Lifelong jumping

Dale Severson started ski jumping at the age of 4, and still skis today at 82

Dale Severson

Photo courtesy of Dale Severson
Severson prepares to jump in Ishpeming, Mich., in March 1958 at the U.S. National Ski Meet. With jumps of 279 and 275 feet, he came in fifth in his class.

Rosalie Grosch
Arden Hills, Minn.

Participating in the Olympics is every athlete’s dream. No doubt Dale Severson, of North Oaks, Minn., remembers well the year 1955, when he won a berth as an alternate on the 1956 U.S. Olympic ski-jump team by coming in fourth in the trials with his jump of 288 feet. The Olympics in 1956 were held in Cortina, Italy.

Severson was able to attend the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer and then spent holiday time in a Norwegian hytte in the mountains. Norway claims him. His father came from Burvik in the Trondheim area and his mother, from Lillehammer. Severson has visited Norway more than 12 times.

At the age of 4 Severson started ski jumping, and by 6 he had joined the Flying Eagle’s Ski Club in Eau Claire, Wis., starting in class C. Placing in the top three in that class, he was soon moved to class A. For the next 11 years he continued to place in the top 10. By age 47, Severson had moved to St. Paul, Minn., and continued to compete until the age of 72, wining many ski meets in the Masters Class, plus 10 wins in International Masters ski meets including meets in Hurdal, Norway, and Sundsvall, Sweden. Now, at the age of 82, he continues to downhill and cross-country ski.

Dale Severson

Photo courtesy of Dale Severson
Severson sports just a few of his many ski jumping medals.

In 1995, Severson was inducted into the Eau Claire Ski Club Hall of Fame. This made 66 years of ski jumping competitively in tournaments.

In a 2006 article, it was reported that Severson took part in the U.S. Masters ski event and won gold. This was held in conjunction with the international competition, competing against former Olympians from Norway and Finland. Severson won silver for jumping and bronze in Nordic Combined (jumping and cross-country).

Did he quit ski jumping as he aged? No. “Winter gets long and boring if you don’t get outside and enjoy it,” he says. “Even at 74, I would head to the 46-meter jump at St. Paul Ski Club four to six times a winter.” At that time, Severson claimed to be the oldest ski jumper in America. This January, he was heading to Eau Claire to participate in the Olympic tryouts by observing and helping to coach. As I talked to him this cold Minnesota day, he was on his way out, “to have a good cross-country ski.”

For about 30 years, until 2015, Severson served as a guide for Ski for Light, a little-known cross-country skiing nonprofit organization (see “Visually and mobility-impaired skiers meet,” Jan. 26, 2018: www.norwegianamerican.com/sports/visually-and-mobility-impaired-skiers-meet). Ski for Light pairs volunteer guides with visually or physically impaired skiers. “It is a wonderful experience to help the blind or partially blind enjoy skiing, even competing,” says Severson. Alongside the hundreds of medals and trophies, spanning five decades, filling Dale’s home office, are medals from Ski for Light, including a recently earned gold medal.

But skiing is not Severson’s only sport. He also plays senior softball, center field. “They call me the Gazelle because I cover such a big area.” It seems this is a good title for a man who has covered so much in his well-lived life. Gratitude for good health, an enthusiasm for sports and the outdoors, and encouraging others are gifts that Dale Severson continues to give to those who know him.

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 9, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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