Da U.P. Part One – Copper No Peek Ski Hill


Copper PeakThere are many stereotypes of those of us advancing in years from being slow drivers (true) to being intolerant of current music trends (true), to being ever so forgetful (from what I remember, also true). The last of these can be the most worrisome as you wonder if your forgetfulness is just a normal old age random occurrence or a sign of much worse struggles yet to come.   For some reason, my forgetfulness tends to be an early morning thing and can make day determination a bit more interesting than necessary. It would seem that deciding if it is Friday or Saturday should be an easy call each morning.

One area in which I noticed a bit of forgetfulness actually tends to help is in the area of conquering fears. I think this has as much to do with the fact that at my age I have forgotten most of what I am afraid of, and why, and not due to a new found backbone of any kind. For example, for as long as I can remember, I have always been afraid of heights. Never liked being at the top of the see saw, the apex of the swing, on top of a ladder, dancing across the shingles of a roof, nor approaching the edge of anything that required looking down. So, much to my surprise, on our last trip north, I was quite willing to hop in a flimsy ski lift chair, get pulled up a hill by some type of cable contraption and then start the ascent to the top of Copper Peak.

The U.P. is an interesting place to visit, but we have never had the desire to make it a week long destination. We make a quick run in, see what is to be seen, and return again to the woods of Northern Wisconsin and cell phone reception. Not quite sure why the areas seem so different, but for us the U.P. truly is a place to visit and not a destination. While on vacation and in one of our “what should we do today” moods, actually my mood since most everyone else was content to lie in the sun, the shade, or the hammock with lie being the key word, I decided we should give the U.P. a try for a day. To the best of my pamphlet knowledge, there really are only two things worth visiting within easy driving distance in the U.P. – waterfalls and a real high ski jump hill. Fortunately, there is a little corner of the U.P. where both of these attractions co-exist. The Copper Peak Ski Hill and Black River Harbor are a short drive from each other and both are worth seeing.

Copper Peak is where this whole memory loss thing came in quite handy. As a little background, Copper Peak is the only ski flying hill in North America. The flying part seemed to me a better description than those labeled just a ski jump hill. By most definitions, what the folks did coming off of the end of the ramp with a couple of chunks of wood on their feet never quite met my definition of jump. When you think of jumping, you feel there should be a landing involved somewhere shortly thereafter. The landing from a ”jump” off this hill would come way too many seconds later, fully giving the “jumper” plenty of time to argue with themselves about the merits of what they were doing. Who knew there were people who not only jumped off the end of one of those ramps, but they actually flew.

Just a few additional random facts to peak the reader’s interest to head to the U.P. – Copper Peak is one of only 6 ski flying hills in the entire world and the only one in the western hemisphere. It is the largest artificial slide in the entire world, though I am not quite sure what constitutes a non-artificial slide, and is built into a 364 foot rock formation. Those brave enough to descend the ramp will face wind speeds in excess of 70 mph and will travel at 95 fps. The tower can withstand winds in excess of 190 MPH and can sway up to as much as 18 inches with a drop 3 times as steep as Niagara Falls. The record jump on the hill is 518 feet accomplished way back in 1994.

So there we stood one sunny day at the base of the ski hill, deciding the merits of a trek to the top. Most of our group was in favor, while a few others, mister height adverse not included, were more than a bit wary of the entire process. After a bit of urging and a group rate negotiation, we were soon on our way to the base of the hill. While most of the area looks a bit out of date, the actual ski lift portion seemed to be fairly well maintained and I was optimistic that each of our chairs would successfully negotiate it to the top. After being scooped up by the chair and starting the climb to the top, I did have a fleeting remembrance that I really did not care for heights. And as bad as I suddenly felt about the entire process, I could only think that the trip back down would be just that much worse. After a nervous 4 or 5 minutes, we were sliding out at the top and back on solid ground once again. Should you make the trip,  one suggestion is to take your time and enjoy the wonderful view of God’s amazing creation.

Step two was a trip up 24 stories in an old and very slow elevator. With 6 or so of us crammed into the small box we crept to the next landing. The next stop is where my old fears would have really kicked in back in the keen memory days. A number of the visitors with good memories spent their time on this platform plastered to the elevator building wall. I was willing to venture out to the edge and enjoy the incredible scenery and contemplate the climb to the very top of the jump. The remaining climb is about 8 stories up a series of stairs and metal platforms, most of which showed a bit too much of the ground below for my liking. At the bottom of the hill I had convinced myself that the last 8 stories would not be part of the journey. As if to stress the wisdom of this decision, folks we met on their way down commented something about a bit of swaying going on at the top. A combination of swaying and excessive heights did not seem like a winner to me. However, by the time we had reached the platform, apparently I had forgotten about the whole swaying thing, since I was soon on my way to the top. The last destination of the journey up was a smallish platform at the very top of the jump. The view is quite incredible and the view down the ramp is all the more so as you wonder how any person, with or without a good memory, could ever push off and start the slide down the ramp. As I stood at the top, I was thankful that I had forgotten my fear since the trek up was quite something and overall well worth the effort.

The chair lift ride back down the hill was actually quite a bit more enjoyable than the trip up and was a great way to end the visit to Copper Peak. The lift operator encouraged a return trip in the fall and some day we might take him up on the suggestion during the peak of fall colors. From the top, I would think the view would truly be something to see. So if you are ever wandering through the western part of the UP give the ski jump hill a try and make it to the top.

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