Nansen Ski Jump in 2017.jpg

Nansen Ski Jump in Berlin was under repair in 2017 in preparation for a jump by Olympian Sarah Hendrickson. (FILE PHOTO)

BERLIN — An aggressive fund-raising effort is underway to resurrect the Nansen Ski Jump and restore elite, competitive ski jumping to northern New Hampshire. This would become the only active "large hill" ski jump in the state.

The Friends of the Nansen Ski Jump committee has launched an effort to raise $400,000 to “wake the sleeping giant” and write a new chapter in the Nansen Ski Club’s storied history.

The “Big Nansen” ski jump is planning to hold an annual U.S. Cup event which would feature the top junior ski jumpers in the country, on their path to qualify for the Junior Nationals, and serve as the “bridge” to the international ranks of the best skiers in the world. This would be part of a circuit that would include Nansen, and jumps in Salisbury, Ct.; Brattleboro, Vt.; and Lake Placid, N,Y. At Nansen the event would be held during the club’s Winter Carnival in February.

Rehabilitating the jump to allow for this level of competition will require re-profiling the hill, to meet current jumping standards, installing a false deck over the existing deck, building new starter boxes, and adding deflection boards to the in-run track and on the landing hill. There is also the need for a new judge’s tower. The committee has received quotes and estimates that the work, with all the upgrades, will cost just over $400,000.

The state of New Hampshire, which now owns the jump, is committed to the project, with plans to install new stairs to the jump, as well as on the side of the landing hill. The state will also bring power to the site, along with its normal maintenance responsibilities.

The committee has put together a marketing brochure that is being used to approach potential large donors, and is also exploring and utilizing other funding strategies.

Last month, the club applied for a $250,000 grant for the jump renovations through the Northern Border Regional Commission. The N.H. Bureau of Historic Sites Director Ben Wilson worked with the committee to put the application together. The committee has also submitted other smaller grant applications in recent weeks. Nonetheless, donations from the general public are urgently needed to satisfy the match requirements of these grants, if they are approved, and also to fill in the gaps that these grants will not cover.

Many members of the committee are former jumpers or have deep ties to the region’s Scandinavian heritage and its Nordic skiing history. The goal is for the “Big Nansen” to be the cornerstone in restoring youth Nordic skiing to the area. Additional smaller jumps are part of this restoration plan with the remnants of previous ones still visible on the side of the big jump. This would open the sport to the area’s youth. There are seven high school ski jumping teams in New Hampshire, and the committee, and the other teams and their coaches, are eager to see Berlin rejoin their ranks.

Youth participation in ski jumping has increased dramatically in recent years, especially for young girls. While ski jumping for men has been part of the Olympic games since the first winter games, women have only been allowed to compete since the 2014 games.

The first woman jumper in the Olympics, and former World Champion, Sarah Hendrickson, has played a major role in reviving interest in the Nansen jump.

Hendrickson’s promotional leap in March of 2017, which was preceded by then 16-year-old forerunner, Anna Hoffman, who is now a rising star, fully energized the crowd assembled, and was the catalyst for the present vision. Hendrickson’s sponsor, Red Bull North America, worked with the Friends and the state’s director of the Bureau of Historic Sites, Ben Wilson, to clean up the site, redeck the jump, and prepare the jump and hill. Previous to her “leap” the jump was abandoned, the last competition being in 1985, and became barely visible.

“It was as if we had uncovered the Statue of Liberty after not being seen for 20 years,” said Wilson.

The initial focus was to have the jump preserved solely as a historic site. This changed, however, as testimony from ski jumping authorities concluded that the jump, indeed, was in excellent fundamental shape, and with relatively modest modifications would be suitable for modern competitions.

Armed with a new vision for the jump, the Friends of Nansen Ski Jump Committee formally became part of the Nansen Ski Club — the oldest continuous ski club in the country. The committee, and the Nansen Ski Club, has garnered tremendous logistical, tangible, and emotional support for its efforts from USA Nordic, Eastern Ski Jumping Association, and ski clubs nationwide.

So far almost $200,000 has been invested in the initial restoration of the jump. That figure does not count hours of donated time and equipment.

Restoring the jump is about more than just reviving the sport in the Androscoggin Valley. The committee also sees it as a way to stimulate the local economy. Harris Hill ski jump in Brattleboro, Vt., attracts thousands of people to see the best up-and-coming jumpers, as well as international stars, at its yearly competition. A majority of the visitors come from outside New England and stay overnight and frequent local restaurants and shops.

The state has nominated the jump to be included on the National Register of Historic Places, a designation that gives it national exposure. Wilson said the plan is to make the jump a “living monument” with interpretive panels that tell the history of the jump.

When built in 1937, the Nansen jump was the highest steel towered jump in the United States. The jump was the site of the first ever-Olympic tryouts in 1938, hosted four National championships, North American championships, and numerous International Invitationals. The Nansen Ski Club produced Olympians and five of their members are in the U.S. Skiing Hall of Fame. For decades it hosted competitions that attracted the very top competitors as well as thousands of spectators.

The hope is that once again skiers will fly off the Big Nansen to the delight of crowds below.

Any inquiries regarding this project can be directed to scott.halvorson@skinansen.com.

To be a part of this vision you can donate through skinansen.com/bignansen or by sending a check to Nansen Ski Club, memo “Big Nansen,” mailed to Nansen Ski Club, c/o Big Nansen, P.O. Box 222, Berlin, NH 03570.

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