Towering 267 feet into the air on the top of an old mining site in Ironwood, Copper Peak’s ski-flying slide stands as one of the most iconic and storied structures in the entire Midwest.
Fifty years after being built, the only ski-flying hill outside of Europe remains the largest artificial ski jump in the world. And it soon could be back in action, attracting the best ski jumpers for the FIS (International Ski Federation) Ski Jumping Grand Prix and hosting training weeks for elite athletes.
The group behind the nonprofit Copper Peak Inc. has lofty plans to renovate and re-establish the facility as the western hemisphere’s premier summer ski-jumping facility. It’s an investment that will bring economic activity, tourism, international athletes, fans and media to the westernmost region of the state, said Charles Supercynski, board president.
“We will put the state of Michigan on the map with this project,” he said. “It will mean a lot over the long haul in terms of the economics of the whole thing. We will have the international spotlight focused on this site.”
The effort recently got a big boost when state lawmakers appropriated $10 million for renovations at Copper Peak and Pine Mountain.
“The schedule is full speed ahead,” Supercynski said. “We’re all on cloud nine up here right now. This means a lot not only to the corporation but to this area.”
It may sound a little odd — hosting ski jumping on a plastic landing hill in the summer at a facility designed for flying on snow — but summer ski jumping is big business in Europe and prepares skiers for winter competitions. Copper Peak officials submitted a plan to the FIS to redesign the hill and have the backing of FIS and others.
“This will be the largest hill in the world with a plastic surface for summer jumping,” Supercynski said. “For the practices, as well, we’ll invite teams to come over here from all over the world.”
Copper Peak needs to raise an estimated $15 million to $18 million, but the state funding gives the project real traction. The group plans to start renovations this spring with the goal of holding the Summer Grand Prix finale in fall 2020, said Bob Jacquart, fundraising chair and CEO of Jacquart Fabric Productions.
“We will put the state of Michigan on the map with this project. It will mean a lot over the long haul in terms of the economics of the whole thing.”
— Charles Supercynski
“It’s a very big deal for the director of FIS,” he said. “They gave us three exemptions that no one else has in the world. … They really want it to happen.”
FIS approved the facility to host scheduled training weeks that will bring in international athletes throughout the summer months. There are other summer ski jumping sites in America, but they are smaller. The venue could host a Nordic Combined Summer Grand Prix, Continental Cup and other events in the future.
“This means a lot to USA ski jumping in general; the national awareness in general will be increased because of it, and we’ve been given a sanction to hold practices on this hill,” Supercynski said. “None of the other flying hills will have this capability.”
Red Bull 400: May 11. The world’s steepest 400-meter race up Copper Peak attracted 470 competitors, 100 volunteers and 5,000 spectators in 2018. The principle is simple: participants start at the bottom of the ski jump and race 400 meters uphill, 40 stories to the top of the largest artificial ski-jump tower in the world. The nearly vertical race puts participants’ speed, endurance and fitness to the ultimate test.
Mountain bike trails: Accessible as soon as they dry up for the season and can be used at any time of day. Free (donations welcome). 600 feet of elevation gain over the 5.5-mile trail system; built and maintained by the SISU Dirt Crew.
Adventure ride: Enjoy an 800-foot chairlift ride or 18-story elevator ride to Copper Peak’s main observation deck for the highest panoramic vista in the Midwest. Eight more flights of stairs to climb to the top starting gate.
Hours: 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily; open Memorial Day weekend until mid-October. A gift shop and museum dedicated to Copper Peak’s ski-jumping history is inside the chalet.