'If ski jump had taken off we wouldn't have had Eddie The Eagle'

SCARBOROUGH'S Mere was once home to the largest artificial ski slope in England and the first ever permanent ski jump in Britain.

One man who remembers it well is Austrian-born Gottfried Pollhammer, who was instrumental in the design and building of the jump.

Gottfried, now 66, moved to Sheffield in 1966, after marrying an English girl. It was then that he received a call asking for his help.

He said: "I had been ski instructing on a little slope in Sheffield and they must have heard about me.

"It was a private company – a plastic manufacturer – which was branching out into artificial ski surfaces.

"They got together with the British Ski Federation and they wanted me to design the jump and train the ski jumpers of the future."

Gottfried was cherry-picked for the job because of his impressive ski jumping credentials.

He did a 50-metre jump at the age of 11 and went on to become Austrian champion in the "nordic combined" event, which comprises ski jump and 15km cross-country.

His longest jump was in the Alps and measured 83.5 metres, where he reached speeds of 65mph. But having leapt off plenty of ski jumps in his time, it would be his first attempt at actually designing one.

He said: "They just gave me some graph paper and I drew a plan. Essentially I used my school maths to design it, measuring angles and distances.

"I got advice from people I knew at the Austrian Ski Federation and the jump was built to federation standards of the time."

The jump was built at a cost of around 2,000 and allowed jumps of up to 30 metres.

Gottfried was at the official opening of the jump and the clubhouse on Sunday, October 12, 1969, which was attended by Scarborough's mayor, Cllr Norman Fuller, and members of the British Alpine Team.

He said: "It was a big occasion. Lots of people were there and it was quite a sensation!"

Gottfried was the first person to use the jump and, on the opening day, he set a record for the longest ski jump in the country at around 30 metres.

He said: "It was a fantastic experience for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it."

Sadly, the attraction was not commercially successful and folded after just a few years.

It was used by schools and various organisations including the Yorkshire and Humberside Ski Federation, but unfortunately members of the public did not take to the slopes.

Gottfried said: "The idea was that we would build up a British ski jumping squad, but it just didn't happen. We needed young lads with a bit of courage, but I think all their mothers saw the ski jump and said ‘you’re not going up there!’

“My father came to watch me a lot but my mother never did – it could be very dangerous.”

But Gottfried had his own way of staying safe – he was a keen biker and would don his leathers and motorbike helmet when using the unforgiving artificial slopes.

He added that if the Scarborough jump had been a success, then we would never have had Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, who soared to glorious failure in the 1988 Winter Olympics.

He said: “We would have had people who were so much better! He had the courage to jump but he didn’t have the courage in the air.

“You need to be in perfect control of your body.”

Gottfried went on to work as a German language teacher in a Sheffield comprehensive school and also helped out with the athletics team – which at one point included a certain Sebastian Coe.

Gottfried said: “I helped him in training sessions, but at the time we didn’t realise he would go on to such great things!”

He then went on to work as a university lecturer and now lives in Otley, West Yorkshire, and works as a freelance translator.

The grandfather of three still enjoys climbing in the Alps and long-distance cycling and has happy memories of his ski jumping days, despite numerous injuries.

He said: “I really enjoyed it but at times I was very, very scared. But with jumping you get this terrific sense of flying – you go on an air cushion and let it carry you.”

l Do you have any old photos of the Scarborough ski slope and jump? Share your memories by contacting reporter Susan Stephenson on (01723) 383877.