This file photo shows Gunstock Mountain Historic Preservation Society President Carol Anderson, left, with Nina and Kenneth Tokle during the March 9, 2011 rededication ceremony of Gunstock’s 70-meter jump in Gilford. This year, Tokle has been nominated for inclusion into the U. S. Ski Hall of Fame. (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
April 11, 2012As this year's inductees into the U. S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame are honored in Seattle, Wash. this month, next year's Hall of Fame inductees will be nominated. Two men with local ties will be among those nominees.
Kenneth Tokle, nephew of the late ski jumping star Torger Tokle, and the late Bill Trudgeon, a local resident with a long history entwined with Gunstock Mountain Resort, have become 2013 nominees in the Hall of Fame's Heritage category. Both Tokle and Trudgeon dedicated their lives to the betterment and advancement of both skiing and ski jumping. Nomination paperwork was prepared by Gunstock Mountain Historic Preservation Society President Carol Anderson, and was recently sent into the International Skiing Heritage Association.
Tokle, a resident of New York, was born into a family of famous ski jumpers, including Torger Tokle and his younger brother, Art. As a boy, he began taking flight from ski jumps, and became a familiar face year after year at jump competitions throughout the East. Later, injuries he sustained in a fall during a competition made the decision to retire from competitive jumping an easy one. By then, he had amassed a large collection of ribbons and trophies, all bearing his name.
Wanting to stay involved in the sport, he began coaching with the Rosendale Nordic Ski Club in Rosendale, N.Y., serving as the club's president for a number of years. During that time, he also was instrumental in the design and development of several ski jumps in the state. Many of the young ski jumpers Tokle coached have had successful careers of their own in the sport.
In 1967, after passing the required test, he became a ski jumping judge. By 1972, he had become a national ski jumping judge. Six years later, in 1978, he was approved to pursue the next step in his career, which was to become an International Ski Federation (FIS) judge. While working towards this goal, he traveled throughout the U. S. and Canada judging high-level competitions. In 1980, his goal of becoming a FIS judge was reached, and he then proceeded to travel the world judging international competitions.
He accepted the mandatory FIS retirement in 1996, after judging his last two competitions in Japan. Undaunted, he was still allowed to work as an official on the national level, and continued to judge national and local ski jumping meets. The decision to officially retire from judging entirely came in 2009.
His dedication to the sport did not go unnoticed. In 2011, he was honored with the 2011 USSA Mittelstadt Ski Jumping Award for his unprecedented commitment to officiating. The same year, he and his wife, Nina, visited Gunstock Mountain Resort to attend the rededication of Gunstock's 70-meter jump, named after his famous uncle, Torger Tokle, in 1946.
It was during that visit his commitment to the sport became apparent as he commented on his forced retirement from judging, saying, "If there wasn't a mandatory retirement age for FIS judges, I would still be out there on the hills - I loved what I did."
Tokle's fellow nominee, the late Bill Trudgeon, a former resident of Laconia, also loved skiing and ski jumping, and spent decades at Gunstock skiing, jumping, coaching and inspiring the next generation of skiers. He arrived in the Lakes Region in 1947, after becoming entranced with what the area had to offer in all seasons. His quiet manner and tremendous energy caught the eye of the members of the Winnipesaukee Ski Club. Trudgeon immediately became the club's leader, and led the construction effort of the 40-meter ski jump at Gunstock in 1949. This was a task that had been planned but never acted upon due to World War II. The club became energized and quickly re-entered the competitive arena. It hosted the unique Summer Ski Jumping competitions held at Gunstock each July, a brainchild of Trudgeon.
He quietly and humbly coached junior jumpers, teaching them to become top Class A jumpers. While teaching youngsters to become the very best, he was busy perfecting his jumping skills and went on to become a Class A jumper. One of the most striking images of Trudgeon is his famous leap through Gunstock's "Hoop of Fire," which he invented.
Skis can be used all year round, and he was always thinking of new and exciting ways to keep his young jumpers on skis, moving them to the lake during the summer and getting them involved in water skiing. Just as dedicated to that sport as its winter relative, he received many national awards.
As interest in ski jumping waned during the 1960's, he worked with Gilford resident Gary Allen, a Hall of Fame inductee, to keep the jumps at Gunstock in use. The men kept junior jumpers busy on the 10 and 20-meter jumps while planning the refurbishing of all four of Gunstock's jumps.
The plan was put into action in early 1972, and it blossomed into a golden age of ski jumping at Gunstock. Large numbers of ski jumping and cross-country skiing stars were nurtured through the Gunstock Nordic Association, of which Trudgeon and Allen were two of the founders. With all four jumps in excellent condition, national and international competitions were held there
Trudgeon was honored in 1980 with being asked to be the Assistant to the Chief of Hill during the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y. He didn't hesitate to accept the position, and soon after the Winter Games, he retired from the sport after having spent four decades working relentlessly to pass along to the next generation the thrill he experienced when ski jumping. His own words describe it best: "Once you take that leap, for a few brief seconds, you know what it's like to soar like a bird."
It will be this time next year when the 2013 list of U. S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame inductees will be announced. Regardless of the outcome for Tokle and Trudgeon, their important stories and history, along with many others, will be documented by the Gunstock Mountain Historic Preservation Society. For more information about the preservation society, visit their Web site at www.historicgunstock.org.