By BRANDON VEALE
RIPLEY - Some of the best young skiers in the Midwest will take on Mont Ripley next month as part of the USSA Region 2 FIS Mid Am.
Jon Manderfield of Team Norway races in a USSA event on Mont Ripley in 2011. Manderfield has experience in the USSA?Region 2?FIS?Mid Am, which will be coming to Ripley in January.
Michigan Technological University is beginning a three-year sponsorship commitment for the whole four-race Mid Am Series, which begins this weekend at Boyne Highlands and Nub's Nob downstate before coming to Ripley Jan. 10-12.
The season concludes with races at Spirit Mountain and Lutsen in Minnesota later in the winter.
The university, which owns Mont Ripley, will be providing its facilities and can reach out to more than 100 competitors to show the unique things Michigan Tech has to offer.
"We want to give our athletes a quality venue to race on and we want to work on great partnership with the university," said John Manderfield, USSA Central Division Executive Committee member and Region 2 chair.
Conversations started about two years ago about how Ripley would be a great venue for the event. Discussions sparked up again last summer, and the result will be 150 to 180 racers and their families in the area for the weekend.
Portage Health recently got on board as a corporate sponsor.
"It's a nice little economic boost to the area," said David Rowe, an event organizer and member of the Board of Directors of the Michigan Tech Fund.
Also, admissions representatives from the university will have chances to talk about Tech at each of the events on the circuit.
Racing begins with a USSA National Points giant slalom on Friday.
There will be two-run FIS Slalom events on both Saturday and Sunday.
FIS is the international skiing federation, and in advance of the event, Ripley has been inspected and measured so its course and protective features meet international standards.
"We have to bring an international inspector to go through to make sure there is a minimum vertical and a vertical length to qualify for these events," Manderfield said.
Racers will be 16-to-18 years old and can come from anywhere in the country (and even other countries), though the majority of the Mid Am field and their families will be coming from the Upper Midwest.
"This is an opportunity for Michigan Tech to be front and center in the eyes and minds of these types of people," Rowe said.