About a year ago, an Indiana hotel development, asset management, and investment firm purchased Iron Mountain’s Pine Mountain Ski and Golf Resort, one of the oldest ski areas in the U.P. and one with a storied past.
The Indianapolis-based company, which specializes in hotel and resort properties, approaches investments like Pine Mountain with the aim of creating “authentic experiences, for guests and locals alike, that connect to the geography, history, culture … of the locale,” according to its website.
“The Storie Co. is about investing in hotels and resorts that tell the story of place, have a rich history and a real recreational component that get people outside and enjoy the natural beauty,” says Nathan Nichols, COO of Storie Co. “Pine Mountain struck us as having a real rich history and one steeped in the community.”
Pine Mountain certainly tells a story of place and local ski and outdoor culture.
The resort’s beginnings can be traced to a member of the Pabst Brewing Co. Fred Pabst cleared and opened Pine Mountain in the late 1930s to promote the sale of his lift product, Ski Tows, Inc. That lift involved two tow ropes that were powered by an automobile (an attendant was controlling the speed with the accelerator).
But that’s only the beginning of Pine Mountain’s story.
Pine Mountain has three ski lifts.
Its story continues today with the Storie Company’s $27 million renovation and expansion plan at the 360-acre resort. Those plans include a tubing hill,
six miles of new mountain bike trails, 35 new guest cabins and additional community green space. The tubing hill will be open for the upcoming ski season and the biking trails are expected to be ready in the spring.
“The property was ready for an infusion of capital and ready for some energy and vision,” Nicholas says. “That’s something we are providing. Our goal is to improve what is already a great community here. They were really ready for our involvement. We feel lucky to be here.”
This is context from other sources The expansion plans at Pine Mountain are among various improvements and changes at ski resorts in the U.P., including Norway Mountain, which plans to reopen this season after being closed for several years, and Marquette Mountain Resort. They’re part of a broader stream of investment in the U.P., amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars, ranging from the Billerud paper mill in Escanaba to Copper Peak in Ironwood to the expansion of the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie.
The Pine Mountain expansion marks the biggest investment in the resort since 2019, when a $10 million acquisition and renovation (of all lodge rooms, condos and common areas) occurred. The resort’s famed TimberStone* Golf Course was completed in 1996 with a price tag above $12 million.
Looking to expand its connections with the community, the resort has been working with the Dickinson Trail Network on the design and construction of the mountain bike trails. The network’s Pine Mountain Trail system is located on the resort property and on Dickinson County land west of the Pine Mountain Ski Jump, the largest
ski jump in the United States. The new trails on the resort property were professionally built by Iron Goat Trail Construction, LLC.
"Constructing the trails on Pine Mountain has been an amazing collaborative process between the resort, Iron Goat Trail Construction LLC, Dickinson County, and the Dickinson Trail Network. The new owners of Pine Mountain have always been very community-minded and continually sought out ways to work with DTN and our mission to create an experience that works best for everyone involved,” says Chad Susott, president of the DTN.
The trails on the resort property will be open to the public free of charge and available for use during the spring, summer and fall months, under an agreement between Pine Mountain and the trail network.
Overall, the trail system consists of six miles of downhill mountain biking trails that are a mix of new school machine-built flowy jump trails and the old school rough and rocky singletrack. Trail difficulties vary from smooth and gentle for beginners to expert-only trails with unbelievable jumps and drops.
“These are wider than your average trails, with a wide variety of difficulty levels,” Nichols says. “We want our mountain bike trails to be accessible to all skill levels. There are some nice easy flow trails and some that are closer to Black Diamond.”
In all, there will be 13 different trails in the six-mile network. Included will be a pump track, and a circular track for riders to practice their skills.
“What we have created together has generated a lot of buzz and excitement in our mountain biking community and for good reason,” Susott says. “The Pine Mountain trails start with the best panoramic view in our county, then offer a variety of thrilling rides down one of our area’s highest vertical descents, which twists and turns through diverse landscapes and dynamic riding surfaces. When we combine this incredible gravity riding experience with future shuttle and possible chairlift service, it’s an adventure that will keep everyone coming back for more."
The Dickinson Trail Network encompasses some 46 miles of trails throughout Dickinson County, helping make the region a destination for eco-tourists looking to bike, hike, and snowshoe. Another nearly six miles of trails will begin construction in 2024. The trail system is adjacent to many downtowns, increasing tourist traffic for local businesses.
Other Pine Mountain accommodations predated the construction of the main lodge in the 1950s.
The new guest cabins are prefabricated and will be assembled on the site. The hope is to have them installed in the middle of 2024. Nichols says the additional accommodations are needed to meet growing demand. Currently, there are 55 rooms at the resort. Pine Mountain’s main lodge was built in the 1950s; other resort accommodations were constructed before then.
“We need more accommodations for a wide variety of reasons,” he says. “We want to be able to provide premium accommodations for busy times. We see Iron Mountain growing as a market. For this community, we want to be able to help with the growth by having additional places to stay. We see ourselves sold out on many weekends and many weekdays … there is a real opportunity for additional rooms.”
The resort, Nichols says, sees more than 100,000 visitors a year, data based on golf rounds, unique skier visits and sold room nights.
To create additional green space or park, a Brownfield building is being demolished. The new four-acre space will function as a park and the resort is contemplating creating an amphitheater-style space. Nichols says the space will be available for the local community to host events and be outdoors. That work is expected to be completed in spring 2024.
A section of a ski hill has been reconfigured for the tubing hill. The ski area encompasses 32 runs and includes three lifts. The Pine Mountain Ski Jump is the setting for the annual Continental Cup Ski Jump Competition, the only world-class ski jump in North America.
“We’re really excited about the 2023-2024 ski season,” Nichols says. “We’re pleased with how the golf season has gone and looking forward to having golfers back in 2024. We love bringing greater awareness to the Iron Mountain area as a true travel destination.
“All of these improvements give this property – this land – the ability to get people outside and having fun,” he adds, noting the variety of outdoor activities in the region, ranging from whitewater rafting and kayaking to hiking and biking. “That’s part of our mission and part of our story … The area is so curated for those who want to be outdoors.”