IRONWOOD TOWNSHIP – Charlie Supercynski will be the first Gogebic Range resident to be named to the American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame.
The induction ceremony will be held at Big Powderhorn Lodge in Bessemer on Saturday, Aug. 17, at 7 p.m. Six months later, ski flying returns to Copper Peak after a 20-year absence and a strong volunteer effort, led by Supercynski, to get the facility ready.
Bryan Sanders, president of the American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame, said Supercynski will be cited for his longtime outstanding contributions to the sport of ski jumping in the Ironwood, Bessemer and Wakefield communities.
“Charlie is likely best known as the so-called ‘Godfather of the Copper Peak Ski Flying Hill,’” Sanders said. “Charlie has an unwavering passion for the 44-year ski flying hill and the sport of ski jumping in America is truly better off due to the dedication of Charlie Supercynski. He is also the author of ‘Soaring With The Eagles: The Copper Peak Story,’ which serves as a great reference to the history of ski jumping on the Gogebic Range.”
Supercynski is not a man seeking acclaim, so he seemed somewhat taken aback by becoming a hall-of-famer.
“This came as a surprise,” Supercynski said. “This is beyond what I considered happening. I guess it’s because I’ve been involved with ski jumping for a lifetime.”
John Kusz, who is a major volunteer at Copper Peak, said Supercynski is more than deserving of his selection into the Hall of Fame.
Sanders noted that Supercynski’s entry in the sport’s Hall of Fame comes at a time when he is being credited with assembling a talented board of directors and local volunteer support that has returned Copper Peak to being close to full operational status.
Sanders said Supercynski has also used his strong academic background to work with the world’s best ski hill designers to restore Copper Peak to modern ski flying conditions.
“We’ve made tons of improvements out there,” Supercynski said. “The first Copper Peak was in 1970 and there were 10 ski flying meets. But the last one was in ‘94. There were financial and physical issues. The infrastructure was run down.”
But all the hard work paid off when the USA Ski Jumping Association announced that a national and international ski flying meet is scheduled to return to Copper Peak on Feb. 28-March 2 in 2014.
Supercynski said restoring and rebuilding Copper Peak to the level where it could host an international ski flying meet was “a monumental task.
“The effort and commitment was incredible,” Supercynski said. “And we had no paid people. We only hired some people to run the chairlift and elevators for tours. That, along with some donations, was how we paid for the renovations. We are always in need of more volunteers.” Between summer and winter months, upwards of 30,000 people visit Copper Peak. Supercynski said Copper Peak spends tons of money to advertise and it pays off. Copper Peak has the best view in the Midwest. From the top of it, you can see three states and possibly Canada.
Despite the number of people who visit, Supercynski said Copper Peak is actually more well-known in Europe than in the United States.
“Ski jumping and ski flying for them is like pro football is here,” he said. “And 50,000 to 60,000 people will show up for their ski flying meets.”
Supercynski said that from top to bottom, Copper Peak is 60 stories high (or 600 feet) and many people don’t realize it is only one of six ski flying facilities in the world.
Supercynski believes 12,000 to 15,000 people will attend the three days of ski flying.
“It’s a unique event in the world,” he said. “It sheds international light on our area and it will be an exciting special event. People will not be disappointed.”
Supercynski said that past Copper Peaks attracted a number of European and Japanese ski fliers. Some were the best in the world and competed in the Olympics.
Restarting Copper Peak, Supercynski is hoping to have the U.S. Ski team and some international ski fliers.
Kusz said that once the 2014 Winter Olympics are completed one week earlier, Copper Peak has taken up the challenge of trying to get two Olympic women ski fliers from Park City, Utah to jump at Copper Peak. They would be the first women ever to compete at Copper Peak.
Copper Peak is unique in that it was designed for ski flying, as opposed to ski jumping.
“The biggest difference is size,” Sypercynski said. “Ski flying hills are 30 percent bigger. This allows for longer flights. The Copper Peak record is 158 meters, or 518 feet. The world record is 809 feet and was set in Vikerson, Norway. That’s almost three football fields.”
With a redesigned hill, Supercynski said he has “no doubt” skiers at Copper Peak will jump 600 feet next year.
Supercynski said it is “unclear” whether any sports television network would cover the first Copper Peak meet in 20 years, but ski flying goes over well on TV and they have covered Copper Peak in the past.
Copper Peak was constructed in 1969, but Supercynski said its roots can be traced back to the 1908. There was a large contingent of about 35-40 ski jumpers in this area who started jumping at the old Curry Hill, which was north of the Gogebic County Fairgrounds. Three world records were set by 1913, with the last one of 169 feet being set by Ragner Omtvedt, who had just come into the country from Norway. In 1914, the Curry Hill structure blew down and jumpers started looking at Mt. Zion, but the hill didn’t have the right geometry.
Wolverine Ski Hill was built in 1935 and had its first competition in 1936.
Supercynski said there were a number of smaller hills in the Bessemer and Wakefield areas.
World War II pretty much put ski jumping on hold, but after the war, the planning for Copper Peak began to take shape.
“Copper Peak was quite an accomplishment,” Supercynski said. “It was an expensive project for the time and took $1 million or so to build. There were a lot of roadblocks and federal and state agencies with grants chipping in about $750,000. The local people couldn’t build it because it was in the last days of the mines, but they contributed about 25 percent.”
Supercynski said he has been around Copper Peak and ski jumping most of his life and laughs when people ask him what has kept him going.
“Many people ask that,” Supercynski said. “Number one, with Copper Peak, it’s a site that gives our area international recognition. Number two, Copper Peak is an incredible tourist attraction. It’s an economic boost and that’s overlooked. Tourists spend time and money. People drive 600 miles from Toledo. If you look in the parking lot, there are license plates from many states. And number three, I did all the sports in high school and I never had as much fun as I did ski jumping. No other sport can compare with the rush of ski jumping. You can’t wait to go again.
“Also, this is preserving a great history and recognizing the incredible effort and commitment people in our area have given to Copper Peak.”