The Abandoned Skyline Skiway, Devils Lake

The Abandoned Skyline Skiway, Devils Lake

This is a former Nordic ski jump, in Benson County, about 10 miles south of Devils Lake, or three miles east of Fort Totten, at the ski resort once known as Skyline Skiway. According to the December 1982 issue of Ski Magazine, this ski jump opened in 1928 and closed in 1936. The ski hill continued to operate on and off into the early eighties, and was home to the Lake Region Ski Club.

Update: A visitor to our Facebook page tells us most of this ski jump has blown down in a windstorm and there is very little left.

Skyline Skiway

Based on the view from the end of the ramp, we can conclusively say a jump from the end of this thing would have been terrifying. There’s some interesting information on this Ski Jump in this Dakota Datebook entry from 2008.

Skyline Skiway

The road to the jump is a very steep, pitted dirt road. In anything other than totally dry conditions, you’d be well advised to take a 4 x 4.

Skyline Skiway

We also featured this ski jump in our hardcover coffee table book, Ghosts of North Dakota, Volume 1.

Skyline Skiway

Skyline Skiway

Skyline Skiway

Skyline Skiway

Sometimes getting the shot requires a little bad judgement.

Skyline Skiway

Skyline Skiway

Skyline Skiway

Skyline Skiway is the most significant remaining relic of a Nordic ski jump in North Dakota that we know of. The tower from a former jump near Mayville still stands (but the ramp itself is gone), and a jump that was once in North Fargo is completely gone. Do you know about any other Nordic ski jumps in North Dakota? Please leave a comment.

Skyline Skiway

Skyline Skiway

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.

55 thoughts on “The Abandoned Skyline Skiway, Devils Lake

  1. What an interesting piece of North Dakota history! Thanks for your excellent (and probably a little dangerous) work!

  2. I USE TO WORK OUT OF A CHURCH IN OBERON, ND. WE TOOK THE KIDS TO GO TUBING 1 YR. IT WAS AWESOME, COULD NOT GO ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP TO SLED, THEY HAD SHUT THAT DOWN, THE SKI JUMP HAD A KID GET KILLED 1 TIME YRS BEFORE WE WERE THERE, COMING DOWN FROM THE VERY TOP ON A TUBE. WE MADE IT ONLY ABOUT HALF WAY.

    1. I used to go to the church in Oberon. I was probably on that sledding trip. I went a few times with pasture Jimmie. Great experiences.

  3. Amazing shots, and as long as no injuries were incurred, this was well worth the bad judgement, which is something all of us (photographers) have done on occasion. Thank you guys for all that you do!

  4. In the pictures, I don’t see a way for a skiier to get to the top of the jump. Was there any evidence of a ladder or something? Would they have had to walk up the jump ramp?

    1. When the ski jump was complete, there were boards all the way up the side that youd walk up. They removed the bottom section so you cant climb up it anymore

  5. Wow, this thing is crazy! Needless to say, one can understand why it got shut down. Once again, great job guys! Your “bad judgement” resulted in some wonderful shots. Thanks Rat.

  6. I remember going with my sister and cousins to this site. We would tube and ski. They would rent skis, sell snacks. It was so much fun. There was a ladder to the ski jump and can not imagine what guts it took to go off that. You really have to see it to imagine it! And there was much talk about the “old guys” who would jump. I remember many injuries, ski accidents I was there when a boy broke his leg. No one thought “law suit” it was part of the rough and tumble of winter in ND! It slowly got more limited, tubes taking off lower and lower and I am not sure why it closed….wonderful childhood memories!

    1. D. Roerick,

      I grew up in DL and skied at “Skyline Skiway” for many years through my youth. When I was 9 or 10 (1973 or 1974), I climbed the jump with my older brother (he was 15). I trembled my way about 25ft and quit. My brother went all the way to the top. I can assure you, there were so few boards remaining on that jump that attempting to use it for skiing or tubing would be impossible. This was back in the ’70’s mind you. My friend and I skied there at least twice each week for many years. Nobody used that jump, probably because there was no jump to use. Cliff Olson and his son Dennis pretty much ran that ski hill; their hard work, donations, and the daily gate receipts kept that hill running on a shoestring. The J-bar was put in sometime in the early-mid ’80’s as I recall. I see it is also rusted and long past its day. I remember how “big time” we thought that was, this was the height of Skyline Skiway; it went into ruin not long after Cliff Olson became ill and passed. Nobody picked up the torch, so to speak. Lack of maintenance and the incessant vandalism by the Natives (the hill is on Reservation land) essentially shut this gem of history down for good. I have been lucky enough to ski virtually every mountain range in the U.S., Vail, Breckenridge, Steamboat, Taos, Bridger Bowl, Big Sky, Whistler (CA), and Jackson Hole to name a few. One thing became very apparent to me as I skied in these wonderful and challenging ski resorts; if you could survive the conditions at Skyline Skiway, with all its pigweeds, rocks, treacherous 70* slopes, you were more than talented enough to ski any mountain run. The “joy” of skiing Skyline came from the thrill of cheating injury or death, any joy from skiing itself was a distant second.

      1. Yes, the Olson’s were so nice to keep it going. We went out on Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays to ski. I went half way down the hill one Friday evening on my face!!! It had rained and then snowed on top of the ice that the rain made earlier. Talk about blood!!! One side of my face was swollen so I couldn’t really see out of that eye, but we were still back out there skiing the next day! The rope tow wore out my coat and gloves and my mom sewed a leather patch on my jacket where the rope wore it out to make it more durable so I could ski again. That was in the mid 60’s until I graduated from high school in 72. I loved to ski. I skied Red Lodge and Bridger Bowl in Montana and Aspen, Winter Park and Mary Jane in Colorado too. So many good memories.

    1. Commenting on D Roericks statement. I’m originally from Fargo. Born and raised there. When I would come home on leave from whatever base I was stationed at I would visit my sisters that used to live above the Coast to Coast store in D.L back in the late 70s. They would take me to the skyline ski ramp. but never went down. went down bunny hills instead. It was either I was a woose or that I was G.I. Or both. Back in the day they drilled it into your head when you went on leave you made sure you stayed healthy. For the simple reason they owned you til you discharged from the military. I’ll always remember those fun filled below freezing days.

    1. It’s on tribal land.. there was once talk about developing it as a ski resort, but nothing ever came of it. I believe the tribal council vetoed it.

      1. Erik, this hill is located on the Ft. Totten Indian Reservation. So, it is owned by the Sioux Tribe. I could be wrong, but I don’t believe federal lands can be purchased by any private entity (I think it is extremely hard for the U.S. government to acquire federally protected lands, which includes Indian Reservation property), but it can be leased. I think the local ski club did just this, it was leased on an annual basis. When the jump was in use (it was not in use in the ’70’s and ’80’s) back in the ’30’s, I have no idea what the arrangements were? I am not sure if it was an actual Olympic training area or not? Back then, the USOC was not an entity yet, so any property or equipment was likely provided by private donations or contributions to U.S. Olympic hopefuls.

  7. I remember when this thing was up and working when we were younger I was at least 5 we use to go tubing down this hill all the time and the my older siblings would ski down the hill. Looking at it now it looks very scary.

  8. This ski jump was used in about the 20’s where they had Olympic Trials. The jump was closed sometime after that the but hill had a tow rope lift to get you to the top to ski down. I think that was still in use into the 80’s.

  9. The jump was probably used in the 20’s and 30’s by Caspar Oeimen (sp?) of Minot, who jumped for the U.S. in 2 Olympics; late 20’s and early 30’s. The old Minot Municipal Golf Course (on South Hill where the High School is now) also had a jump, but not as high as Devils Lake. A bunch of kids learned to ski there. In high school in the early 60’s several of us would go to Devils Lake for weekends to ski at Skyline Skiway, the area that had the jump. The jump was closed off, but we built snow jumps on the landing hill and tried to kill ourselves that way! The rope tow would take us to the top of the hill where we had a choice of 2 runs! You really needed a rope-gripper to ride the tow to the top all day. They also had night skiing on the weekends. Man, it got cold! I miss those days, even after skiing all over the world since then.

    1. Casper Oimoen did jump there. The site was used for the pre-Olympic trials in ’32. My High School friend’s grandpa talked about seeing Oimoen there with his dad. We used to ski there into the mid-90s. Lots of fun, and you kind of got to do what you wanted!

  10. We used to ski there on Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays when I was a kid until I graduated from high school in 1972 and moved away. It was a lot of fun. The Oleson’s ran it then. I’ll never forget those good times. I even went down the hill on my face on one Friday night after slipping on a patch of ice after it rained one day and then snowed on top of that. My skis went out from under me. We found them the next day when we went out to ski again. The best of times!

  11. This is where I learned to ski back in the late 60’s early 70’s. Had to have an adult help us kids hold the rope to get to the top or the rope would lift you off the ground on the high spot or drive you into the ground on the breakover. I am now a ski lift electrician on Vail Mountain. Still skiing…

  12. Wow – brings back memories. As crazy teenagers we used to climb to the top of the then old rickity structure. Usually on a dare. This is one of two tall structures in and around Devils Lake we used to climb. The other was the DL Watertower. I now get dizzy looking down from a ten story building. Later, early seventies, the jump hill was used for competition motorcycle hill climbs. As Einstein stated there is a limit on genius and no limit on stupidity.

  13. I learned to ski at the Skyline Skiway. My most vivid memory was cracking two ribs the week before I had to march in President Carter’s Inauguration Parade. I hit the same tree two years in a row! We had a lot of good times there! I was always fascinated with the ski jump. Thanks for the memories!

  14. I remember going there for Luther League outings. There was a building at the bottom to rent ski’s and poles. Usually wore out your gloves on rope lift. Was early 70’s. Maddock Bobcats and Viking Church people.

  15. There used to be a ski Jump North of Fargo as well likely not as high as this one. My grandfather had been to it and seen it. He has past away but I saw pictures once of it also and it was pretty high. Hard to believe there could even be one anywhere near Fargo for how flat it is around here. I’d like to know where my grandfathers pictures ended up I’d like to find that picture. Does anyone know about the Fargo Ski jump?

  16. Yes, we wore out gloves and jackets using the rope tow, but we had them patched and re-enforced with tough leather in those areas to keep using them. It was just so much fun, we didn’t care.

  17. I grew up in front the ski jump, the clearing in the trees on the other side of the road is where my grandparents home is located. I grew up with that view, it was my sanctuary in difficult times. There was a beach down the road on Highway 57 that is long gone now due to the flooding. The memories…

  18. Just looking at these photos makes me feel sick. Cudos to you guys for taking the shots, beautiful, they are, even if what you did to get them was a little crazy.

  19. We were in Devils Lake last year &at Sully’s Hill. After we got back to Spokane, I saw some picks of the ski jump. Wish we had driven up closer to the jump, but didn’t. Probably couldn’t get too close, but it would have been something for the kids to see. Used to go up to watch people ski, but never learned myself.

  20. Wow, as a guy living in western Colorado, I can’t recall the last tome I saw a T-bar lift. Cool seeing the re-purposed automotive axle as part of their system too. That panoramic shot out across the lake in the distance is absolute art guys. Thanks.

  21. There was a toboggan slide in Grand Forks that went into the frozen Red River. As an eight year old in 1953, it was to scary for me to ride.

  22. My 82 year old father and his sisters have stories about this hill and jump. 1973 , I was 10 years old and broke my leg on the hill. Just got off the tow rope , fell down and it broke in two places but it didn’t stop me from continuing to ski the Hill until moving out of the area in the 80’s. Yes we had to have older/heavier kids go up the hill on the tow rope right with us or as we got closer to the top the rope would go way up in the air. And we couldn’t hold on any more. Had some “moonlight” skiing too in the later years. That hill was “straight down steep” but what a blessing to have it so close to home. Fond memories – I”lmk have to inquire of my father for some stories and maybe photos to share. Great part of history ..

  23. I know my Dad, Fred Olson, skied a Nordic jump outside Kathryn in the early 30’s. He actually won some national competitions, but quit when I was born in 1945.

  24. My great-grandfather, E.W. Hagen of Devils Lake ski-jumped from this structure sometime in the late 20’s-early 30’s. He actually won a competition with a jump of 75 ft.! Too bad bravery isn’t genetic.

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