Hickory Hills – Traverse City

On Fri., Jan. 25, 1952, The Ludington Daily News winter sports report listed Hickory Hills near Traverse City as having 8″-12″ of new snow on top of a 4″-0″ base with excellent ski conditions. They added that 5 tows were operating.

Hickory Hills is listed in a Consumers Power brochure of top ski areas in the northern lower peninsula dating from around 1959. It was located 1 mile west of Traverse City and had 8 runs and 8 tows. It offered night skiing, instruction and snacks on premises.

Hickory Hills is apparently still in operation. Run by Traverse City, it reportedly now has 5 rope tows, snowmaking and night skiing. The Midwest Ski Areas Association lists it with 8 slopes, the longest 1500′, and a 237′ vertical drop. The city notes:


Hickory Hills began operations in the winter of 1950 -51 on 12 City owned acres. Adjacent land was leased or used by friendly agreement. The City now owns approximately 125 acres. The lodge that was constructed in the mid 1950’s is still in use today with a fireplace and snack bar for the enjoyment of our guests.

Prior to 1985, Hickory Hills was completely at the whim of nature for its snow. The number of skiing days ranged from a low of 29 in 1983-84 to a high of 83 days in 1958-59. Since 1985 the number of days has stabilized with an average of 70 skiing days per year since snow making equipment was installed. Snow making capabilities now exist on six of eight runs.

3 Responses to Hickory Hills – Traverse City

  1. Scott Stillings says:

    All ski history buffs should get a copy of the of the fabulous new (2011 publishing date) book by 2 TC teens, Light The Night. This wonderful picture and interview book outlines a superb history of this legendary area and it’s well-known benefactors, Traverse City and The Grand Traverse Ski Club. Highlights include some of the first night skiing in America, untold volunteers and key citizens, champion skiers and memories of youngsters who raced for lollipops.

    Light The Night is written by Molly Tompkins and Ryan Ness, originally as a Mother-inspired high school project. You can get your copy at http://www.preservehickory.com ($29.95 plus shipping) and anyone can still slide down the slopes of The Hick!

    By the way, 100% of the proceeds benefit Hickory Hills…

    Scott Stillings…

  2. Brad "Hoser" Miller says:

    Hickory Hills is located at the end of Randolph St in Traverse City set in a beautiful wooded hollow Hickory offers up one of the best kept secret snow conditions in lower Michigan. Hickory is not much different than when it opened, 5 ropes and runs and a lodge named Pete, Buck, Swede and Jacks after its founders.
    Hickory Hills is most noted as the training site of the Grand Traverse Ski Club. The GTSC has produced a US ski team member, many individual State and team high school champions, a world college Giant Slalom Champion and the current Alpine head alpine coach at the Lake Placid National Academy. Hickory Hills also has a lighted and groomed half mile x-c loop highlighted by the “Tuesday Night Sprints” . Speaking of X-C Hickory is also where Wolrd Masters Championship medalist Milan Biac got his start as well as many High School X-C State Champions . Hickory also offers a terrain park on “Swede” for snowboarders and skiers to catch air. All the attributes to competition aside Hickory biggest contribution is that it has made snowsports affordable to tens of thousands of area youngsters.
    If you make the trip to Hickory I suggest a Friday night when it is possible to throw down more than 50 runs. Before you head to the parking lot make a last run up the Birch tow to the top of Swede and enjoy a view of the Traverse City Lights. If you close your eyes and listen you will here the sounds of the rope tows whirl around and snowsports enthusiast enjoying themselves, the same sound that has been taking place at Hickory Hills for Decades.

    Keep the small areas alive,
    Brad Miller
    PSIA-C Ed Staff & Hickory Hills Snowsports Staff
    For Info on Hickory Hills Call

  3. Todd says:


    Funny, I never have skied at Hickory Hills having lived in Bellaire when I was younger, Schuss Village/Mtn were our home hills….

    My grandfather Arne Shield, as I understand it, together with my grandmother Katie used to run Hickory Hills way back when. I heard the stories when I was young and it’s been a long time since, so hopefully I’m not getting the details wrong. This was of course,, before they opened their restaurant in Traverse City, “Shield’s Fine Dining”…. I’m sure some of you remember it.

    My mother Sandy Shield Brake and my uncle Tom Shield were both champion alpine racers from back in the day, I’m thinking the early and mid 60’s… Hickory Hills was their training area, of course. I still have a bunch of my mother’s medals.

    It was because of my family that I had such an interest in skiing from the time I was old enough to walk. And they got their start at Hickory Hills.

    I wish I knew more about their time there….. Maybe someone else will chime in.


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