Jumping nearly 450 feet off a mountain at 55 miles per hour and landing on your feet is exhilarating — and a thrill to watch for people who come to the world famous Pine Mountain Ski Jump. Taking a trip down the mountain is a story people can brag about for the rest of their lives.
Ski jumping at the Iron Mountain facility started in 1939 and grew in popularity. Pine Mountain, in time, became one of the most famous man-made jumps in the world. Skiers from around the globe come to jump at the Continental Cup tournaments held there. They enjoy being treated like a member of the family by the locals.
Numbers tell a lot of the story: It’s more than 140 feet to the top of the scaffold where skiers start. The ride down is 1,400 feet from start to finish. International and U.S. records have been set at Pine Mountain numerous times. The jump record is a flight of 459 feet. Spectators can walk the 500 steps to the top of hill, where the view is 20 to 30 miles on a clear day.
Lynda Zanon, the Dickinson Area Chamber Alliance director, estimated about 20,000 people attended the jumps last year — more than triple Iron Mountain’s population.
“It was a phenomenal year,” she said, crediting temperatures of 20-25 degrees as a big reason people came.
The town’s Kiwanis Ski Club organizes the event, and it is the only U.S. jump to get an International Ski Federation (FIS) competition date every year. World Cup events were held in 1996 and 2000.
“Every jumper knows about the Pine Mountain ski jump,” said Nick Blagec, president of the Kiwanis Ski Club that will organize the Feb. 25-26 event. “Probably, everyone who goes to the Olympics has been here.”
Skiers love the event because of the friendly atmosphere — some stay at the homes of people who live in the town — and an enthusiastic crowd, Blagec says. Another reason skiers from around the world visit Pine Mountain is it always has been maintained to the rigid FIS regulations, so skiers can earn qualifying points for the Olympics.
The Pine Mountain Ski Jump has turned into a family-friendly experience over the years. It once had a reputation for being a hot spot for young partiers. “It used to be very wild parties,” Blagec said. “Now, you can bring your 8-year-old.”
Crazy coonskin hats, ice castles and even ice bars are all part of the scene.
“You just don’t know what you’re going to see up here,” Blagec said. “It’s a unique situation.”
Written by, Linda Odette, Michigan BLUE Magazine
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