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Soaring with eagles

Supercynski, ‘Godfather to Copper Peak’ enshrined


Pat Krause/Daily Globe photo

Charlie Supercynski makes a point while speaking after being inducted into the seventh annual American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame at the Big Powderhorn Lodge in Bessemer on Saturday night.

IRONWOOD TOWNSHIP — After nearly a lifetime of devotion and passion for ski jumping, ski flying and Copper Peak, Charlie Supercynski was inducted into the American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame with the Class of 2013 on Saturday night.

Supercynski was enshrined for his “longtime outstanding service to the sport of ski jumping” along with sixteen other inductees at the Big Powderhorn Lodge in Bessemer. The event was held on the Gogebic Range for the first time and drew nearly 150 people, which was the largest turnout in the seven-year history of the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

“I didn’t expect this at all,” Supercynski said. “I feel honored and its pretty overwhelming.”

While many Hall of Fames give their new members plaques of some type, Saturday’s new inductees were awarded something different. Perhaps it was only fitting that wooden skis were handed out with the words “2013 American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame Inductee” inscribed on them. Also on the skis were picture frames that were empty, so that the new Hall of Famers could insert their favorite pictured memories.

Supercynski is the first area resident to be named to the American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame and his choice was a popular one.

“Charlie really deserves it,” said John Kusz, who is the only life-long area resident to ski fly off Copper Peak. “I don’t think there’s anybody who’s worked so hard. He’s at the hill everyday. There’s a lot of negative talk about why try to do something with Copper Peak because there will never be another meet there. But ski flying is the Super Bowl of ski-jumping and Charlie thinks so positive and has always been positive.”

And now a national and international ski flying meet is scheduled to return to Copper Peak Feb. 28-March 2 in 2014.

Bryan Sanders, President of the American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame and currently the Chief of Ski Jumping at Copper Peak, said people like Supercynski don’t come along very often.

“The sport of ski jumping in America is truly better due to the amazing dedication of Charlie Supercynski,” Sanders said. “Supercynski is likely best known as the so-called “Godfather to Copper Peak.” He is also the author of “Soaring with the Eagles: The Copper Peak Story,” which serves not only as a great historical reference to the history of ski jumping on the Gogebic Range but also to the sport’s unique history in America. And Charlie fit time in for all this while teaching 39 years at Gogebic Community College.”

Supercynski said that although he is best known for his work on Copper Peak, he has been involved with ski jumping and ski hills since he was a kid.

“We have a great sport, but as a ski jumper, all I really did was build ski hills,” he said. “But I had a lot of fun doing it.”

Sanders said that Supercynski also used his strong academic background to become an expert in safe ski design and was instrumental in redesigning the Wolverine ski jump in the late 1970s. During its years of operation, the ski jump had one of the safest track records in the country, with no serious injury to any jumper.

Many in the audience on Saturday night had some association with ski jumping or ski flying and there was a buzz in the air about what was being called the “rebirth of the Peak.” There was even a big bon-fire on Friday night at Copper Peak.

Supercynski said it was “quite an accomplishment” to build Copper Peak in 1969. It was unique, because it was built for ski flying as opposed to ski jumping and this allowed for much longer jumps.

The first Copper Peak meet was held in 1970 and there have been 10 ski flying meets since then. But the last one was in 1994 and Copper Peak officials have said there has been “a lost generation” that has never seen ski flying at Copper Peak.

Supercynski has said that physical, financial and infrastructure problems led Copper Peak on a downward spiral.

But Sanders noted that Supercynski’s entry into the sport’s Hall of Fame comes at a time when he has assembled a talented board of directors and an excellent volunteer work group that has returned Copper Peak to being close to operational status.

Supercynski said restoring and rebuilding Copper Peak to the point where it could host a national and international ski flying meet was “a monumental task.”

“The effort and commitment was incredible,” Supercynski said. “We’ve made tons of improvement.”

Sanders said the American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame will do everything it can to help Copper Peak succeed. Sanders, a Minnesota resident, has even purchased a camp-type house in Wakefield, so that he can spend greater portions of time working in the Gogebic Range area. He feels the time is right for a Copper Peak comeback.

“I’ve never seen a more enthusiastic community that wanted Copper Peak back,” he said. “We’re in a great position to bring Copper Peak back and back to stay. I’m very excited, really.”

The excitement stems from the improvements made at Copper Peak but also the product itself. Copper Peak is only one of six ski flying facilities in the world. Kusz said it was unique in that it is highest artificial scaffold in the world.

Supercynski said Copper Peak stretches 600 feet into the air and some of the best men (and possibly women) skiers will jump or fly off the immense structure. The world record leap is almost three football fields long and Supercynski has said he has “no doubt” that with a redesigned hill, Copper Peak competitors will break the old record of 518 feet and jump over 600 feet.

Pat Krause/Daily Globe

Charlie Supercynski and family members gather after he was inducted into American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame at the Big Powderhorn Lodge in Bessemer on Saturday night. From left are: Jill Supercynski, Charlie Supercynski, Denese Daniels, Bernice Pairolero, Joan Steiger, Dick Steiger and Barbara Johnson.

Kusz said ski flying is really “super ski jumping.”

Kusz also said there is no ski flying competition in the Olympics at the present time, but if the event were to be held in the Western Hemisphere, Copper Peak would be the only place to hold a competition.

In the Winter Olympiad in Russia, there will be a women’s ski jumping competition for the first time. The VISA USA Women’s Ski Jumping team is the early favorite to bring home the gold. 18-year old phenom, Sarah Hendrickson, sent a positive message to all those in attendance at Saturday’s induction ceremony.

Hendrickson obviously knows about Copper Peak, but does that mean she and possibly some of her Olympic teammates would be interested in being the first women to ski fly off Copper Peak? Copper Peak officials have only said it would be “a challenge” to get them here, but it would certainly pump up the excitement level at the 2014 meet.

For Charlie Supercynski and Copper Peak, events are trending in a positive direction.


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