President, Copper Peak Inc.
Ski Jumping Before 57,000 Fans
The 1930’s could be considered the Golden Era of ski jumping in the United States. In the Midwest there were some 64 communities identified as have ski jumping facilities with a proportionate number of competitors. The winter sports of downhill and cross country skiing were in their infancy and did not take hold until post WWII. Ski jumping was THE winter sport of choice.
Ironwood was one of those communities which had developed a strong contingent of ski jumpers. Their story goes back to the time when Anders Haugen set a world’s record leap of 156 feet in 1911 followed by a world record leap of 169 feet by Ragnar Omtvedt in 1913 on Ironwood’s Curry Hill. Interest in the sport remained strong in spite of the fact that Curry Hill blew down in a wind storm in 1914 and WWI intervened in the late teens. The iron mining on the Gogebic range prospered following WWI and the Norrie Athletic Club built the largest steel slide in the world on Curry Hill in 1922. Ironwood skiers held the longest leap off the 115 foot artificial slide from 1923 through 1929 of 183 feet. The notoriety of Curry Hill became a huge attraction for many up and coming ski jumpers.
After Curry Hill blew down in a wind storm in 1930, the local ski jumping community went searching for a new location which would provide them with longer leaps than Curry. During this journey they examined numerous areas including the present Copper Peak site. This is when the “dream” of Copper Peak was born and Ironwood skiers recognized this site would provide leaps greater than any site in the world.
Enthusiasm ran high and the Gogebic Range Ski Club (GRSC) was formed in 1935 to attract skiers from across Gogebic County. Nearly 50 ski jumpers signed on to the Club in anticipation of skiing Copper Peak. The project, however, was too large to undertake in the midst of the Great Depression and thus the Club settled for a lesser site at what was to become the 60 meter Wolverine Hill.
The GRSC proceeded to send many skiers to venues across the Midwest. A half dozen Ironwood skiers had turned professional in the early 1930’s and traveled throughout the country for competitions. All returned to amateur status by the mid-1930’s. The GRSC was host for the first competition on Wolverine Hill in 1936 and 85 skiers registered of which 47 were from the GRSC. The invitational meet at Wolverine Hill in 1937 attracted 102 skiers of which 39 were from the GRSC.
The 1937 season was historic for the GRSC for several reasons: The club fielded the strongest contingent of skiers in the country winning 22 first places, 8 second places and 14 third places. The club also proceeded to send 14 skiers to the invitational meet held at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Chicago Daily Times had arranged for the construction of a 184 foot high structure (inrun) from railroad trestle timbers outside the stadium with the landing slope inside the stadium. The facility was covered with one million tons of crushed ice 18 inches deep. Flights to 140 feet were possible. The GRSC’s Tony Osterman placed 3rd in a field of 74 Class B competitors. The Club also sponsored four skiers in exhibition demonstrating their famous “Shooting Star” in which the skiers follow one another only seconds apart. The ski jumping at Soldier Field proved to be one of the sport’s most unique and historic events. 57,000 fans watched the competition.
Copper Peak continues to innovate and expand their facilities. To read more of what might be coming see- https://copperpeak.net/
To see more on Curry Hill, click here
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