Blackjack Ski Resort, Bessemer
When Bjorn "Bing" Bang raises his ski poles in the air, taps them together three times, and announces, "Ted! You got an A-plus in climbing!" it's likely because Ted, sidestepping up the short, barely graded practice slope, just got a measly one-tap for his attempt at the wedge (a.k.a. the snowplow). Bing knows when to strategically throw into a lesson things like straight-faced one-liners, simple pearls of wisdom, and triple-tap confidence boosters. The ability to deliver what individual students need is a skill developed during over 30 years teaching generations of families on the area's three big hills.
"I like skiing. I like teaching. And so winter is my favorite season," he states in his efficient, matter-of-fact manner. The word "like" is an understatement. With Bing, it seems, everything eventually connects to skiing.
Take the accent. Bing's from Norway. During his childhood winters, he'd haul long, heavy wooden skis up the hillside, past the treeline, and race friends straight to the bottom. (Literally. No turning allowed.) Bing left his home country for a chef's position in Chicago in the late 1950s. Soon thereafter, he accepted an offer to cook at a Midwest ski hill's restaurant. He ended up a ski instructor instead.
The yodel often spontaneously dropped into classes? It suggests his time as a lounge singer, for bands including "Bing Bang and the Norwegian Wood." He even cut a record in Nashville. Decades ago, he took a regular gig on a UP hill. He ended up running the ski school, too. He's married -- met Susie when they worked together on a local hill. They have one daughter -- Jaime was on skis as soon as she could walk.
Bing's the first one on Blackjack's slopes every single day, including the one each week on which he is not scheduled to teach. Even then, if requested, he gladly will. Ask why he'd hang around work on his only free day, and his response is characteristic. "There's nothing else to do anyway, so might as well ski, right?" As if no sensible person could possibly suggest anything better to do every single snowy winter morning.
Ski the UP
Blackjack Ski Resort, Bessemer. Where Bing teaches. Lodging nearby. (www.skiblackjack.com)
Big Powderhorn Mountain, Bessemer. Diverse onsite lodging. (www.bigpowderhorn.net)
Indianhead Mountain Resort, Wakefield. Onsite lodging. (www.indianheadmtn.com)
Big Snow Country Hill Hopper Pass, for above three hills, within 6 miles of each other. Purchase of adult 2-day pass includes free pass for children 12 and under. Buy online or at resort. (www.bigsnow.com)