Copper Peak Ski Flying Hill
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In summer and on fall weekends the public can visit an observation platform 18 stories up on the tower of the highest man-made ski flying hill in the world. There they can take in an awesome vista. On a clear day the Porcupine Mountains can be seen to the northeast, and the Apostle Islands 35 miles to the west. On an exceptionally clear day, if a Canadian high pressure system is moving in, you can see 85 miles across Lake Superior to Grand Marais, Minnesota, and Isle Royale to the north. (Most of the Gogebic Range's nearby iron-mining towns are shielded from view by ridges.)
Most visitors get to the platform on the chair lift (a thrilling experience in itself) and then an elevator. For those whose fear of heights rules out the chair lift, a road also leads to the elevator. The fit can hike up the remainder of the ski jump, another eight stories, and see through the eyes of ski fliers as they would prepare to start down the jump and fly 600 feet in the air.
Europe's ski-flying slides are longer, but they are built along mountainsides, with the jump at the end. The hilltop here, reached by a chair lift, is over 350 feet above the land around it. The ski slide's scaffolding rises another 280 feet in the air.
This sleek landmark of Corten steel was built in 1970 for the first international ski-flying tournament in the western hemisphere.
SKI FLYING involves longer distances and uses different equipment than ski-jumping. Ski fliers are the elite of ski jumpers, "a whole different human being from, say, the ski jumpers who compete at Iron Mountain," says a local ski aficionado. There are a dozen or so qualified ski fliers in North America, among possibly a hundred in the world. They qualify by outstanding performance on Olympic-size hills. The sport is much better known in Europe, where it's big news. On the logo of the international ski flying association, Ironwood takes its place among much more famous ski areas—in Austria, Germany, Norway, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic. To learn more about ski flying and see a video clip, start with copperpeak.com and ironwoodmi.org/
The idea for a ski flying hill here started in the 1930s, when the local ski club built a ski jump at Wolverine Hill near today's Grandview Hospital. Members were constantly in view of this distant hilltop. What a place for a super jump! They held onto the dream, collected contributions. After the mines closed, when unemployment reached over 30%, they rallied political support for government loans and grants to build the ski-flying jump. It was a big deal when an international competition was held here— a huge point of local pride for a small community without great wealth to have erected such an outstanding landmark and attraction.
The last competition here was in 1994. The landing area has been reengineered, and the nonprofit Copper Peak Association hopes to host a ski-flying competition again some day.
Volunteers operate the summer chair lift to help support the project. At the parking area, there's a picnic spot.
On CR 513/Black River Road about 11 miles north of Bessemer. See directions to Black River waterfalls. (906) 932-3500. Open 10-4:30 5 days a week (closed Mon & Tues) from mid June thru Labor Day. After then open Sat & Sun thru color season. Not open in rainy weather. Rates for chair lift and elevator to top: $10/adult, $5/child. Handicap access: drive to elevator, get assistance there.
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POINTS OF INTEREST
Copper Peak Ski Flying Hill. Visitors can enjoy the world's highest man-made ski-flying hill and one of the Midwest's most awesome views, amazing in fall color season. A chair lift or road reaches the observation platform 18 stories above CR 513. The daring can walk up another 8 stories toward the sky. ... more
Black River waterfalls & Black River Scenic Byway. Five memorable, very different waterfalls in one area testify to the power and varied character of water ... more