Caberfae Peaks – Cadillac

According to a feature article on Caberfae Peaks by Jim and Ann Neff dated Feb, 2007 on the Michigan site: Opened in 1938 as Michigan’s first ski area, Caberfae has a rich history. As joint project of the U.S Forest Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps, runs were carved out of the Manistee National Forest and skiers chipped in $5 contributions until there was enough money for volunteers to construct the first rope tow in 1940.

Skiers at Caberfae in 1948from Vintage Ski

Skiers at Caberfae in 1948
from Vintage Ski

A shot of snowy slopes at Caberfae, 1948

Several areas are claimed to be the first ski area in Michigan. See our “First” page for the competition.

On Fri., Jan. 25, 1952, The Ludington Daily News winter sports report listed Caberfae as having 12″ of new snow on a 5″ base with very good conditions. On Fri., Nov. 9, 1956, The Cass City Chronicle in the “Michigan Mirror” column commented that Caberfae added 3 new slopes (for a total of 28), new tows, electrically lighted play areas, a new lounge and ski shop.

In 1959, Sports Illustrated noted that Caberfae added: a 1250′  Dopplemayr T-bar with a 260′ rise. Franz Gabl, a former Canadian Olympic coach, directed the ski school.

Caberfae now has: 485 vertical feet, 34 trails, 200 skiable acres, four chairlifts, two surface tows, longest run ¾ mile, 100% snowmaking. Ski school, children’s programs, night skiing 7 days a week, snowboard and ski rentals, cross country skiing nearby.


CaberfaePatch2CaberfaePatch1If you have any information about the development of Caberfae, please post it or send it to us via the directions on the About MILSAP page.

Chris VanderHart sent along these vintage pics from old Caberfae:

16 Responses to Caberfae Peaks – Cadillac

  1. geoff smith says:

    Franz won the silver medal for Austria in the 1948 Olympic games (St. Moritz). He headed the ski school at Mt Baker, WA for many years beginning in the early 1960’s.

  2. Tom Fullerton says:

    Our family skied Caberfae; 1964-66 before moving on to Big M and then to Crystal in ’69. Back then it was all rope tows everywhere. A few T- bars, fewer chairs, and fewer Poma lifts. Lift tickets were 4 or 5 bucks and when they went to 7, I was stunned. My first boots were leather with inner and outer laces. Cable bindings. Cubco bindings were new and high-tech. When the first, metal, Head skis came out, the wow/status was huge. Caberfae’s “back forty” was Full of fast, “I loved the smell of burning, leather-mitten rope tows in the morning”. And it seemed they were even faster at Big M. Keeping our leather mittens intact from weekend to weekend was a 10- year-old boy’s challenge. We would get “air” off the whoop-de-doo’s on the way UP the ropes! The after ski potlucks with hot chili and chocolate cake were the best.

  3. Anton Mal says:

    Would love to see an old trail map of this place. It has change much over the years. According to the hills web site, they are going to allow skiing on some of the long abandoned old areas of the resort this year, though no lift service nor snow making for those areas. There is a long flat area at the top of North Peak, rumor that they will eventually put a second chair up the valley and terminating up there to serve some of the old areas.

  4. Anton Mal says:

    On NortherEdgeSnowsports FB page is an photo album of the abandoned area of Caberfae, Album is called Ghost Ski Area Tour. see if the following link will take you there:

  5. Anton Mal says:

    Here is a rough video of the chair rides needed to get to the “Dark Side”, the expert runs on the South Peak:

  6. Anton Mal says:

    Caberfae is still a place for families and those who can’t afford to regularly ski more expensive places like the Boynes or Crystal. With many deals and coupons floating about, I suspect very few pay full price for a ticket. A Punch pass, available online, gets you in four times for $50. Where else can you ski that much vertical for $12.50?! The ground floor of the spacious McKenzie lodge is open for the brown baggers, The families and groups stake their claim to the tables, plugging in their crock pots and etc.
    The CONs are, limited expert territory. Also not easy for an absolute beginner.

  7. Anton Mal says:

    Vintage Caberfae found on YouTube

    • Bob Sisco says:

      That is one of the coolest vintage ski videos I’ve ever seen, and of Caberfae no less. Great find thanks for sharing.

  8. Steve Hanzek says:

    My family skied there from the mid 60’s to mid 70’s. Went through a lot of gloves and white first aid tape trying to keep them going from the rope-tows. Remember the years of plenty where North Ridge had tons of natural snow, and was totally open. Also the dry years where the back slopes were closed due to lack of snow. Got used to skiing on solid ice – they never really seemed to master the art of snow making; more ice making. Always made the annual trek up there on Thanksgiving day, hoping to be the first ones down the hills. A few times we climbed up Shelter impatient at waiting for the ropetow to open…
    One of my favorite memories was over on the (memory is failing me) #1 chair? Maybe #2? Where it goes across the flats, then up between the trees, then across another set of flats. It was a blizzard on a Sunday – they were closing the highways due to the drifting. My friend Rob Harrison and I were there with our dads. Rob and I would ski down under the chair, doing nice figure 8’s. By the time we got back on the chair and rode back up, we could barely make out our tracks. And by the time we got to the top, the tracks were drifted in, so it was fresh powder! Around 4pm, we finally headed back to the lodge, where our dads were a little upset. Rob and I argued for staying the night in the lodge (a lot of people were), but our spoilsport dads made us drive back on highway 131 (which was ‘closed’, but somehow we still got to drive on it?). We were so bummed. But every run was fresh powder!
    I worked for Caberfae one year in the summer time – mid 70’s – they had a dinner theatre, and I was their photographer. They were going to pay me with ski-equipment from the shop. Unfortunately, they owed me about $800, and all i managed to grab as they were going bankrupt was a pair of 205 Yamaha’s with Solomon bindings – back then about a $250 value…
    Also shot a lot of photos of Nastar races – actually got one photo published in Ski Magazine (but no credit and no payment… boo…).
    All in all a lot of happy memories. Especially the Barber girls – sisters that were all gorgeous and skied incredibly well…

  9. Anton Mal says:

    Found this old description from the postcard site for Michigan:

    “Located in the Manistee National Forest, 16 miles west of Cadillac, just north of M 55. It is the rendezvous of thousands of ski enthusiasts each winter, because of the multiple thrills of its 30 runs. There are 20 rope tows, a double chair lift and large snow making machine to make it the most complete ski resort in the mid west. There is a Certified Ski School with seven instructors, and a rental shop with 400 pair of skiing equipment. It is operated on a non-profit permit from the US Forest Service by Caberfae Inc. of Cadillac, Mich.”

    I know at one time they had three T-bars, and skied areas including that to the left of the bowl now called the backwoods area. Would love to see old maps of the previous layouts. Pictures of the old chairlift look very strange, guess it didn’t stand the test of time! Never skied there as a kid in the ’60s and ’70s, till one short visit in the mid ’70s with the place only partly open and we were quickly bored. In the last couple decades I’ve become a frequent guest there as I live nearby.

    • MILSAP says:

      We would also like to see old area maps, Anton. We invite anyone who has one to send it along via the directions on the About MILSAP page. I skied there once in the 60’s (don’t remember much except lots and lots of rope tows), I skied it again late this winter and I am convinced that it currently has the best expert terrain in Lower Michigan (if you can catch it when the avalanche warnings are not posted!).

  10. Frank says:

    Here’s a link to a an article written by Michigan Skier. The article describes the history about Caberfae and a few old trail maps are included.

    Caberfae has a lot of potential. If they dispersed their chairlifts in a different way to offer easier access to some of their best terrain, I would go there more often. Ive seen significant improvements in the past few years, hopefully they keep that going. I’m eager to see what Caberfae has to offer in the future.

  11. Snow says:

    I have a brown Caberfae patch. I found it in a box with old girl scout patches. Any information please email me at

  12. Jay Balliet says:

    Here’s a bunch of old Caberfae trail maps.

  13. Al Donnelly says:

    An additional parka patch has the red background of the Type I shown above, but in the construction and form of the Type III with “CABERFAE” in white (fine, tight stitching).. Stag head is brown, border is black.

  14. Bonnie Werth Stirler says:

    I skied there 1961-63. Franz Gabl was the ski pro there. He won the Silver Medal in the 1948 Olympics in the Downhill. He still skied competitively when I was there. If you asked him who won, he’d say “my grandmother” did. I won some ski lessons from Franz by beating him at several games of cribbage. The ski club from Ferris skied up there regularly. There was a private club on the Caberfae premises where we’d have a few beers after skiing before we went into Cadillac for eating, drinking and dancing the Twist! What a time. It was great skiing for an excellent price.

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