Jeff Hastings ’81, a ski jumping Olympian, commentator and advocate, was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in Stowe, Vt. on Saturday. “In more than 30 years in the sport of ski jumping, there are few areas that Jeff hasn’t touched,” the Hall of Fame said in a press release.
Hastings began skiing when he was 4 years old. He grew up in Norwich, Vt., and trained in Hanover, N.H. His father, who had ski jumped in high school, encouraged him and his younger brothers, Brad and Chris, to join the Ford Sayre Ski Jump Program. They loved the sport and practiced together. “As soon as there was enough snow, we’d be out doing jumps on our side hill,” Hastings recalled. In high school, he continued to ski jump and played lacrosse and golf.
He decided to attend the College to pursue ski jumping. “It is a great school,” he said. “At that point, it had Div. I ski jumping and a really nice ski jumping facility at Berlin Mountain. It was one of the six or seven schools in the east where you could ski jump and hosted a great annual carnival.”
Hastings said he appreciated Head Coach Bud Fisher’s support and the team camaraderie.
“Carnivals really encouraged a lot of bonds because we left school on Thursday nights and stayed on cots in gyms or hotels,” he said. “There was a very strong group dynamic being off campus, and we always cheered each other on … There were lots of rich moments and connections out at Berlin Mountain.”
In addition to participating in the collegiate carnival circuit, Hastings competed in regional tournaments with world-class ski jumpers. “Fisher was really generous,” he shared. “He gave me keys to a truck and a gas card and told me to compete where I needed to compete – on Williams.”
The College also fostered his skiing ambitions. He took a semester off after earning a spot as a fore-jumper for the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y. The next year, he joined the U.S. Ski Team and completed an independent study during Winter Study, when he competed in Czechoslovakia and wrote about “life behind the Iron Curtain.”
After graduating with a degree in economics, Hastings moved to Colorado and continued training and ski jumping internationally. He improved each year and qualified for the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo, where he earned ninth place on the normal hill event and fourth on the large hill. He missed the bronze medal by .2 points but set a modern American record in the event.
Hastings described the thrill of Olympic ski jumping. “It is like a physics project,” he said. “You’re trying to make this simple move that your head is telling you is crazy – if you do it right, you think you’re going to flip, but you have to get comfortable as close to the edge as possible. Then when you have a good jump, you don’t feel like you’re falling at all … You’re going higher and higher.”
However, after the Olympics, Hastings decided to shift his focus. He attended the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and began covering Olympic ski jumping for various television networks.
“I had the luxury of being able to pursue one passion, and I will forever be grateful,” he said, “but it was time to move on.”
He enjoyed commentating and has broadcasted every Winter Olympics since 1988. While reporting, he even met Bob Costas and Jim McKay. “I loved having a credential, a front row seat and a backstage pass to a really cool event,” Hastings shared.
Although he will not travel to the 2018 Pyeonchang Games, Hastings remains an active Alpine and Nordic skier. He supports ski service programs like Virtual Nationals, which allows children to send in ski jumping videos and be judged by professionals, “grassroots equipment programs” and United States of America Nordic Sport (USANS) initiatives.
The Hall of Fame recognized Hastings’ philanthropy and talents with tribute videos and medals in a ceremony on Saturday evening, which Fisher and his wife attended. “Jeff is an outstanding leader exemplifying what is possible through his hard work and dedication,” the Hall of Fame said.