Nansen Ski Club – Berlin, NH
A few years ago I wrote in the Story Project about my lowest moments in the ski jumping world in “Big Nansen 1985- The Day Ski Jumping Died.” It chronicled the last competition held there with me being the “last man standing.” The story closed with optimism, though, as it was written after the once-abandoned jump was resurrected from overgrowth, re-decked and World Champion Sarah Hendrickson gave it new life with a ceremonial “last jump” on March 4, 2017. This gave rise to a new purpose: restore the Big Nansen for competition and bring back ski jumping to the North Country. The “Friends of the Big Nansen” who had partnered with the State of New Hampshire for the early restoration effort for Sarah’s event, regrouped and eventually partnered with the Nansen Ski Club to achieve these lofty goals.
It has not been easy, and a bit of a roller coaster ride, as obstacles unforeseen ultimately seem to pop up along an already formidable path. Just to get permission from the state of NH (the owner of the jump) to make the needed renovations was not without its own difficulties. That being said, those issues have since been resolved and the state of NH is a great partner of ours. Money, however, is always the issue, and significant fundraising sources needed to be found. We had early success receiving a significant Northern Boarders Regional Commission (NBRC) grant that by appearances was thought to satisfy most of our needs. However, unforeseen design requirements and the effects of the pandemic turned early estimates on their ear. The silver lining though is, as these funding and design issues have slowed down our progress on the Big Jump, it has allowed us to refocus and look at our “big picture” goals which is to bring back this lost sport to a community where it once thrived. So, go small or at least smaller.
Back in the 70’s Nansen had a 40-meter ski jump right next to the Big Nansen. That jump was built mainly into the terrain and only lasted a few years before fading into ski jump history. As part of the “Friends” mission to bring ski jumping back to our youth, we decided to build a new 39-meter jump on the old site. With the help of a grant award, we had Matt Gundry design two modern jumps (a 39M and a 20M) and we were off. As with the Big Nansen project the price tag of this project, once it was put out to bid, was dramatically higher than envisioned. We had to drop the 20M hill from consideration and still had a steep climb ahead of us. Not to be deterred, more revenue sources were sought and obtained allowing the “small hills project” to come to fruition. Even with the added cost of having to blast ledge ( we are the Granite State after all), the state of NH, businesses and incredibly generous private donors stepped up to the task. The entire ski jump community has been at our side all throughout the entire journey, both big and small hills. As an added bonus our adopted coach and chief technical advisor, Chip Henry, and fellow volunteer Wayne Peterson, created a 10-meter jump on the site. These “small” hills are essentially done and ready for action!
I cried a bit when the news came in that on January 23, 2022, we will host an Eastern ski jumping event and on January 26 an NHIAA High School event. To have ski jumping events on this historic site again is hard to put into words and right now I don’t have any, I am truly humbled by the many fantastic people that have made this happen. Then again it is the ski jumping community and I should have known.
I also want to thank my oldest friend Scott Halvorson for his valued help on this collection of thoughts.
Shawn Costello – December 29th, 2021