Thunder Bay

Michigan ski jump operators say Big Thunder would benefit skiing community

Re-opening Thunder Bay's Big Thunder ski jump would have wide-ranging effects on the sport, a group that runs a similar facility in Michigan says.

Volunteers, sponsors keep Pine Mountain ski jump running, would welcome partnerships with Big Thunder

The view from the top of the Pine Mountain ski jump in Iron Mountain, Michigan. The field below is where up to 20,000 spectators gather to watch the jump's annual ski jumping competition. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Re-opening Thunder Bay's Big Thunder ski jump would have wide-ranging effects on the sport, a group that runs a similar facility in Michigan says.

The Pine Mountain jump in Iron Mountain, Michigan, remains active, hosting an annual ski jump competition that can bring up to 20,000 spectators to the hill.

Pine Mountain has running since the late 1930s, operated by volunteers with the local Kiwanis Ski Club.

Dan Freeman is vice-president of the Kiwanis Ski Club, which runs the Pine Mountain ski jump. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

"It's kind of a tradition in this area, that everyone comes to the Pine Mountain ski jumps every year," said Dan Freeman, vice-president of the ski club. "People travel from Chicago, all over the midwest, even further, every single year to come to this event."

The chalet at the Pine Mountain ski jump. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Financially, though, it is a challenge. The Pine Mountain event is an international one, and it's expensive to put on. The jump costs about $220,000 every year to run — the Kiwanis club members, who are all volunteers, raise that themselves through sponsorships and other initiatives — and then there are ever-changing ski-jumping standards to meet.

For example, this year, the Kiwanis Club will spend a million dollars on the facility; the money will ensure they're up to standards for the next five years.

A look up the Pine Mountain ski jump. The black tubes at the bottom are used for cooling. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

"It's a labour of love," Freeman said. "If you don't have dedicated volunteers, it is not possible."

Club president Nick Blagec said having more nearby ski jump facilities helps with costs of things like air travel, food and lodging, as they can work split the costs associated with bringing skiers in.

The ski jump at Pine Mountain in Michigan. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

If Big Thunder were to re-open, it would help Pine Mountain host more events, Blagec said.

"We would like to see it, because it would help with expenses," he said. "It would definitely help with skier expenses, because most of them come from Europe."

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