The Department of Natural Resources has launched a partnership with Gogebic Community College in Ironwood that will allow students from the school’s ski area management department to operate the 400-acre ski hill at the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in Ontonagon for the 2012-2013 season.
The use agreement signed on Thursday, Sept. 13 will see the college’s ski area management students handling all aspects of ski operations at the Porkies, from managing and marketing the ski hill and equipment maintenance, to overseeing the operation of the slope’s onsite restaurant and ski shop.
“We see it as a three-win situation,” said Bill Doan, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park supervisor. “The partnership will benefit the students at Gogebic Community College, the Parks and Recreation Division and the skiing public, plus it will help keep the western Upper Peninsula vibrant during the winter months.”
“This is a great opportunity for us as well as the state of Michigan," said Gogebic Community College President Jim Lorenson. “We’re very excited about the expanded opportunities for our students that will allow them to participate in an established and recognized winter tourism related business in addition to the training they receive at the Mt. Zion ski hill on our Ironwood campus.”
Doan said that students already are involved in pre-season preparations at the park by constructing a rope tow line across the top of the hill that will give skiers access to the hill’s entire western slope. Doan says the ski area management students will provide the labor while the DNR will provide the funds for the rope tow.
DNR Parks and Recreation Division Chief Ron Olson estimates that under the direction of the Gogebic students, the ski hill’s revenue should offset its onsite expenditures.
“Gogebic Community College will retain five percent of the revenue that will go directly back into expansion of the college’s ski management program and enhance the school’s ability to educate ski management professionals," Olson said. “The remaining 95 percent will be reinvested in ski operation improvements at the Porkies.”
“We feel the partnership will have a positive effect on the local area’s sluggish economy,” Doan said. Even with the GCC students onsite, Doan sees the potential to add an additional 6 to 10 seasonal employees and hopes the marketing efforts will attract more visitors to the entire region and benefit all regional downhill skiing businesses.
“This will be a win for everyone,” Doan added.
The Porcupine Mountains Winter Ski Area will be open on Saturday, Dec. 15 and will be open seven days a week until Sunday, Jan. 6, when days of operation will change to Friday through Monday. The Porkies Ski Area boasts 200 skiable acres with a 641-foot vertical drop and 12 runs. Its longest run is 1.2 miles long.