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Seventy-foot ski jump is one worth saving


November 04, 2009
The 70-foot ski jump at Gunstock will appear on the annual 2009 Seven to Save list on behalf of the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance as an attempt to restore the historic 1930s ski jump and preserve the heritage of the town and the success of Nordic sports in the future.

The annual Seven to Save list features the most threatened and endangered historic properties in the state. The ski jump is now a joint project taken on by Works Progress Administration and the Emergency Relief Administration in hopes to have the vintage Gunstock jumps restored for modern day usage and to provide a training facility for Olympic skiers and competitions.

Local advocate Carol Anderson, who nominated the jump this year, said she has researched the history of Gunstock Ski Area, the ski jump, and its two smaller partners for the past two years. Anderson said the largest ski jump at Gunstock is now a rare structure to come across and one of the few abandoned slopes still standing in North America.

She said that the ski jump itself was constructed before any other part of Gunstock, and that all skiing projects centered on this slope in New Hampshire. Olympic medalists such as Penny Pitou from Laconia once used this jump for training and would love to see it restored, Anderson said. As of right now, the jump is considered to be in fair condition but in need of maintenance.

After Anderson began researching local ski history, she said she realized the significance of this particular ski jump and contacted Gunstock Nordic Association, which has not utilized the jumps since 2004. Anderson said Andy Howe, chair of GNA, is on board and wants to make sure this slope receives the attention it deserves after the organization voted unanimously on the project proposal.

Anderson contacted the Preservation Society as well and said they gave her an immense amount of support in her researching endeavors, and gave her the direction she needed before going public with fellow advocates.

"It is such a huge project. So many people are involved. Our main focus is to preserve the history," said Anderson. "Historically it is quite significant, and not everyone is aware. Route 11A on Cherry Valley Road was put in just to get to the ski jump."

Anderson said she and GNA quietly went about their business and research until they felt ready to take their project to the next level.

She said that many groups would be interested in using the reconstructed jumps, and that it would be in the best interest of those involved with Nordic sports to support it. Anderson eventually contacted Gunstock with her information and the board found itself in favor of supporting the history of the jump and its reconstruction.

"When a group of people confirm the significance of something, you have something special here. It's a nice thing to do for Gilford," said Anderson. "They are just all very dedicated to preserving the history, and jumping will come after. The history is not documented and names won't be remembered (that contributed to the original ski jump). That's an important part too."

Right now, Howe is looking for someone to reconstruct the ski slope according to modern standards.

"This goes well beyond Gilford. We need to get kids jumping here again, and get Olympians here again. Every generation has done their part. We don't want to be the generation that didn't make an effort," said Anderson. "The Nordic people are excited. It could be a training facility for them and for other generations. We are all excited."

Anderson said she hopes that the Gunstock ski slope's spot on the Seven to Save list this year and group efforts to reconstruct the 70-foot jump will help to spark an interest in other vintage jumps of New England.

Other historic properties on the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance's Seven to Save list for 2009 include the New England Center in Durham, the iron furnace in Franconia, the Brewster Memorial Hall in Wolfeboro, the Mill at Mill Hollow in East Alstead, the Grace Methodist Church in Keene, and the First Parish Church in East Derry.

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