minute I was minding my own business, looking forward to a relaxing Saturday
afternoon at home, and the next, I was riding a chairlift up a large hill in Ironwood,
Michigan to look at fall colors. Once my oldest daughter Christina saw a
picture of Copper Peak on Facebook,
my day was hijacked.
I had read this blog post two years ago about a lady’s visit to Copper Peak (click here to read) and I
remember not wanting to do that. I'm not afraid of heights, but aren’t happy
with them either.
Copper Peak is one of
six ski flying jumps in the world. It’s the highest and the only one in the
western hemisphere. (The others are in Europe.) Ski flying
differs from ski jumping. Ski fliers
start higher, go faster and fly farther. Olympic ski jumpers compete at heights
of only 90 to 120 meters. Copper Peak starts at
170 meters high. Ski fliers soar about 600 feet to the ground. Only 100 people
in the world are qualified to ski fly.
The jump reaches an elevation of 1,782
feet above sea level and is 1,180 feet above Lake
Superior. Copper Peak is currently
no longer used for ski flying and is only run as a weekend tourist attraction.
Admission is a steep $17 each.
Yikes! Did a quick mental calculation, pretty sure no view was worth $51. I
thought about waiting at the bottom for Christina and Lani to go up and down. The
clerk sensed my ambivalence and since we were the last customers of the day,
only charged Lani the child rate of $8.
Plus, those who made it to the top received a free bumper sticker. Now
I waffled, uneasy about going up,
unwilling to pay that much money, but also not wanting to disappoint my
daughters. Christina insisted that since we had come that far, we might as well
go up. I sighed, climbed on the wooden platform, stood on white footprints, and
waited for the chairlift.
had never been on a chairlift before and was not a happy camper. I watched a
smiling four-year-old boy hop off and decided if he could do it, I could too.
We began the "perilous" 810-foot ascent.
Very freaky to be pulled uphill on a
swaying open metal cage. I knew the system had been running for many years, but
it wouldn't last forever. What if that was the day it finally broke? If the
cable broke and we crashed, would I die right away? How faithfully did they
inspect their equipment? I'm not afraid of dying, but prefer not to suffer.
chairlift stopped at the bottom of the ski ramp.
I took in the amazing view,
thinking that was good enough, not needing to go farther. No such luck.
Christina insisted I keep going.
I reluctantly rode the small elevator
eighteen stories. I've been in many elevators before, including one in Jewel Cave National
Monument near Mt. Rushmore that went twenty-four
stories underground, but I've never been in a freestanding elevator on the top
of a hill. Hopefully the builders were attention-to-detail people and had built
the contraption right.
We exited the elevator and I tried not to
think about how high we were. I preferred not to continue but looked at the
enclosed metal stairs with handrails on both sides and decided to press on.
we’d climbed one story, three people started heading down the three-foot wide staircase. I turned and faced the wall, more than a
little uncomfortable and tried not to be creeped out while three large people,
two male, one female, squished by. Definitely one for the strange experience
books. Hundreds of feet above the ground, kind of freaked out with the whole
experience to start with, and then having to go squishy touchy backside to backside with total
strangers on a narrow staircase.
I continued climbing the next seven
stories, motivated by my fearless daughters calling, "Come on Mom. You can
do it. You're almost there. You've almost earned your bumper sticker."
clung to the rails, and am proud to say, made it to the top starting gate. I
wondered how many people the platform could hold and how long one needed to
stand in a scary place to get their money's worth?
The view was unimaginably
awesome. The picture doesn't do it justice.
Unobstructed 360 view on all sides. We could see for miles in all directions.
I looked through the metal grate under my feet and tried not to think
how high I was.
The platform gently bobbed in the breeze. (Maybe I am afraid of
heights.) The leaves had just begun to turn. Another week and the view would be glorious.
Christina and Lani decided it wasn't
enough of a thrill to be standing on top of the sixth highest spot in Upper
Michigan. They stuck their heads through a railing and
hung half of their bodies upside-down to take pictures.
This was not okay. I
barked, commanded, pleaded with them to stop. Stupid girls didn't listen. I
held on to the bottom of Lani's shorts, thinking if she slipped, I could catch
her. Lani complained, "Mom, you're going to pull my shorts down."
Finally it was time to descend. I white
knuckled it down to the elevator. I looked back to see where we had been and
shuddered. The top part isn't supported, just sort of hanging in the air.
took the chair lift back down.
Halfway down, Lani commented, "Funny how
after being at the top, this doesn't seem so high anymore."
We passed a big red chairlift tower
and Lani said, "I don't like this one."
Curious, I asked, "Why not?"
She said matter-of-factly, "The
other towers go up and down, this one is diagonal." Sure enough, she was right. It kind of
stuck out of the hill at an angle. Sorry I asked.
We reached the bottom and I wondered
which was crazier: that people had dragged huge equipment up the hill to build
the thing in the first place, or that humans had launched themselves off the
jump at speeds of 70 mph, or that I let my children talk me into doing things I
don’t want to do.
pretty sure I won't be one of those people who go skydiving on their 70th
birthday. I'm glad to have gone up Copper Peak. I have my bumper stickers and fun pictures but someone
will have to pay me fifty dollars to go up there again.