State planning facelift for Berlin's historic Nansen Ski Jump

Special to the Union Leader
May 15. 2014 9:41PM
The historic Nansen Ski Jump sat neglected for decades. Now the state is planning improvements for the site. (Debra Thornblad)

BERLIN — Motorists driving along Route 16 between Milan and Berlin may notice a structure sticking up over the treetops and wonder what it is. Those who live in the area know it represents a bygone era when Berlin was home to one of the premier ski jumps in the country.

In fact, when it was built in 1936 the Nansen Ski Jump was the tallest east of the Mississippi and played a major role in tryouts for the Olympics and U.S. Ski Team. But it’s been decades now since it was last used and is falling into disrepair.

The ski jump is state owned. It received a state plaque in 2011 and the Bureau of Historic Sites has plans to improve the site, making it more visible and adding interpretive information.

The local ski club, the Nansen Ski Club, originally formed in 1872 as the Skilubben Club and is the oldest continuing ski club in the country, will be forming a subcommittee that will act as a friend’s group for the jump.

The jump was built by the National Youth Administration under WPA and the City of Berlin. The original price to build it was $12,000, Wilson said. A renovation in 1962 cost $75,000.

Clarence Oleson was the first jumper off the 171 foot steel tower in 1937. The jump has a 225 foot vertical drop on an angle of 37.5 degrees.

It was the site for the U.S Olympic trials in 1938 and the site for the U.S. Ski Jumping National Championships in 1040, 1957, 1965 and 1972.

“We are in the early stages of figuring out what we’re going to do with the site,” Ben Wilson, Bureau of Historic Sites, said.

The first step will be a timber cut that will open up the site.

“It has become so overgrown. This will enable us to see what we have for infrastructure left,” Wilson said.

In addition to the jump, there is a staircase on the right side and a judging house on the site. The jump’s steel structure is in “incredible shape” although the boards that make up the jump itself are not.

Wilson said the envelop around the judging house will be cleared and that structure repaired and painted. They are also planning on making an observation deck that will allow visitors to get a feel for what it would have been like when about to jump off.

Interpretive panels will be put up to explain the history of the structure.

“There is incredible history here. It has national significance and played a major role in how the sport evolved,” Wilson said.

Wilson met recently with the Nansen Ski Club to talk about creating a Friends of the Nansen Ski Jump.

The friends group would help with general maintenance of the site, keeping brush down, and advocate and promote the site.

Wilson said they will also be involved with gathering research for the interpretative part of the project and for education programming.

Tracy Rexford of the Nansen Ski Club said that club has been interested in seeing something happen with the jump, other than allow it to continue to deteriorate, for years.

One of the ideas discussed was having the ski club, a non-profit group, act as fiscal agent for whatever the plans turn out to be.

The state will also be creating a website for the ski jump where visitors will be able to learn more detail about its history.


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