Chopping for a championship

UWL senior Chas Haas keeps his lumberjack skills up at a show in the Wisconsin Dells. Haas will swing for the U.S. Collegiate Championship July 30 in Milwaukee.

UWL student to compete for national lumberjack title

Chas Haas remembers growing up fascinated by timber sports he saw on TV. “It looked like a real manly, macho sport,” he says. “I thought it would be a cool to swing an ax.”

Haas, a UWL senior studying biology, has been competing in timber sports for three years and has a chance to win a national collegiate title later this month. He is one of eight college finalists participating at the U.S. Collegiate Championships held July 30 at German Fest in Milwaukee.

He earned that opportunity after winning the STIHL Collegiate Championships in April. “I never would have thought I’d make it that far,” says Haas. “It’s exciting. I hope I put up a good showing.”

Haas picked up lumberjacking from a longtime, family friend. And after doing some digging, he learned the trade ran in his blood. “My great grandfather was an actual lumberjack in Wisconsin when he was a teenager,” shares Haas. “What we do here is for fun, but that was dangerous work.”

Practice makes perfect

Before his competition, Haas has been honing his skills — and is learning to do it in front of a crowd.

He’ll let out a mighty “yo-ho” as he shows off as a member in the Dells Lumberjack Show — a family-friendly show that mixes competitive lumberjack events with comedic skits and opportunities for young guests to participate.

“It’s the best summer job I’ve ever had,” says Haas.

Along with being encouraged to goof off at the show, Haas is working alongside what’s become some of his closest friends, including fellow UWL student Mike Pakos.

Pakos, a sophomore studying math education, was on the team with Haas at the April competition. “He needed a team, so I joined,” says Pakos. “Next year, I hope to compete with Chas and our other guys at the championships.”

Forestry and Timber Sports Club

Together, Haas and Pakos are working to share their passion on campus. Haas formed the Forestry and Timber Sports club at UWL.

“It’s a great experience to talk about my sport and being an ambassador is cool,” says Haas. There’s a tremendous amount of history in the sport and La Crosse itself was a huge center for floating logs. It’s a vital part of local history to bring knowledge and awareness to the people of La Crosse and Wisconsin.”