Copper Peak Ski Flying Hill and Black River Falls, Ottawa National Forest
Crossing back into the upper peninsula of Michigan we made our first stop to visit our friends Teri and Grey whom we met hiking Sleeping Giant. They had had many excellent suggestions for us on places to visit while we were traveling through Minnesota and Wisconsin and once we arrived in Michigan they took us on an awesome tour of the local area.
Our first stop was an incredibly unique one – Copper Peak Ski Flying Hill, the only ski flying hill in the Western Hemisphere. I had knowledge of the sport of ski jumping and seen television coverage of it at past Winter Olympics but had never heard of ski flying before we were en route to Copper Peak. The difference is primarily in scale: Average ski jumps are around 300 – 400 feet (with the world record being 499 feet) whereas the current world record in ski flying is 825 feet. So yeah, big difference. Though flying evolved from traditional ski jumping, athletes are airborne for approximately 9 seconds and may gain speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour, making it a way more extreme version of an already-extreme sport.
Getting to the top of the jump was a process of riding the lift up to the crest of the hill, walking another short section, riding a small elevator for 55 seconds up 18 stories, and finally ascending multiple flights of metal grate stairs to the top. Staring down from the starting point at the top of the run and looking at the hill falling away below was fairly terrifying. I didn’t feel insecure standing there – though the structure swayed quite a bit in the wind – but the thought of launching myself down the 35 degree, 469 foot long inrun seemed insane. Opened in 1970, the hill at Copper Peak has been out of use for quite some time and the landing area is no longer long enough to accommodate today’s ski fliers, but the view from the observation platform remains impressive to say the least.
The next stop was a short walk along the Black River in Ottawa National Forest. The brief trail from the parking area led us to two very pretty waterfalls and provided views of the river gorge cut into the conglomerate rock. Walking downstream we crossed the historic CCC Black River Harbor Suspension Bridge and made our way to the beach on Lake Superior located at the river’s mouth.