By Hope O’Shaughnessy
North America’s oldest, continuously operating skiing club, the Nansen Ski Club, is sustaining its community mission and longevity with a new warming hut that uses renewable energy. The vibrant ski club operates in the Milan (NH) Hill State Park with 300 visitors annually and 103 members last season. The new hut is approximately 780 square feet with an option for a future half loft if storage space is needed. This ambitious effort is driven largely by community donors including individual and corporate support.
A dedicated board of directors headed up a well-received GoFundMe fundraising campaign. Volunteer labor played a big role as well as a donated solar PV system and labor to install it from ReVision Energy of NH and a small grant from the Berlin Area Renewable Energy Initiative (BAREI). The New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation prepared the site and poured the hut’s foundation. The full complement of donor and volunteer contributions made the project viable and the vision possible.
Tracy Rexford, President of the Nansen Ski Club, said several board members were committed to pursuing solar when the project was initiated. “They either have it (solar) at their homes or are considering incorporating the technology into their homes soon.” They were able to site and design the building for the best solar gain. ReVision Energy installed the solar array. The hut has a 2.52-kilowatt rooftop solar array with nine LG panels, each rated at 280 watts. Approximately 2,500 kWh of solar electricity will be produced each year by the array, according to Craig Cadieux, Solar Design Specialist at ReVision Energy.
The goals for the new hut included keeping operational costs low while providing comfort and a welcoming experience for visitors as well as using renewable resources. At Nansen, Rexford said, “Wood is always available and harvested from either clearing trail debris or new trails on the property, and wood heat gives a great feel.”
Rexford added that fossil fuels were quickly bypassed with the help of a planned cold climate heat pump in addition to the wood heat. The high-efficiency of a heat pump combined with a solar system is the perfect way to heat the building using renewable energy, according to Cadieux. Since the club doesn’t operate in summer, the solar array will cover most, if not all, of their energy use.
The club worked together with Ben Southworth of Garland Mill Timberframes of Lancaster, NH and incorporated design elements that make this a quality timber frame building that is also highly energy efficient. Cadieux added that the high-performance of the structure combined with the heat pump and solar system will make this a net-zero building.
Fundraising continues while the project reaches finalization of aspects of the construction including the heat pump. As of the end of November, the GoFundMe campaign for the hut had reached $1,825 toward the goal of $4,200. A total of 54 individual donors have given $35,816 in grants and donations along with $39,141 in in-kind materials and services. An extensive volunteer effort has also maintained the project’s momentum with 73 volunteers ages three to seventy-three years old who provided over 1,086 hours of service to the project in various capacities. “We couldn’t be happier with the community support we’ve received and hope to continue fostering a community spirit for many years to come,” Rexford noted.
Membership fees were not increased to support the new building. Rexford added that “A big part of Nansen’s history is being open to all, having no required fee to use the trails, and encouraging users to join the club with a membership to help maintain the trails and sport they love.” By keeping membership costs at the same level, he is pleased that others will continue to have access to the natural beauty of the Milan trails.
In late December the club will hold a grand opening to celebrate the welcoming, new warming hut. The club has planned more renewable energy use in a future storage garage for their club’s groomer. As a testament to the team effort involved in this project, members and volunteers autographed the hut’s timber frame beams, joinery and personalized wooden pegs that are holding the beams together.
“This will now be our new home and provide much more access to our members. There’s also a three-sided lean to and a yurt farther out on the trails with excellent views of the Presidential and Mahoosuc Mountain ranges that are not open for camping, but great places to take a break or enjoy a lunch,” concluded Rexford. Nansen is sure to gain new members and visitors who will enjoy the natural beauty of the trails for years to come.