Few people think of Ishpeming  as the center of the U.S. ski industry, but a lot of those big resorts in the Rockies can trace America’s interest in the sport to Michigan. Michigan residents—many of them Scandinavian immigrants—established the Ishpeming Ski Club in 1887, one of the oldest continuously operating clubs in the nation, and organized the country’s first ski jumping competition in 1888.
Everett Kircher, visionary founder of Michigan’s Boyne Mountain resort, invented the first successful snowmaking machine. Hence, Ishpeming was chosen as the site of the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame and Ski Museum (610 Palms Ave., Ishpeming, 906/485-6323, www.skihall.com , 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat., free) the “official” hall of fame, just like the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
The U.S. National Ski Museum, on U.S. 41 between 2nd and 3rd Streets, covers the sport from way back, beginning with a replica of a 4,000-year-old ski and pole found in Sweden. Most interesting are the displays of early ski equipment (including early poles which “often doubled as weapons”), the evolution of chairlifts, and an account of the skiing soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division, who played an important role in the mountains of Italy during World War II. The Hall of Fame plaques offer insightful short biographies of those who shaped the sport, from racers to resort owners to, ahem, orthopedic surgeons.