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Summer business should be good. At least a million tourists come into the "Soo" region every year to see the big locks at Sault Ste. Marie. Winter business should also be good. The area can draw on a quarter-million Canadians, who live between Sudbury, 187 miles east, and the locks. Americans driving up from the south will have to be lured past Boyne, 105 miles away, and Mission Hill's closest big-time competitor. Air travel is excellent. Capital flies to Sault Ste. Marie from Detroit and Chicago.
Indianhead in Bessemer, the other big new Michigan ski development, is located at the opposite end of the upper peninsula, toward the northern part of Wisconsin and only 100 miles from the eastern border of Minnesota. It is within reasonable driving distance of Duluth (110 miles), Minneapolis (225 miles), Madison, Wis. (268 miles) and Milwaukee (308 miles).
The prime attraction at Indianhead is a 600-foot drop, one of the Midwest's greatest. This, plus the fact that it can be reached fairly easily, should make Indianhead a popular resort.
When Jack English, the president of the Indianhead corporation, first decided to build a ski area, he had no idea where the spot would be. A businessman first (he is a building contractor) and a skier second, he determined to rely on the techniques that had made him successful in contracting. His first step was to pore over midwest snowfall maps. When he had located what he considered to be the most satisfactory snow belt, he drove around until he found a good hill in the region. After English located his spot, a nice hill high on the southwest shore of Lake Superior, he leased it.
COMPTROLLER COMES IN
Then he talked his neighbor, Charles Peters, a $15,000-a-year comptroller for a steel forging company, into managing the place this year for "groceries and 10%."
The two of them have had two T bars erected up Indianhead's north side, one a half mile long and the other a third of a mile. The T bars have interconnecting trail systems with a couple of runs almost a mile long. The beginners' rope tow is well out of the way of the trails. It is an excellent layout, the work of Sel Hannah, the well-known trail architect, who came from Franconia, N.H. to design it.
Indianhead's shelter is located at the top of its lifts and the design is contemporary—two inverted V roofs and a glass wall at the end, overlooking the rolling backs of the Gogebic hills.
There will be accommodations for skiers in Ironwood, nine miles away, at places like St. James Hotel, Indianhead Motel, and Doug's Motel. There are 500 beds within a 12-mile radius. And the ski school has an Austrian head—Willi Angerer of Innsbruck and Grey Rocks—teaching the short-swing technique.
Indianhead's approach to a profit is the opposite of Mission Hill's. Indianhead will keep the investment down ($200,000) and plan a short, strong season. It is partly a gamble on snow, but the gamble looks good (average fall at Indianhead is 160 inches annually). "We'll make out all right," says Peters. "This is a business operation."