Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other high-ranking folks in the sports world and business communities gathered Wednesday at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in Ishpeming to announce a major push to bring international skiing competitions back to Michigan, specifically the Upper Peninsula.
Part of the push is a $3 million state grant for Iron Mountain’s Pine Mountain ski jump venue, part of a $10 million appropriation from Public Act 618 of 2018 for the Northern Michigan Tourism and Sports Fund and Great Lakes Sports Commission.
One of the highest artificially-created ski jumps in the world at 176 feet, Iron Mountain’s Pine Mountain is in line to host a World Cup ski jumping competition in 2021.
The site has proven it can play host to such international competitions. Pine Mountain annually has an International Ski Federation, or FIS, Continental Cup competition and hosted FIS World Cup ski jump events in 1996 and 2000.
In addition, the U.P. is home to Gogebic County’s Copper Peak, which is the only ski flying venue in the Western Hemisphere. The folks there expect to submit a bid for a World Cup competition in early 2020, and FIS Race Director Walter Hofer, who flew from Munich to attend Wednesday’s conference, said in a Journal article he’d welcome World Cup events there.
We’ve also got to say this is a good idea because of the local connection with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in Ishpeming. That’s a nationally recognized facility and organization right in our own backyard. Its primary focus is to highlight and promote the sport of skiing, and elevating its prominence globally obviously can’t be a bad thing for our region or the sport.
Finally, it comes down to the economic impact competitions like these will have on the U.P.
Nita Englund, a member of the U.S. Ski Team who hails from Spread Eagle, Wis., believes Nordic skiing events can help the regional economy.
“I would say the importance of the revitalization of Pine Mountain and Copper Peak is that it will really benefit and revitalize the economy and help us bring ski jumping to the U.S. and the U.P.,” Englund said.
In the words of Gov. Whitmer: “This ski jump will help attract more visitors and solidify the U.P. as a year-round travel destination.”
The state of Michigan has been promoting its recreational assets for years, marketing the region as a tourist destination for bikers, hikers, boaters, anglers and more. The presence of skiers and ski jumpers on that list cannot be overlooked, especially if international competitions make a comeback in the U.P.