MILSAP Updates, April 14, 2015

Welcome to MILSAP! We are dedicated to collecting and publishing information about the history of lift-served ski areas in Michigan.  If you have fond memories of flying down the slopes on your favorite hill, but the area has closed, let us know about it. Michigan has a long, rich history of skiing and sliding and it should not be forgotten. Please help us keep it alive by sharing your recollections, snapshots, memorabilia, news clippings, home movies, or whatever you may have that would remind you and others of the places where people used to enjoy winter in Michigan.

For more information about our site, check the About MILSAP link on the navigation bar above or at the top of our page links in the right-hand column.

LATEST UPDATES

It is mid-April, time to file your taxes if you don’t want to be late and a time when most (but not all) Michigan ski areas are closed for the season. Boyne Mountain remains open, as do a couple areas in the UP, but Bohemia closed this past weekend as did a few other holdouts. We have been highlighting a few areas’ end of season specials and spring carnivals on our Facebook page; check it out if you haven’t already.

We have received 14 comments in the three weeks since our last update. Bob Sisco sent us a couple pictures of the Pine Mountain Jump. Scott Stillings commented on Bob’s picture of a building at Mott Mountain that he thinks it may be the back of the “stage” someone built to hold country music concerts at Silver Valley. Rob Yates remembers seeing skiers on the hill (many years ago) while driving past Paradise Valley and wonders if anyone has pictures of the area.

Goeff Smith replied to a comment about him skiing at Alpine Valley that it wasn’t him. He raced at Mt. Holly in HS (Bloomfield Hills) and skied earlier at Mt. Christie when his dad (Doc Smith) patroller there after his dad started patrolling at Teeple Hill. Later Goeff raced for U of Colorado and started the racing program at Mt. Brighton in Dec ’69. Speaking of Teeple Hill, Thad Sienkiewicz advises us that May 9 will be the next Haven Hill “Rosebud Reveal” at Highland State Rec Area. He invites you to come see the restoration work on the old Ford barn that served Teeple Hill for many years.

Paul Trombley commented on our Iroquois Mountain page that his cousin built the A-Frame house just west of Livingston’s Restaurant. John Wyma recollected that at Cannonsburg, there used to be a loft above the cafeteria, in the peak of the ceiling. It was a popular place for teens to gather and smoke in 68-70. I might ask, what were they smoking, John?

Patrick Hanlon says Pleasant Valley was 6 mi. east of Central Lake on 624 and you could still see the rope towers with old auto rims on them until the late ’80s. Scott Stillings replied that the poles and rims are “loooong gone” and you cannot see or ski the old slopes today. He says the last person to ski them may have been Steve Erber from Harbor Springs. Pat Hanlon also remembers seeing an old, abandoned wooden ski jump with trees growing through it in the woods near Caberfae, years ago.

Gary Curatolo posted directions to an article about the founding of Thunder Mountain originally published in the Otsego County Herald in ’56. Brian said he lives across the road from Thunder and has an old trail map and brochure. We asked him to send them along.

John Wyma was looking at satellite views of the old Missaukee Mountain site and says he thinks he sees the old lodge and a couple of rope tows. He wonders if anyone locally can confirm that. David Fons replied to Preston on the Fonro page. He says his family bought the property in ’57.

Please keep those comments coming. This is how we keep the history of Michigan skiing alive. And, if you get a chance, make a few last runs at one of our great (not yet lost) Michigan ski areas. We don’t always get a lot of respect from the national ski magazines, but when winter has finally failed in the western US, we may still be getting enough cold and snow to keep our sport alive.

Bob Knox
Publisher, Michigan Lost Ski Areas Project

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MILSAP Updates, March 24, 2015

Well, it’s March, and after a great winter, many Michigan ski areas are starting to close for the season. If you look around, you will still find areas open for a couple more weeks and some great end-of-season parties. We have received 40 comments(!) since I last summarized a month ago; 20 from Bob Sisco alone, who has shared with us links to many pictures of lost areas, some taken this winter and some from the past.

Candy and Denise both posted comments about the current state of Fonro, with Denise saying that they have made some improvements to the appearance of the old Emig property. Kevin Meade says his family used to own Sylvan Knob and the family still skis, but its not the same as in the old days. John Alexander left a couple comments about Gay-El-Rancho. He was Head Wrangler there in ’85, where he met his future wife and many life-long friends and had a great summer.

As I mentioned, frequent contributor Bob Sisco left comments on many pages with links to pictures of lost areas. He commented on and left picture of Grand Valley State College’s ski hill, Mont Ripley’s T-bar, Sugar Loaf’s frontside and backside (with lost Hall chairlift), the Newago Winter Sports Park (where the hill is now open for sledding) and the remains of the old concrete toboggan chutes can be seen, Swiss Valley and Little Switzerland (he liked the story about Joe Montana), Mt. Mancelona (pictures from ’08/’09), Skyline (pictures of the chair and the lodge from ’09), and Mott Mountain (he wants to know what the big building at the bottom of the hill is). Thanks for all the work, Bob. And yes, you can get the links to the pictures to work if you remove the extraneous html tags.

Larry Dunn remembers skiing at Royal Valley in the ’70s and ’80s. Lance Climie took a ski class at GVSC and worked at the lodge from ’75 through ’77. He says it was very busy in the winter. Kevin J. Anderson also worked there in ’81 and ’82. John Wyma said he skied and tobogganed at GVSC many times. Nick says his friend Cathy used to ski at the Lansing Ski Club. Paul Price used to be on the ski patrol at Mt. Maria while he was in the USCG in ’83 and ’84. He says it was a nice place with nice people.

Gary Whitfield left a comment on our About MILSAP page asking if anyone inquires about the Big M Ski Area. I directed him to our Big M page. Mike also commented on our About MILSAP page with reminiscences of skiing at Teeple Hill in ’59-’60. I copied his comment to the Teeple Hill page. He also commented about Goeff Smith being the mogul master at Alpine Valley in the ’60s. I moved that comment to the AV page.

Bethany Draves Rutberg has fond memories of Kandahar and was devastated when she learned it was closing. Tracy Sanders remembers that his parents worked at Mt. Grampian from ’70-’73. Then they moved to Alaska where he now works as a commercial fisherman. Linda Murray Crowell says her mom, Rosie Murray, worked at Pine Knob from ’64 until ’86, starting as a bookkeeper and ending as office manager for the Locricchio family. Linda learned to ski from Dave Freeman in ’63, and says her dad started the OLD Farts Club at PK.

Last, but definitely not least, Bill Behse posted a comment with LOTS of history about the beginnings of Thunder Mountain, where his parents, Joe and Donna Behse, were the original developers in ’55-’56, along with Dee Adgate. They sold their interest to Dee in 1960.  You have to read this comment if you are interested in the history of Thunder Mountain. John D Shepherd, current owner of the property, thanked Bill for the information. He also tried to post a link to pictures or video of his kids and grandkids boarding at the hill last month, but I can’t get it to work, can you?

Please keep those comments coming. This is how we keep the history of Michigan skiing alive. And, while you’re at it, get out there and enjoy some fabulous spring skiing and go to those spring carnivals at a Michigan ski area. Michigan had a great winter (unlike many states in the west) and we need to keep those Michigan ski areas from becoming lost.

Bob Knox
Publisher, Michigan Lost Ski Areas Project

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MILSAP Updates, February 24, 2015

Well, I’m back from snowy Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont where friends and I had a great time skiing trees in knee-deep powder. Since I posted on February 8, we have received 22 new comments on the history of Michigan ski areas, lost and still operating.

Robert Moore remembers the round fireplace, hot chocolate and a summer pig roast at Sheridan Valley. Roscoe Johnson remembers skiing Eskar Hills in the ’50’s and early ’60’s. John Haggerty says he has information about the Oxbow Club and Ski Area. He says the boarhouse across the river was owned by the Mason family, the airstrip is now US Government land, and the remnants of the ski tow can still be seen. I will contact him for more information and may stop out there when I am fishing in that area.

Bob Sisco posted links to an aerial photo overlayed with trail names for Thunder. He also posted links to more current photos from the Grand haven Ski Bowl. Mark Prell thanked him for the Thunder map/pic. Bob also posted links to a trail map and ticket price brochure for Sugar Loaf for the 94-95 season. He says he skied there weekly from ’91 on. Chuck Robert confirmed that Mr. Jabarra still runs the store there.

Richard says Ski World was still open when he moved to Buchanan in ’89. He says the lodge and rental buildings are still standing and have been remodeled by the current owners. Danny Carbol remembers skiing at Royal Valley to the sound of AC/DC.

Thad Sienkiewicz tells us that the Barn at Teeple Hill (this would be the Henry Ford barn) is being restored with help from an Amish construction company from the thumb area. Scott Guthrie remembers running into the hay bales at the bottom of the beginner hill at Mt. Grampian. rpmpat still says he is looking for a Grampian patch.

We had a total of 8 comments about Fonro from Robert Collins, Karen Olson Girardot, Denise Collins Jobe, and Candice Van Nort. Some of them still live around the old resort and visit there. The lodge is in ruins and has been abandoned since Cole Creek folded, sometime around 2000. They reminisced about old friends and the old Mob hunting lodge.

In addition, we have new ski area patches for Irish Hills (a different one), Teeple Hill, and Riverview Highlands, sent to us by Mike. He wonders if the gold balls on the Riverview patch represent bags of trash. What do you think? Please keep those comments coming. We would hate for the history of Michigan skiing to be forgotten. AND if you know of any former ski patrollers who are still living in Michigan, please let them know that the NSP Eastern Michigan Region is hosting an NSP Alumni get-together at Mt. Holly this Saturday at 9 AM. There will be free skiing and free food at lunch for any retired patrollers or any current patrollers who are thinking about retiring. If they want more information, they can contact me at milsap@comcast.net.

Bob Knox
Publisher, Michigan Lost Ski Areas Project.

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MILSAP Updates, February 8, 2015

Greetings from snowy Maine, where I sit updating the blog while winter storm Marcus is dumping snow outside. Don’t worry, we’ll be skiing Sunday River tomorrow. We have had 25 new comments since our last post in early January, One of them has confirmed a suspected lost ski area for which we had almost given up hope. We now have two people, Cyndie and Spike, who state that the Steven’s Gay-El-Rancho downhill facility was at O’Rourke Lake.

Rickie D commented that he didn’t think Alpine Valley ever had a ski jump, that he thinks we’re referring to the one at Mt. Grampian. He does, however, remember a toboggan run at Mt. Christie with a 90-degree curve. He also says that Silver Bell became the home of Dave’s Hideout which hosted The Underdogs, Pleasure Seeker, and Bob Segar. Andy F remembers sledding at the old Bald Eagle hill and seeing the remains of the rope towers. Maryann Hunt remembers growing up at Mott Mountain and the owners Earl and Phyllis who emphasized fun AND safety.

Spike noted that in the mid-70s, he looked in the windows of the old ski lodge at Gay EL-Rancho on O’Rourke lake and saw many pairs of skis with cable bindings. Friends told him it operated in the late 50’s or early 60’s. Corie says his father worked at Fonro  in the early 70’s.

Niel Johnson says he set the record for the Munising Ski Jump at 191′ in ’73. The old record was 185′. He would like to know if his record was beaten before the jump closed. Kolleen Jones replied to a question from Doug Thomas about the location of the Elberta ski lift. She says it’s right behind the Betsie Bay Marina.

Dave Gardey says he skied at Major Mountain, met his wife there and coached Don Close as a racer there. Chris grew up skiing at Mt. Maria, and now skis in Germany. Glen has many fond memories of Royal Valley and says his mom may have a patch. Joel also skied Royal Valley between ’78 and ’84. He’s trying to remember the slope names: Challenger, Timberline-Train, Jupiter Bowl?

Neil Hill remembers that Bryces Hill was moved when they widened US-2. It was eventually renamed Silver Valley and then Doc Holle’s Silver Valley. We may have a new live (or lost) ski area. Bryan Kinney says his parents managed Iroquois the last year it was open. He said to look up the website “Wheels of History.”

Frank sent a link to a site with a lot of historical information about Caberfae. Jeff Richards left a long comment with many great reminiscences about Schuss Mountain. Lowell Godfrey says Martin Johnson, his grandfather, was a nephew of the Martin Johnson who donated the land for the camp of that name that eventually took over Ward Hills. Grandfather Martin was the caretaker and Lowell’s mother was born in 1940 in the caretaker’s lodge. He is starting a Facebook page about the camp with lots of pictures. When we find it, we will link to it.

Mark Gill says he grew up at Mount Grampian where his father was a friend of the owner and also patrolled there for 5 years. Paul K says he skied at the Lansing Ski Club in the 80’s while attending MSU. He says they had a great program for the collere ski club and had a very unusual  over-the-hill chairlift that served both sides.

Frank wants to know when the new chair will be installed at Boyne Highlands in the expansion area.

Fred Wark says that the old ski area in the Pinckney State Recreation Area is just south of the Lakelands Trail which is the old railroad bed.

Bill would like a large poster of Michigan’s Lost Ski Areas. he says he would buy several as gifts for his friends. We have found a source for a poster-map of Michigan’s CURRENT ski areas. However, I don’t know if it would be worth his effort to make one up for our lost ski areas. Bill would also like patches for Hickory Hills and Sugarloaf. Mike L has patches for Teeple Hill, Irish Hills, and Riverview Highlands. We have asked him to send them along.

Remember, keep those comments coming and if you wish to send us any additional information or items, see the directions on the About MILSAP page. Thanks for following us and get out there and enjoy the winter.

Bob Knox, Publisher, MILSAP

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MILSAP Updates, January 6, 2015

Happy New Year! We hope you are enjoying our (finally) wintery Michigan Weather. We have received a dozen new comments since we last updated you before Xmas. We have also received our annual report from WordPress, the host of our blog.

Last year, MILSAP was viewed over 49,000 times, mostly from the United States, but with a significant number of hits from Canada and Germany as well as hits from 76 other countries such as Mongolia (12) Kazakhstan (1), Russia (17), Cambodia (1), Morocco (3), and Saudia Arabia (1). Our most popular pages for comments were: Mt. Grampian (44), Kandahar (44), Skyline (43), and Thunder Mountain (23). Our most frequent commenters were: Dianne, Anton Mal, Cliff Essman, Bill, and Selkie. Our most frequent referrers were: facebook, detroityes, izito, semalt, and mthollytskipatrol.wordpress.com. We want to thank all of you for your continued interest.

Greg commented on Black Forest that he started skiing there on Wednesday bus trips from Sarnia. He remembers the Bee Gees on the PA. Since then he has skied many great places around the world, but credits Black Forest for the start. Mary remembers skiing at Mt. Grampian in a for-credit ski class for the University of Detroit in ’84.

Bill says he was told the area marked for future expansion on the Boyne Highlands map will be getting a new lift. Josh says the new trails were cut there several years ago and are already growing back in. He expects a used lift from another Boyne USA property will be installed eventually. Bill also wants a clickable map of our lost areas; we will have to work on that. Max McDonald wants a poster of our lost areas. We have found someone who has developed a poster of the open areas in Michigan (as well as those in other states). More about this later.

Randy Rakus commented about Skyline that he remembers that his dad would drop him and his brother for night skiing on Saturdays. He also remembers piling into his friend’s dad’s station wagon for trips to the area during the day. Mike Pikor also started skiing at Skyline (in ’63) and is still skiing. Selkiescot said she also remembers the band at Bear Mountain playing Chantilly Lace (see last month’s update (below). Jeff Kurn wanted to know how to send us electronic photos. Just send them by email to milsap at comcast.net.

Cindy Bills said her family owned the property next door to Fonro on Emig Rd. and has many fond memories of the resort. Candy wants to know if she knew Chris Emig who used to work at the resort.

Please keep those comments coming and, if you get the opportunity, get out there and enjoy our Michigan winter by skiing, snowboarding, X-Cing, skating, sledding, tobogganing, snowshoeing, hiking, camping or any way you can.

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MILSAP Updates, December 16, 2014

Well, here we are, it’s almost Xmas and many Michigan resorts have been open for weeks (although some have closed temporarily for the rain). If you are still skiing in Michigan, be sure to follow our Facebook page where people comment about both current and historic skiing venues.

In the 6 weeks since we last posted (at Halloween!) we have received 20 posts and have learned about a new lost ski area. Don B says it was on the hill below the “castle” at Canadian Lakes Resort near Mecosta and may have been “officially” called Castle Mountain. It had 3 rope-tows and operated in the ’70s and into the ’80s. We will have a page up soon, so if you know anything about the ski hill at Canadian Lakes, please let us know! This brings us to 44 currently operating areas (just moved Norway Mountain back to the land of the living), 22 jumping hills, and 140 lost ski areas.

Frank commented on the Boyne Highlands page that the current season trail map has the comment “future expansion” off to the side. He wonders if anyone knows the plan. So do we. Let us know if you are in on this. Cris skied at Mt. Maria while stationed at Wurtsmith AFB and now lives in Steamboat Springs and skis all season. He is thankful to Mt. Maria for awakening a life-long passion. Pat Frisch would like a patch from Maria; do you have one for sale? (I have one on my old patrol parka.)

Brandon Nanney clued us in on the source of the TNT Ski Area name with his comment on the Jack Pine Valley page. He says that area was bought by his uncle and aunt Tom and “Toots” Nanney, hence TNT. I will copy his comment over to the TNT page so it appears there, too. Alicia Suzanne White left a couple of comments on the Bloomer Ski Jump page. She is related to the family who owned the farm where “city folks” used to come out to use the ski jump. “City folks” struck me as a quaint term to use in the current Rochester hills area; I guess it was a bit more “rural” back in the day.

Don Diettrich is a relative of the former owners of Skyline and would like any of you to send him old photos or videos of the area. You can find his address in the comment on the Skyline page. Gary Gariglio responded to Don’s comment and NJB said that her husband took her to Skyline a few years ago (after it closed). He told her about all the great times he had skiing there when he was a teenager and mentioned that he loved the chili with oyster crackers.

Mark Prell said he skied at Thunder from ’61 to ’65 and remembers the follow the leader groups with Al. William Norton visited Fonro last year. He says the old lodge is still standing, but there is fire damage to the dining room and trees are growing through the tennis courts. Betsy said she learned to ski at Royal Valley. She skied there from ’81 almost until it closed. Then her patroller father moved her on to  Mt. Wawasee (Indiana) and finally Swiss Valley.

Scott Pryde left a couple comments on the Kandahar page. He skied there from ’81 almost ’till the end, and remembers the “olympics”, long lift lines on the poma, and duck-taping gloves to ride up Bob-el. (I remember skiing there for Eastern Michigan Region ski patrol Minnie Dole Cup races with my daughters, who are now patrollers, too.) Bill Earle lived in Newberry and remembers skiing at Iroquois Mountain. He also remembers watching the lodge collapse in the fire of ’64. After that, they had to ski at Big Valley. He remembers Mike Porcarelli skiing down under the chair at Iroquois. Karl used to work at the Polyhedron Lodge at Bear Mountain from ’70 until ’73. He remembers the band Selkie is looking for and says they were good and played “Chantilly Lace.”

Al Droscha says he has a map of lost ski areas in Colorado and would like one for Michigan. What do you think? Should we come up with one?

Finally, Kate Major from Treetops at Sylvan says Sylvan will be celebrating 60 years of skiing on December 29, 2014. Now that would mean they opened in December, 1954, definitely a venerable age for a Michigan ski area (or an American ski area, for that matter). However, the local Chamber of Commerce says the area opened in the late ’40s. Should they be celebrating their 65th?

Keep those comments coming, we love to hear from you about the history of skiing, ski areas, and skiers in Michigan.

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MILSAP Updates, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!! Say hello to snow. It’s already snowing in parts of the state and much of Michigan is slated to receive at least a dusting this evening. We have had seventeen new comments since our post last month and we have heard about a new lost ski area.

John Stevens informed us that K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base, near Marquette, had a ski hill just outside one of the back gates complete with a rope tow. It was used primarily by children living on the base. John thinks he has pictures and we would live him to share them with us. He would also like our help finding the name of the nine-hole golf course that was across from the Iron Mountain ski jump. Derek also confirmed with township authorities, that the Covington Township Ski Hill does still have a rope tow.

Reba M. (really!) reports that the new owner of Mt. Maria has no plans to open the ski areas. He is a disabled veteran who plans to live on the property. Right now he needs some help with the plumbing and electrical, so if you would like to help him out, go knock on the door of the lodge. Gary Chomiak said his parents, Jerry and Hazel, used to own Snow Valley in 1960. They helped build the “new” lodge. he has an ad from the Otsego Co. Chamber of Commerce telling of seven ski resorts within 20 miles of Gaylord. He remembers wearing the area patch on his junior ski patrol uniform.

Mike Wasnock tells about an encounter at Fonro with the men in the black suits. He also says there was a fire at the lodge years ago, but he was just back there and it is still standing. Candice Van Nort asked that very question, so we are pleased to let her know that the Fonro lodge is still standing.

Wendy S from Treetops would like to talk to Jack Daunt about the old days of patrolling at Sylvan. Doug Thomas commented on Elberta Mountain that he has been trying to find the steel structures from the jump and the lift. If you can help him out, please send a post.

Dale Lee says he patrolled at Mt Maria in ’81. He later moved to Texas but retired to Livonia and now has a lake house at Hubbard Lake. He would really like to see Mt. Maria open again, because there is no place else to ski in the north-east of the LP.

Denny says he misses the Kandahar Ski Club. Jeff Brosch remembers that Timber Lee Hills faced the sun in the afternoon, so the slopes would soften and then glaze over at night. One night, he heard the sno-cat sliding down the hill, crashing into the trees on a slide to the bottom. Jeff’s family owned Mt. Holiday from ’85 to 2002. In ’85, they bought the chair from Carousel Mountain and installed it as the main lift at Holiday, where it stands to this day. When they got it, it was not in great shape, but all the seats were painted different colors (like a carousel?). He heard that Carousel’s problem was sand blowing over the hill from the dunes making the snow very abrasive. This likely happened on years when the natural snow cover was thin and did not seal the sand down.

Lynda Toussaint remembers the Bloomer Ski Jump and says her father, Allison Toussaint, and her uncle, mason Toussaint used to jump there. Rebecca Yount remembers a tall, thin, elegant man skiing at Briar Hill. Roger Shoemaker notes that Al Almon opened Ski Village in Waters in the early 1950’s and later opened Mt. Frederic in Frederic in 1960. He says Mt. Frederic had 3 T-bars and 4 rope tows.

Please keep those comments coming and try to get out to explore some of our old, lost ski areas and enjoy the sliding at some of our still operating areas, where the skiing is better than ever. If you have any pictures, patches, brochures, lift tickets, etc. from any of our old Michigan ski areas, please see the directions on the About MILSAP page to send them along to us.

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