1904 and 1905, respectively.
Ishpeming’s newspaper, the Iron Ore, reported (in its February 24, 1906 issue) that the tournament was a success. “Great crowds poured into the city from all sides,” it declared, “and the attendance far surpassed that of any similar occasion in America.” (The Iron Ore might have been a somewhat biased source. Its publisher, George A. Newett, was President of the Ishpeming Ski Club during that year.)
Ispheming’s annual dog sled races apparently predate the National Ski Association Tournaments. Boyum and LaFreniere note that these races were “first used to entertain children” but had “grown in scope and attracted huge crowds.” In the earliest races, contestants were all young males. Presumably, this was still true in 1906, as the February 24, 1906 Iron Ore report describes the sled drivers as “young.” The same report stated that “a large crowd” witnessed the race, in which fifty sled drivers competed. The route apparently ran along Main Street, “from the top of the hill to the finish between Cleveland Avenue and Pearl Streets.”