Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Copper Peak Adventure Ride

One 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 there's motivation.

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.

I 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.

The 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. 

After 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."

I 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. 

We 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.

I'm 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.


  1. Thanks for the link back to my experience going up Copper Peak ;) At least you got a bumper sticker!! I'm jealous! It truly is an amazing adventure and I'm glad I did it; but three times is my limit. I'm with you on the wondering how often it's inspected??? Because the equipment, the elevator, all of it is getting pretty old looking and scary. It looks like you had a gorgeous day though and some really great memories were made to cherish :)

  2. LOL ~ Sounds like a great adventure. :-)
    My husband has a story about Copper Peak...I will let him share it with you.
    Great photos!

  3. Oh my goodness that is crazy high!!!

  4. Wow! It was a super great adventure! I love your photos!