Playing it cool: Refrigeration added to Pine Mountain jump tower

Theresa Proudfit/Daily News Photo From left, Jack Watts, Mike Gribble and Mike Berglund inspect the tubing on a new refrigeration unit that will help keep the track cold for the 2017 Bellin Health Pine Mountain Continental Cup ski jumping tournament next weekend.

IRON MOUNTAIN — The predicted warmer weather won’t have organizers of next weekend’s Pine Mountain ski jumping competition losing their cool.

To remain on schedule with preparations, the Kiwanis Ski Club hill crew had Gary Jacobson of Jacobson Heating and Air Conditioning help design a temporary geothermal system that will bring the temperature on the jump scaffold down to 15 degrees.

“It will keep the core cold so the snow doesn’t melt as fast,” Jacobson said Friday.

Several dedicated hill crew members, along with staff from Jacobson Heating who donated their time, spent three days installing the refrigeration unit on the jump scaffold, first laying down a layer of insulation and then running 10 rolls of tubing up and down the structure. A compressor was placed under the tower.

“It will run like a basic refrigerator freezer,” club president Nick Blagec explained.

It cost slightly more than $10,000 to add the refrigeration, Blagec said. But the move will mean they won’t have to keep packing new snow on the track, even if the forecasted warmth lingers as expected, he said.

“I believe it is working,” Jacobson said.

The landing area, thankfully, will need no such extra measures — it should be fine for the competition, Blagec added.

About eight to 10 teams plan to compete Feb. 25-26 in the 2017 Bellin Health Pine Mountain Continental Cup ski jumping tournament. Athletes from Poland, Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Switzerland, Norway, United States and Great Britain have confirmed, with a couple more expected to commit in the next few days.

Bellin Health and Dickinson County Healthcare System are the main sponsors of annual event. Bellin has sponsored the ski jump since 2010.

“The health system’s support helps fund the event while continuing Bellin’s ongoing efforts to extend goodwill to its Upper Peninsula friends and neighbors,” said Kelly McBride Moore, communications specialist for Green Bay-based Bellin Health.

Nearly 20,000 spectators annually attend the Pine Mountain event, taking in the competition and enjoying tailgating, live music and a festive atmosphere.

This year’s festivities will include recipes from four finalists of a Healthy Tailgate Cook-Off presented by Bellin, DCHS and the Kiwanis Ski Club. The contest’s winner will be announced during the competition Feb. 25.

“The ski jump is a significant international event, and it’s also very important — and a great source of enjoyment — for the local community,” said Linda Roethle, Bellin Health vice president of regional business development. “We are happy to be a part of this event and proud to pair with Dickinson to sponsor it.”

The costs for buttons bought before the event remain the same, but gate prices have increased this year. Adults will pay $20 for pre-tournament buttons and $30 at the gate, while students are charged $15 for a pre-event button and $25 at the gate.

Buttons still can be ordered online at the discounted rate plus a service fee until Thursday but no longer will be mailed. They instead can be picked up at the gate with a photo ID and receipt as proof of purchase.

The Kiwanis Ski Club has picked up several new members for the annual event and have been grateful for the extra bodies on the hill.

“We had plenty of volunteers this year. Every Saturday we have a work bee and we have had a tremendous amount help this year” club vice president Dan Freeman said.

The club still needs volunteer markers for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Anyone interested can call 906-779-1110 to leave a name and contact number.

Theresa Proudfit can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 45, or