Who is the Ishpeming Ski Club?

The history of the Ishpeming Ski Club (ISC) began with the organization of the Norden Ski Club on January 24, 1887. The name of the club was changed to the Ishpeming Ski Club in January of 1901. The National Ski Association, organized in Ishpeming in February of 1905, was later renamed the U.S. Ski Association, and is currently the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. Because of the pioneering spirit of the skiing community in this area, Ishpeming was made the host city for the U.S. National Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.

The first ISC tournament was held on February 25, 1888 and a tournament has been held every year since; tournaments were held at various hills in the area until the construction of Suicide Hill on land owned by Cliffs Natural Resources. The first tournament at Suicide Hill was held on February 26, 1926. In 1972 Suicide Hill was renovated and enlarged. The upcoming tournament on January 22, 2019 will be the 132nd annual tournament, a history nearly unmatched in the world of sport. Even the famous Holmenkollen ski jumping tournament in Norway that started in 1892 missed several years during German occupation in World War II.

Ishpeming Ski Club skiers have won 20 national championships, the ISC has had 13 Olympic team members and 6 FIS World Championship team members.  More than any other ski club, ISC has 13 inductees in the U. S. National Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. The ISC has hosted many National Championships and international competitions, many world famous skiers have come to Ishpeming, including world champions. The ISC has always been credited with putting on quality competitions on one of the very best hills in the country.

In 2018 the club is eleven years into a refocusing of our mission. We always strive to put on a high quality annual ski jumping competition, but we also are directing efforts toward the youth in western Marquette county, and are working to provide them with an opportunity to participate in healthy outdoor sporting activities.

Suicide Bowl has five ski jumps including the beginner’s K13 hill, K25, K40, K60 and the famous K90 Suicide Hill.  To provide year-round ski jumping opportunities for young skiers , the ISC installed plastic surfaces on our K40 mid-sized hill in October 2008; the K13 hill in the summer of 2009; and on the re-designed K25 hill in 2012.  

Former ISC ski jumper Gary Rasmussen returned to coach youth and junior ski jumping in the Fall of 2016.  Gary brings many years of experience on jumping skis and on the coaching stand to the ISC program.  Under his careful guidance and direction the ISC Youth and Junior Ski Jumping Program is growing, his skiers are traveling to compete in tournaments throughout the midwest, and the ISC has a renewed presence in the Central Division of the USSA.

The ISC is also involved with teaching youth to cross country ski.  The ISC Youth Cross Country Ski Program was reinstated in January 2013, allowing young skiers to meet at Suicide Bowl on Wednesday nights in winter and ski under the lights.  In 2014 several of the existing cross country trails were reconditioned and renamed the Norman Juhola Trail System.  During the summer of 2015 the ISC developed plans for, and instituted the ISC Nordic Ski Team, an opportunity for students from high school age to elementary school age, from Ishpeming, Negaunee, Westwood and Marquette to compete in ski jumping, cross country skiing, and/or Nordic combined.  Cross country and Nordic combined youth and junior skiers are coached by Dick Ziegler, a former NCAA Division 1 skier.  

In order to make it easy for families to take advantage of the Youth and Junior Programs, the ISC furnishes all ski jumping equipment (each young ski jumper requires roughly $1,500 worth of equipment!), provides access to cross country ski equipment as needed, maintains and grooms the ski hills and trails, and provides coaching, encouragement and support.  All Youth and Junior Ski Programs are provided free of charge; the ISC relies heavily on community support to accomplish our mission.

As an example of our wonderful community support, in the 2007-8 season, the community support exceeded $125,000 for the year. Support came as a combination of sponsorships, donations, member dues and in-kind donations, but did not include the value of the hundreds of volunteer hours each year. Here is a summary of that support written that year:

“The ski club has always relied on the fantastic support from the community. An estimate of the total value of the donations for the past 12 months was over $125,000! This includes money and “in kind” donations such as materials, services, equipment hours and anything else given to help our efforts. One area that we get significant help is in donated equipment hours. Between Sodergren Septic, Holli Forest Products, Fabco and Lindberg & Sons, the total estimated value was over $33,000. Also UP Fabricating donated $12,000 worth of fabricated steel, CCI, and CN Railroad donated $15,000 of used belting, The Rock Barn donated 12 windows, Paul Argall and Lindberg each donated $2,500 worth of topsoil, NMU/USOEC donated a $20,000 used chair lift, OK Rental over $1000 worth of equipment rental, Household Appliance donated a stove and refrigerator, Carpet Specialists donated 750 sq Ft of ceramic floor tile, Jackson’s Hardware donated 600 feet of poly pipe, Tassons Distributing and Sign Shop donated signage and Country Village Ace donated gallons of paint. The club also has a very dedicated core group of individuals that spend many hours building, fixing, preparing and implementing the various tasks and jobs needed to keep our efforts advancing. We also have a group of business sponsors, civic groups and individual supporters that give very freely of their time and money. The unselfishness from these people is the backbone of the club. The club makes every effort to make sure we use these resources efficiently and effectively to benefit the local community.”

The ISC has a list of 30 to 35 dedicated sponsors that donate $1,000 each year; the sponsors are local area businesses that understand the importance of maintaining Ishpeming’s skiing heritage, and reinvigorating a “ski culture” in the Upper Peninsula.

Current ISC projects for Fall 2018 include training ISC operators on the intracies of grooming our ski hills with a new (to the ISC) Bombardier BR350W winchcat, installing a commercial rope tow to service the K13 and K25 ski hills, constructing a permanent earthen SkiPark for cross country skiers, and unfortunately, making repairs to the erosion-damaged subgrade beneath the K40 plastic-covered landing hill.  

There is no organization that can leverage a few dollars into more value than the Ishpeming Ski Club. We believe in sweat equity and have been doing it this way for 130 years. There is only one paid person in the club and that is the ski jumping coach. Everyone else donates their time and talents; for instance, for nearly 40 years the hill captain has used his own backhoe and snow cat to fix and groom the hills!  He even pays for his own fuel.

The motivating factor for all of this is the advancement of the sport, and supporting the young skiers that work hard to continue the unique ski culture of the Upper Peninsula.  The ISC is fortunate and very thankful to have such strong community support.