Tag Archives: Mont Ripley

Welcome Home—Lonsdorf’s Skis Returned to Mont Ripley

Fred Lonsdorf was not your ordinary ski enthusiast or coach. He played a much bigger role in the Keweenaw skiing community and the Midwest.

Fred TeachingFred found a love for skiing during World War II as a soldier in the 10th Mountain Division. As a legendary WWII fighting man, Fred started Division training in Colorado. While at training they learned mountain skills and skiing. The mountain skills included navigation and survival skills, to ensure the soldiers would not get lost and to keep them safe in the hash weather conditions of the mountains. Upon completion of his training, Fred fought the Germans in the Alps, putting his new skills to the test. After the war was over, and the soldiers had returned home, many of the 10th Mountain Division Soldiers helped start ski hills across America including major resorts like Vail, Aspen, and Whiteface Mountain. The Mont Ripley Ski Area was no exception, the ski hill’s activity took off after Fred was hired as the manager at about the same time Fred became the Michigan Tech ski team coach in 1947.

Fred SkiingDuring his 32 seasons coaching for Michigan Tech Skiing, Fred was a key player in bringing Alpine Ski Racing back to the upper Midwest, as well as, being the 1st full-time ski coach in the region. Alpine ski racing can be divided into different events such as downhill, slalom, giant slalom, or even combined events. The most popular events at Mont Ripley were downhill ski racing and slalom racing. The objective of the downhill race is to go long distances with as few turns and as quickly as possible. In slalom racing, skiers go shorter distances but they must navigate a course with many turns. During his time with the ski team, Fred coached three national team skiers and one Olympic skier. This Olympic skier, Charles Thompson “Chuck” Ferries, started skiing under Coach Lonsdorf at the age of 7, and later became a part of the United States Olympic Ski Team in 1960 and 1964. Although he did not place in the Olympics, he was the first American to win a major international; slalom race in 1962, according to Skiing Heritage Journal (Dec 2009). Because of Fred’s impact and many years of hard work, he was inducted into the Michigan Tech Sports Hall of Fame on October 30, 1999.

Fred's skisThat is just his resume, Fred made an impact on many people during his time as ski hill manager and coach. Doug Hill skied for Fred in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Recently, when Doug was shopping at a thrift store in Iron Mountain, MI he came across a familiar name on a pair of skis, these skis read, “Fred Lonsdorf, Coach, Mich Tech”. Doug was gracious enough to purchase and donate the skis to Mont Ripley. These “head ski” style race skis are 210 cm tall and in very good condition. The bindings on the skis are the first version of the modern step-in binding.

In the 1980s, Michigan Tech cut a variety of varsity sports including skiing. However, Fred Lonsdorf will always be remembered at Mont Ripley for “Fred’s Landing,” located between the Husky Chair Lift and Center Bowl Run. In addition, Nicholas Sirdenis, General Manager of the Mont Ripley Ski Area, says Mont Ripley plans to display Fred’s skis on a prominent wall in the new ski chalet. He also attributes the progress of the ski hill from 1946 to 1979, as the biggest set of improvements for the ski hill to Fred Lonsdorf. Displaying these skis will help to ensure that Fred Lonsdorf’s legacy lives on at Michigan Tech.

On The Road—Mont Ripley

The season may be over, but the Mont Ripley Ski Area crew is not taking it easy! In order to gear up for the next season, Nick Sirdenis, General Manager, Esa Leppanen, Skier Services Manager, Katie Jo Wright, Ski Shop Supervisor, and Dan Wiersgalla, Rental Shop Supervisor, traveled to Madison, WI for the annual buying “Super Show.” The show is a showcase for ski and snowboard equipment and outdoor apparel. Mont Ripley attended the show to place orders for next year’s snow season and to meet with representatives from the various vendors. The show is put on by the Midwest Winter Sports Representatives Association (MWSRA). Mont Ripey attended the show for several reasons, none being bigger than being able to receive the special show discounts on many of the products Mont Ripley needs for the snow season. But we also learn about the new products and continue to build our relationships with our product reps. It is also a good time to look at new products and vendors that are coming out.

Blizzard On Ripley

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Mont Ripley Kids Kaizen

—Written by Rylie Store, Office of Continuous Improvement

Two students in Michigan Tech’s Office of Continuous Improvement, Ari Laiho and Rylie Store, initiated a kaizen with the university’s ski hill, Mont Ripley. During the winter, Ari and Rylie also work at the ski hill as instructors.

The kaizen group identified the “current state” using a process mapping tool called swim lanes. Once the process was mapped out, the group was able to clearly see areas of waste, or inefficiencies. The team discussed each area of waste to determine its root cause and then moved forward by establishing counter measures to tackle the given waste.
After all of these improvement efforts, the hope is to have a program that flows smoothly on all levels. This would allow for flexibility to incorporate some fun days into the lessons, increasing customer satisfaction. The improvements would also promote a higher level of consistent progression of ability for each student. Next to creating a program that flows and satisfies all that are involved, the desire is to also align the program more heavily with the mission of the Professional Ski Instructors of America association by inspiring a lifelong passion for skiing and snowboarding.

Mont Ripley Kids
Mont Ripley Kids

Some of the areas addressed included:

Problem: Information that the Ripley Kids Coordinator receives from the registration forms tends to be incorrect. Solution: Define each area of the registration form so that there is a clear understanding of what is being asked.

Problem: Customers are unaware of the details of the Ripley Kids program. Solution: Host a Meet and Greet session for parents to come to the ski hill and meet the staff and receive a packet containing all of the details & FAQ’s

Problem: It’s difficult to keep track of all students at all times, or to point them out from a child skiing through general admission. Solution: Purchase helmet covers, each group will have a different color (including instructor). Vibrant, and easy to spot from a distance while promoting safety.

For more information about this or other Lean Events, please contact the Office of Continuous Improvement or visit their website at mtu.edu/improvement.

Mont Ripley Ski Area Employees On the Road

The Mont Ripley Ski Area staff at Michigan Tech attended the 2017 Midwest Ski Area Association’s (MSAA) Summer Meetings & Trade Show at Devil’s Head Resort, WI on August 20-23. Sessions included; The New ANSI B77.1 2017 Ropeway Standard; Attracting Newcomers: Boosting Results with Outside Resources; and Terrain Park Risk Management.


Conference attendees include Greg Cleary, Lift Mechanic; Esa Leppanen, Skier Services Manager; Kevin McClellan, Mountain Operations Manager; and Nick Sirdenis, General Manager.