This past weekend Doug and I headed up to Big Powderhorn Mountain to go snow skiing. We originally planned to travel to a closer resort but there was either no snow due to the unseasonably warm conditions or freezing rain predicted. Our first choice was Whiteface in upstate New York. However 3,430 feet of vertical drop with a base covered by freezing rain didn’t sound very safe (considering our snow skiing skills).
We traveled to Marquette Michigan and stayed over night on Thursday evening. The Holiday Inn in Marquette has a huge pool and hot tub, which was especially appreciated after such a long drive. Marquette is really nice city right on Lake Superior. The UPers were very friendly and warned us about the trolls that live below the Mackinac Bridge (i.e. in the lower peninsula of Michigan). Doug liked the UP a great deal and didn’t hold it against them that they were part of Michigan.
Friday we finished the drive to Big Powderhorn Mountain and checked in. The resort was a ghost town (since it was the weekend after New Year’s weekend). We were allowed to check into our chalet early, which was older but very nicely maintained with fireplace and hot tub. We skied until the slopes closed at 4PM, which seemed pretty early, considering it was light until at least 5:15. We drove over to Copper Peak to check out the huge ski flying jump (which is the largest ski jump in the world). It looked like it wasn’t well maintained and a bit of an eye sore so I didn’t take any photos. For dinner, we went over to the Black River Valley Pub & Grub for their fish fry and their grilled catfish special was excellent. They even had a live band which was definitely the best cover band I have heard in a long time.
Saturday, we skied another full day. Ask Doug about his shortcut between hills that we had to slave around a lake and back up hill. He lost his pole and had to do it again! Conditions were slightly icy but not bad. A bad day of skiing is still better than a good day at work. For lunch we ventured to find the Powdermill Tavern (which was within the Powdermill Inn) despite all the advertising for $3 pizzas nobody seemed to know where the place was.
We finally found the Powdermill Tavern and almost left thinking it was closed due to lack of patrons. It was beautiful three story wood bar that was past its prime. We learned quite a bit about the area from the bar tender while we drank our beers and eagerly awaited our pizzas. The area was a mining mecca back in the day. Most of the iron ore for WWI and WWII came from this area.
The ski jump we visited wasn’t maintained and Copper Peak has tons of copper but not in high enough concentrations to make it economically feasible. The loss of mining hit the area hard and the transition to a vibrant winter sports destination was very welcome. There used to be snow November – April making for an ideal snow season. However, in recent years they are lucky to have snow by Christmas and it will melt off by mid-March. This explained the plethora of real estate for sale in the area. I wonder what will be the next economic boom for this area, especially since 2007 is predicted to be the warmest year on record.
Sunday, we ventured back and completed the drive in 10.5 road hours as measured by my A6.