Ski Jumping — The ultimate winter sport in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

On March 3, 2023, when Maximillian Ortner’s skis left the takeoff table at Pine Mountain Ski Jump in Iron Mountain, hundreds of onlookers held their collective breaths. Soaring a dizzying 600-plus feet above the earth at 56 miles per hour, Ortner’s sport is not for land lovers. Within seconds, gravity won and the Austrian athlete finished with the longest ride of the day at 454 feet. His reward was a cacophony of clanging cowbells and blaring car horns from the awed fans.

This is the thrill of watching humans fly each winter in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The region is home to three renowned ski jumping areas and is the training ground for hundreds of jumpers, including over a dozen U.S. Olympic Team members.

What is ski jumping

Ski jumping is one of the world’s most extreme winter sports. Highly skilled athletes speed down a human-made ramp called an inrun and then fly into the air from a takeoff platform. The goal is to stay airborne for the longest distance and land gracefully. It requires perfectly timed takeoffs, maintaining a precise, aerodynamic form and returning to earth with a flawless finish. Unwavering courage and confidence are musts for these gutsy competitors.

Who brought ski jumping to the U.P.

The history of ski jumping dates to the 19th century in Norway and has long been part of the Winter Olympics. When Nordic immigrants came to the Upper Peninsula in the late 19th and early 20th century to work in the copper and iron mines and forests, they brought the sport with them. The U.P.’s snowy winters, towering hills and deep bowls, made skiing a way of life.

The first recorded ski jumping tournament took place in Ishpeming on February 25, 1888. It has been held ever since. The Norden Ski Club (renamed the Ishpeming Ski Club in 1901) hosted the event. Organizers pushed snow up against boards to form the scaffold, piled more snow at the top to create a bump or takeoff and smoothed the landing below.

You can learn why Ishpeming is considered the birthplace of organized skiing in America and how it popularized ski jumping in the U.P. when you visit the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.

Where to watch and train for ski jumping

The Upper Peninsula has three ski jumping facilities, two are active and one is under renovation until the fall of 2025.

Suicide Bowl Ski Jump event with fire and the ski jump in the background

Suicide Bowl Ski Jump, Negaunee

This is one of the oldest man-made jumps in the Upper Peninsula. It looks eerily foreboding as you see its 140-foot-high scaffolding peering over the pine forest as you drive through Ishpeming and Negaunee. The bowl got its name in 1926 after Walter Anderson fell and suffered serious injuries during a practice run. Even though the Ishpeming Ski Club protested, the name stuck. Today, it is considered one of the safest and top ski jumps in the country.

The Suicide Bowl has five jumps ranging from 15 to 90 feet. Anyone who wants to use the jumps must first contact the Ishpeming Ski Club. The club has an aerodynamic ski suit and special jumping skis for your use. The facility also offers year-round ski jumping opportunities for young skiers on several hills with plastic runs.

Pine Mountain Ski Jump - Iron Mountain

Pine Mountain Ski Jump, Iron Mountain

This is the highest man-made ski slide in the U.S. and one of the highest in the world. Constructed in the 1930s, they recently rebuilt it. The jump holds the North American distance record of 459 feet/140 meters. Top jumpers from around the world compete in its annual FIS Continental Cup.

Throughout the year, visitors can climb the ​​Pine Mountain Steps, the largest outdoor staircase in the United States. Nearly 500 concrete stairs take you a half-mile straight up from the base of the Giant Pine Mountain Ski Jump. In August, a stair-climbing race draws participants from all over the United States. 

At the top of Pine Mountain is the U.P. Veterans Memorial and Park. Large stone markers at the base of the flagpole honor Upper Peninsula Veterans from all branches of the Armed Services.

Copper Peak, Ironwood

This is the site of the largest ski-flying structure in the Western Hemisphere. The 469-foot jump rises 26 stories above the hilltop and towers higher than most ski jumps used in the Olympics. Copper Peak has been closed to ski flyers since 1994. A recent $20 million grant from the state of Michigan will help renovate the iconic, cantilevered engineering marvel by the fall of 2025. The goal is to bring summer and winter FIS ski flying competitions back to the Peak in the next few years.

Until then, visitors can take the Copper Peak Adventure Ride to the top of the structure from Memorial Day weekend to mid-October. It is a favorite place to view U.P. fall colors (voted some of the best in the U.S.). On a clear day, you can see parts of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Upcoming events

137th Annual Ishpeming Ski Club Ski Jumping Tournament/USA Nordic U.S. Cup

January 19-21, 2024 | Suicide Hill, U.P. Nordic Ski Complex, Negaunee | $15 advance tickets/$20 at the gate/12 years and younger are FREE

This is the oldest ski jumping tournament in the U.P. Watch elite and junior U.S. ski jumpers, plus exciting target jumps that demand both distance and accuracy. Bonfires, beer tents, food trucks, concessions and fireworks contribute to the full weekend of festivities.

FIS Continental Cup

Feb. 23-25, 2024 | Pine Mountain Ski Jump, Iron Mountain | Biggest tailgater in the U.P. | Admission TBD/10 years and younger are FREE

The Kiwanis Ski Club has been presenting world-class ski jumping tournaments at the Pine Mountain Ski Jump since 1939. Make plans to see this year’s competition on the newly rebuilt jump. Tailgating with thousands of locals and visitors is a favorite part of the weekend of thrills.

@michigansupperpeninsula Can you spot the ski jumper?! 2023 FIS Continental Cup Pine Mountain Jumps in Iron Mountain was this past weekend, have you ever attended? #uptravel #travel #vacation #winter #winterevent #puremichigan #skijumping #skijumps #springercome ♬ original sound - Togethxr