- By Dave Kallmann Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The view from Copper Peak is breathtaking.
On a clear day, a visitor to the top of the world’s tallest ski jump overlooks more than 2,500 square miles, three states (Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota), one of the Great Lakes (Superior) and maybe Canada.
Imagine, then, what the view was for an athlete, looking down the slide from 26 stories above the top of the hill, itself, and a quarter-mile of landing hill that drops off even more quickly than the jump and covers nearly a quarter-mile of imposing slope.
To succeed, the jumper would cover 500 feet in the air.
Although Copper Peak — located north of Ironwood in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (and just a bit farther north of Hurley, Wis.) — hasn’t hosted ski jumping since 1994, it will host international competition again this summer.
And it will be breathtaking.
Like, literally. Out-of-air, jelly-legged, completely gassed, ready-to-vomit breathtaking.
Scheduled for May 12 is the Red Bull 400, billed as the world’s steepest 400-meter race, the energy-drink company Red Bull announced this month. Participants will pay $50 for the opportunity to shred their calves, quads and lungs by running up the entire landing hill and slide.
“Copper Peak historically is a place where athletes push the limits of athletic ability and break records,” Charlie Supercynski, President of Copper Peak board of directors, said in the announcement. “We were used to seeing people fly off Copper Peak, not sprint up the jump. This brings a whole new element of competition and a great first event in the start of the revitalization of Copper Peak.”
Red Bull 400 events have been held at ski jumps around the world. But for the sake of comparison, Copper Peak was set up more dramatically than most hills.
The jump is the largest in the world, period. The in-run — the part that ascends from the top of the hill — is 469 feet long and angled at 35 degrees. And its K-point — the steepest point on the hill, measured in meters from top — is 145 meters, nearly 50 percent farther than the hill in Sochi, Russia, that was used for the 2014 Olympics and will host the last of 17 Red Bull 400s this year.
The only other Red Bull 400 in the U.S. this season is scheduled for Sept. 29 at the 2002 Olympic venue in Park City, Utah.
Copper Peak was built in 1969, opened in 1970 and held ski jump meets for 10 seasons on and off, the first six events referred to as “ski flying” and the 1981 competition part of the World Cup circuit.
Since 1994 it’s mostly been a tourist destination, although supporters have been working to return ski jumping — both in summer and winter — to the facility, and the International Ski Federation is interested in reestablishing the sport in the United States. FIS representatives visited Copper Peak in 2013.