Porcupine Mountains Ski Area – Ontonagon

As US Skiing by SkiTown.com puts it in their page about “The Porkies:”

“With skiing dating back to 1940, Porcupine Mountains was one of the first alpine ski areas to be developed in the Midwest. And with a vertical drop of 641 feet, that also makes it one of the Midwest’s tallest.”

This area is, to my mind, the most beautiful ski area in Michigan and one of the most beautiful in the world. On a clear day, you have a fantastic view of the mountains and the water (lake Superior). You also get fantastic snow with over 250″ per season average and 300″ seasons not uncommon. (Isn’t lake effect something?)

The ski area is located inside the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. Things have changed, but when I skied there several years ago, they had the highest paid lift attendants in the world. They were uniformed, on duty Michigan Conservation Officers, complete with badge and sidearm. Not your usual pimple-faced, tattooed and pierced lifter like you saw at many other ski areas. (No offense intended, some of my best friends are lifters, but they are a cut above average.) Since then, I understand the state government has outsourced operation of the resort and it is no longer operated directly by the DNR. If you check their web site for the park there is no mention of the ski area and if you look at their park map the ski runs are visible, but not mentioned or labeled.


The Cass City Chronicle for Mar. 14, 1941 on Pg. 2 in the “Michigan Mirror” column mentioned that the forest service had assisted the Porcupine Mountain Ski Club to cut a ski slope on Weather Horn, the second highest peak on the east end of the Porcupine Mountain range, offering a 1000 ft. drop in 1 mile. I presume the slope cutting would have been done the previous summer.

On Jan. 23, 1958, The Cass City Chronicle printed a picture of skiers riding the new T-bar tow installed that season at Porcupine Mtn. The caption said it was 2800 ft. long and could tow 1200 skiers per hr. up the slope.

On Jan. 4, 1968, The Cass City Chronicle printed the AAA Michigan Guide to 1968 Winter Sports Fun. It listed Porcupine Mountain with 6 slopes from 2800′ to 4300′ long with a double T-Bar, 4 rope tows and 1 1/2 miles of x-c trails. The guide noted that the new double chairlift was scheduled for completion on Dec. 15, 1967.

The ski area has been enlarged and improved. It currently has 787′ of vertical, with a double chair and a triple chair and 42 trails including new expert terrain. I understand they are not famous for their immaculate grooming, preferring a natural, Upper Peninsula skiing experience. Trails are narrow and challenging. All-in-all perhaps the best skiing experience in Michigan, but that’s just my opinion.

I used to ski and teach skiing with Mel and Karen Karinen. Karen came from the UP where her father was a ranger at the park and helped to cut the original trails. If the area was opened in 1940, it would now be opening for its 72nd season.

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