The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Whitecap Mountains Resort plans $10 million resurgence


July 15, 2019

P.J. Glisson/Daily Globe

OFFICIALS AT Whitecap Mountains Resort in Upson, Wis., engage in a Saturday discussion regarding progress made in the demolition of their base lodge, which was lost to a Jan. 18 fire. From left are Don Odell, director of mountain operations, and resort manager David Dziuban. So far, Dziuban said 50% of the burned structure has been deconstructed. The men said the pile of rubble to the left will be used during reconstruction that will begin next year. Steel beams that originally were used for structural purposes in the lost lodge also will be repurposed as decorative elements within the anticipated new lodge.


UPSON, Wis. - The charred remains of the base lodge at Whitecap Mountains Resort are now in the process of being demolished after a Jan. 18 chimney fire destroyed the building in Upson, Wis.

David Dziuban, who manages the 400-acre resort, said Saturday that his own staff so far has deconstructed about 50 percent of the ruined structure.

Dziuban said they are employing a deliberative approach "to limit as much as possible what goes to landfills." He added that the goal is to repurpose when possible.

According to the manager, it was necessary to wait for clearance from the state's Department of Natural Resources, which monitors any major construction in relation to issues such as wetlands or erosion, etc.

"We just finally got the go-ahead from the DNR three weeks ago," he said, adding they now are continuing to work with the state in relation to where to place new construction slated for next year.

"It's not going to sit exactly on the same footprint," said Dziuban, and it will not involve rebuilding only a single lodge. Instead, he and his staff envision a new "village" concept.

The lost lodge included a rental facility, a tavern, a café, a restaurant and a kitchen, and a retail area, all within the same building.

"We had an architect do some preliminary plans for us," said Dziuban, explaining that they hope to include a cluster of buildings to house all of the elements lost in the original lodge, including a "picnic lodge" area, in which families can enjoy lunches brought from home.

"Above four of the buildings there will be condominiums to give it a true village feel," added Dziuban.

While sitting in the newly remodeled lobby of the resort hotel, which has continued its operation, Dziuban said, "Three to five years in the future, this building may come down and make way for more residential development."

The manager added that a new hotel will be part of the final phases of the planned village, which is expected to take several years to construct.

"The whole project is a huge undertaking," he assured, pointing out that it was estimated to cost $10 million a few months ago, but since then has "gone north of that."

Dziuban added he's grateful to have aboard added support in the way of Don Odell, who just started on July 1 as director of mountain operations.

Odell, who said he went through the ski management program at Gogebic Community College, gained 34 years of experience in parks and recreation work, including at Vail Resorts in Colorado.

He said he's glad to "get back to a part of the country I really like" and is pleased to be a part of Whitecap's new growth.

According to Odell, it's their goal to maintain as much as possible of the resort's past, which included direction by the late Dave and Evie Lundberg from the mid-60s to early 2018, when Dziuban took over.

"We don't want to lose the charm," said Odell. "There's so much history of families coming here for generations, and we want to maintain that." He added that the fire now also is part of that history, so remnants from the burned building will find a place among the décor of the new lodge.

According to Odell, the exact number of buildings and total square footage are undetermined. "The plans are still pretty fluid," he said.

"It's quite an exciting time," said Dziuban, who speculated that the new developments in coming years will benefit the region at large in relation to additional jobs and more tourists.

It's been the new manager's goal to expand what was originally a skiing facility and transform it to a multi-season resort.

Toward that end, he has been adding new events such as Oktoberfest in the fall and a Paavo Pursuit event on Aug. 10, which will involve bike races of various lengths.

In addition, said Dziuban of the resort's Skye Golf Course, "We started the golf season on June 6, and it has been going very well."

The manager also explained that the existing hotel now offers a bar, plus breakfast and lunch, and staff are working on a dinner menu.

Along the ski and ATV trails, the resort's popular Wine Hut also has continued operating.

Moreover, said Odell of the coming winter, "We'll be a fully functional ski resort this winter," assuring that skiers once again will be able to rent equipment and attend ski school.

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