CURATOR’S NOTE- Cooper’s great story below is a beautiful testament to the love of the sport and the lengths we will go to pursue it. To see a great video of Cooper’s Nansen moment, CLICK HERE (trust me, you really want to see this).
Cooper and father, Tom, work to fashion a start bar at the top of the long abandoned Nansen ski jump in Berlin, NH last year.
Ford Sayre Ski Club
Growing up in New Hampshire, the Nansen jump in Berlin was one of those renowned hills that I had heard about but never dreamed of skiing. The jump, always referred to as ‘Big Nansen’, shuttered its trestle 15 years before I donned my first pair of skis. Mid-winter 2017 while skiing in Salisbury, CT, I got wind that Red Bull was restoring the legendary tower to allow World Champion Sarah Hendrickson to take one promotional jump. After that, the hill would become an historic site. I reached out to those involved to see if I could forejump, but I was politely told they didn’t want anyone else skiing the hill, so I left it there.
Until a month later, when I woke up to a friendly tip in my email: “… the Nansen jump is taking place tomorrow.” The next morning, accompanied by my friend/ filmmaker Joey, I left Brooklyn for my hometown of Hanover. That night, we watched footage of Sarah’s jump from earlier in the day and saw some potential challenges. The weather had been difficult to say the least, and the snow coverage was very spotty. Red Bull had provided a custom start platform for the event only; we knew we’d have to make our own. On top of all this we still didn’t know if the hill would be destroyed or locked upon arrival.
Sunday morning, Joey, my father and I loaded up the truck with our ‘start bar’ (a 12 foot ladder), our platform (plywood boards), and a few rakes and wound our way north to Berlin. Seeing the tower from the highway there’s no doubt how Nansen got its nickname. It wasn’t locked, but when we pulled up to the landing hill, we discovered that it had in fact been destroyed. A Snow Cat had slid down the hill, digging down to dirt in spots and leaving a huge seam that ran down the middle. After hiking to the top we discovered that the in-run didn’t look much better. I could tell my dad didn’t think the jump would happen, but I remained hopeful as we grabbed some rakes and got to work on the hill. We tidied and smoothed all day in the frigid cold, and with about an hour of daylight left, made the decision to give it a go. We hustled to install the platform, set our start bar, and suited up for the attempt.
With the sun slipping fast, my father stayed up top with me to stabilize the ladder, and Joey perched on the roof of the decrepit judges’ stand to watch the wind and flag me. A handful of local snowboarders excitedly watched from the knoll. Delicately balanced on the platform, with the whole tower swaying in the wind, I pushed my fear to the back of my awareness, got my skis on, and slowly slid onto the ladder, sitting myself between two rungs in the middle of the thin track. One last moment of gathering focus, then I received the flag from Joey and pushed off. No turning back now.
I had planned to have a safe jump without full effort, but my body had a different plan. I hit the 15 foot high takeoff well and knew right away I was heading to the bottom. My vision planed out to the parking lot – where a few curious spectators had pulled off the highway to watch – as the world slowed around me and I lost myself in that marvelous feeling of freedom and weightlessness. I jolted back to reality when I landed right on top of a large divot we had failed to flatten, but I landed, I survived (save for some bruised heels), and skied into the outrun yelling, overcome with joy. But perhaps even more joyous was being able to share this experience with my father on his 60th birthday, more than 30 years after he had skied the hill himself.
Here’s to hoping that others will get to ski this beautiful monster. Will Big Nansen work its way into an East coast 4 hills tour? I sure hope so. I’m certainly grateful that I seized the opportunity, and toed the line of legality and safety, to poach a jump on this legend. The things we do for the thrill of flight.
NANSEN ON ARRIVAL- things looked a little rough.
Bluebird day… and big tower.