Copper Peak, Mich., ski jump sets example for Big Thunder

A ski jump in Michigan's Upper Peninsula that will re-open after nearly 25 years, sets the example for a group in Thunder Bay, Ont that hopes to bring ski jumping back to Ontario.

Jump closed in 1994 in Michigan's UP to re-open next summer

The jump at Copper Peak as seen from the top of the ski flying hill. The elevator, seen on the left, goes up 19 stories, with the jump extending another 87 feet higher. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Copper Peak, MI Ski Jump 1:51

A ski jump in Michigan's Upper Peninsula that will re-open after nearly 25 years, sets the example for a group in Thunder Bay, Ont that hopes to bring ski jumping back to Ontario.

Copper Peak, just north of Ironwood, Mich., was shuttered in 1994, partially because of financial difficulties. After years of maintenance and perseverance, the jump will re-open for the summer of 2019, hold a FIS (International Ski Federation) summer ski jumping event.

"This puppy is big," said Paul Belmas, who is on the board for the volunteer group that maintains the jump. The Copper Peak jump is the only ski flying hil in the western hemisphere.

"People are just going to be amazed when they get up close and see it, and see the jumpers coming off."

Copper Peak had its last official jumpers launch off the ski flying hill in 1994. Since then, the jump has operated as a summer tourist attraction, bringing visitors to the top of the jump to take in a 2500 square mile view.

Belmas said the group keeps the lookout operational for the summer, also called the Adventure Ride, which brings more than 8,000 visitors annually to the jump. All of the money raised is put back into the operation.
Looking down the ski jump at Copper Peak, MI. The stadium is seen at the bottom. The hill will be covered with plastic by next summer, and a porcelain track installed so the facility can be used throughout the summer. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Even with the jump re-opened to skiers, it will still be used, at this point, only in the summer.

"People will be able to jump in the summer, and it will bring in people who have never seen it up close and personal."

A new porcelain track will be installed, and a plastic landing surface is put onto the hill. Jumpers will be able to launch off the 145 metre jump without any snow.

"You take baby steps with this type of thing. No big giant steps take place. It has come. We've had to be very patient, and we still have to be patient. We just keep the adventure ride going, it's our income, and we re-invest."

It's a long way to the top

It's a long way to the top of the Copper Peak jump. Visitors take an elevator up 18 stories, then can hike up another 87 feet of stairs. Due to its height, the jump sways in the wind - up to 17 inches each way.

The jump gained notoriety after Sammy Carlson, a freestyle skier and X-Games competitor flew off the jump, switch (backwards).

"It's going to do such a big thing for the sport. Once people see it and are able to get their hands on it, literally come here and watch it, see it all summer long, hopefully it'll be a training site."

Belmas said if Copper Peak can re-start its jump, so can Big Thunder. He said it would be great to have another ski jump in the region, to help grow the sport, and foster more competitions and competitors.
Looking up the 145-metre ski flying hill at Copper Peak, MI. The jump, after sitting idle since 1994, will host its first competition in summer, 2018. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

"We're all pumped. We all have our different jobs. I just want it to go so bad I'll do most anything to help out around here. I'll sell tickets, run the elevator, chairlift, and cut the lawns, paint, just like today, working up there."

"We're so fired up. We just have to be patient."

About the Author

Jeff Walters


Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.


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