Alec is right, this grilled cheese and bacon sandwich might only cost $3.50, but without the added ketchup I might as well be burning money to eat the ashes. I set my plastic tray down on a cafeteria-style table inside of Mont Ripley's one-room lodge while dodging a few children between the ketchup dispenser and my first bite. It's been Hell to get to this little lodge that doesn't possess a liquor license. Ankle biters run rampant, but after a day-and-a-half of constant skiing, it doesn't matter where we are. What matters is that the grilled cheese and bacon sandwich tastes just great with ketchup. It also matters that my legs can't move, but I know I'm going back out for more.
Houghton, Michigan is a marshmallow puff dreamland of 6 foot snow banks and snow-capped houses just waiting for a Jet Puff revival advertising campaign. We've found the place where old men go to die, while clutching snow shovels. Luckily for us, Mont Ripley is only a five minute drive between ever circulating snowplows and downtown Houghton.
As a born-and-raised Montanan, this ski area is as foreign as the moon.
Serviced by two double chairs and a T-Bar that never shuts down for wind, Ripley is hidden in plain view by a bigger mountain further north's marketing shadow. Without local-knowledge, nearly every one of Ripley's runs is visible from the base area. The total elevation is 444-feet. None of these facts matter because my cohort on this journey, Thomas, hasn't stopped giggling since he put his boots on. As a born-and-raised Montanan, this ski area is as foreign as the moon.
Mont Ripley is unique because it functions as an auxiliary unit of Michigan Technological University. This means that every student has access to a season pass with a built in activity fee that includes access to athletic events and facilities as well. Benefits go beyond Tech Students, helping keep passes affordable for the surrounding community. The result gives Ripley the vibe of a really steep public park.
Swaths of uncut powder shine brightly under the chairlift, and except for the traffic jam in the kiddie-catcher, movement on the mountain is entirely free flowing.
The following day, the parking lot is slowly filling by noon and departing clouds forgot nearly a foot of snow behind them. The first person we encounter is Kyle, a Utah native who moved to town for school only six days prior. He's curious about the skiing here, and Thomas's perma-grin gives him a hint for what he's in store for. The base area is crowded with what must be nearly every local child under 10 taking lessons. Swaths of uncut powder shine brightly under the chairlift, and except for the traffic jam in the kiddie-catcher, movement on the mountain is entirely free flowing.