Ford Sayre Ski Club
Site of the 1938 Olympic Trials and four national ski jumping championships, Nansen Ski Jump in Milan, NH was last jumped in competition in 1985. The jump was run by Nansen Ski Club, which remains the oldest continuously operating ski club in the United States. After Coach Alf Halvorson brought jumpers to Lake Placid in 1932 for a jump competition the idea of a jump closer to home was conceived. Word has it that Alf is a man who got things done. The facility was competed in 1937. The tower is a steel trestle that soars 50 meters high with an outrun that is another 56 meters high. The jump is approximately a K80 by today’s standards.
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In the last 30 years, the jump and grounds had been unmaintained, seemingly the site of nothing more than a place to make donuts with four wheel drives and drink beer. What originally was a massive landmark clearly visible from Route 16 had practically disappeared into a jungle of trees as thick as dog hair. Important ski jumping history was disappearing along with the iconic structure.
About two years ago talks began about the historic landmark and its future. Those talks involved Alf Halvorson’s sons Brett and Scott and other members of Friends of Nansen together with Ben Wilson, a preservation specialist from NH Division of Parks and Recreation. The group decided to improve the jump and grounds enough to share its history again. They would designate the jump a National Historic Landmark complete with a judges’ tower that would be rehabilitated and made into a small museum.
Red Bull found out about efforts at the jump and imagined using the jump in a documentary it was making about Sarah Hendrickson. A portion of the script was imagined where the rehabilitation of the jump would be symbolic of Sarah’s comeback from knee injuries and Sarah would then jump the old monster. It was agreed that such an event would have synergies for all involved plus Red Bull generously helped fund re-decking the jump to the tune of $75,000 (the State of NH kicked in another $150,000). After heroic efforts by Alan Alborn and many volunteers to snow the jump and outrun in terribly dry and cold weather, Sarah jumped Big Nansen successfully.
As a result of Sarah’s jump, eyes were opened to further possibilities. What if Big Nansen could be returned to active status and also a historic landmark? What if a crowd of several thousand could descend upon Berlin and Milan, NH for lively jumping events? The East could use another large jump. What if, as Jeff Hastings envisioned, there could be an Eastern Four Hills Tournament including Lake Placid, Salisbury, Brattleboro, and Nansen? At first the State was reluctant to consider the possibility of jumping Nansen again, but after several meetings, they’ve come around to the idea of a living hill. There is even talk of re-creating the former 40 M hill and getting a local jumping club started again.
The sleeping giant seems to be gaining a pulse now with Friends of Nansen actively pursuing a plan put together by Jed Hinkley to make the jump ready for competition. The good news is that despite early concerns, a new survey by HEB Engineers reveals that the trestle and outrun are already close to an acceptable profile for today’s jumps. Ken Barker recently visited and toured the jump. He shared his ideas about how to further prepare the jump and grounds. The hard work of raising funds, putting milestones on paper, and making upgrades now begins, but there is palpable energy and plenty of expertise engaging on the future of Big Nansen.