By Edith Tucker
The Berlin Daily Sun
MILAN — When two-time World Cup champion and Olympic ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson flew off the Nansen Ski Jump on March 4, it was with the expectation she would be the last person to ever jump from the 1937-era steel structure. On that chilly day, the 22-year-old Red-Bull-sponsored athletic followed in the tracks of test-jumper Anna Hofmann, a daring Women’s Ski Jumping USA’s junior team member.
Over the past three months, however, a big change has taken place in what chief Ben Wilson of the Bureau of Historic Sites of the state Division of Parks and Recreation has said he is willing to consider as the future use of the historic ski jump.
It might very well be possible to bring back the ski jump for use in active competitive jumping, Wilson explained to an onsite Friends of the Nansen Jump meeting on Wednesday, June 21.
Before this, work has been directed to restoring and interpreting the site of the first U. S. Olympic Ski Jumping trials in 1938 and later major regional and national ski jumping competitions that petered out in the mid-1980s.
Wilson, the Friends of the Nansen Jump and Scott Nichols of Lyme, speaking for USA Nordic Sport Inc. headquartered in Park City, Utah, have agreed to work up a complete list of things that would have to be done to reach this new ambitious goal.
Nichols, the father of a 13-year-old son who is a jumper, said he had talked extensively with USA Nordic and had found its leadership “fully behind” the idea of reviving Nansen and eager to help in what would be significant fundraising.
Building a smaller “transitional” jump in the 30-meter-high range on eight state-owned acres would open the way for Androscoggin Valley high school teams, he said. New Hampshire is the only state in the country that has ski jumping as a high school sport, including at such venues as Plymouth, Lebanon, Andover and Hanover.
Some enthusiasts have already envisioned a competitive “four-hill” tournament put on over a two-week period — Salisbury, Conn., Brattleboro (Harris Hill), Vt., Lake Placid, N.Y., and the Nansen Jump in Berlin — that would draw crowds.
A Friends meeting is being planned in the near future that will likely include two well-known USA Nordic leaders, along with Wilson and other stakeholders.
A grant application has been submitted by the Friends for funds to rebuild the now-rotted-away staircase up the steep slope to the jump base.
The Student Conservation Association, that works every summer in a variety of state parks and sites, will begin work next month putting up split rail fence alongside Route 16 to control vehicle access to the jump property, Wilson said.
The state and the Flint Farm have signed an agricultural contract for use of the hayfield at the state-owned Nansen Wayside on Route 16. Parking will be permitted when the field is frozen.
Sally Manikian of The Conservation Fund was on hand earlier that day to work with the state to help arrange for a permanent easement to use a gravel road in a small part of the 293-acre tract adjacent to the Nansen Si Jump that the nonprofit conservation organization is trying to sell. This access has been available on a handshake basis, but should be formalized. The state does not have the capital funds earmarked to buy the tract, although it would lend to a network of Nordic trails.
The Nansen Ski Club is looking to secure a ski trail connection from Milan State Park to Nansen that would be useful during Nordic festivals and competitions. Club officers Tracy Rexford of Berlin and Phoebe Backler of Milan were on hand to discuss the possibilities.
Peter Michaud of the state Division of Historic Resources is writing an application to have the Nansen Ski Jump listed on the National Register of Historic Places, with the expectation that he submit it in time for the December round. After that, National Historic Landmark status will also be sought. The Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods is the only landmark now listed in Coos County.
At one time the jump was the centerpiece of the Berlin Winter Carnival, which celebrated numerous winter sporting events, outdoor activities and the culture of the Scandinavian people who migrated to the area in the 19th century.