Gogebic Community College students are now managing the Porkies Ski Hill. GCC came to an agreement with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and now students have a chance at earning some real world experience operating the hill themselves.
Visitors to the Porkies will soon be skiing under new management. After the previous manager backed out, the DNR approached GCC with an offer, and an agreement was made. The college's Ski Area Management, or SAM, Program is now charged with complete operational responsibilities for the Porcupine Mountains Ski Area. GCC already manages Mount Zion in Ironwood, but this deal can greatly expand the department."This gives us a lot of acreage, and it also gives us some other equipment that we don't have that they have here,"said Jim Vander Spoel, SAM Program Director at GCC."I believe it's a benefit to the students up here. It creates another opportunity to train those professionals that will continue this industry into the future," said Bill Doan, Park Manager for the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park and Gogebic State Park with the DNR.Ninety-five percent of the profits go right back into funding the facility. The DNR owns the hill, but their relationship with the SAM Program will be a full partnership. They will help plow the parking lots and maintain the trails, but it will be GCC employees that will take care of everything else, like running the ski shop, selling tickets, managing concessions, and even maintaining the vehicles. GCC plans to hire about 35 employees, about a third of which will be students.
Sophomore Josh Johnson is one of three interns preparing the hill for the season. For him, this is an invaluable experience for his future in ski area management."I want to build this place, make it a great resort, bring it back to life," said Johnson.It won't be a simple task for the students to manage and maintain the ski hill, but optimism is running high for the department."I'm really excited about the opportunities we see here. I think it's going to work really well," Vander Spoel said.The Porkies are scheduled to open for the season on December 15, but since the ski hill relies entirely on natural snow, that date is highly dependent on Mother Nature.