Echo Valley – Kalamazoo

On Sun., Dec. 23, 1951, the Toledo Blade printed an article about winter sports conditions in Michigan which said that conditions at all the favorite ski areas of northern Michigan…report excellent skiing, perfect weather and ideal conditions with plenty of snow. The list included Echo Valley.

A month later, on Fri., Jan. 25, 1952, The Ludington Daily News winter sports report listed Echo Valley, near Kalamazoo, as having perfect conditions for skiing, skating, and tobogganing, but no tows operating. I do not know if this means their tows were not running or they were an X-C only area with no tows. On Jan. 4 1968, The Cass City Chronicle printed the “1968 AAA Michigan Guide to Winter Sports Fun,” which listed Echo Valley as having 8 toboggan runs, rope tow, toboggans furnished free, night tobogganing, skating and snow making. (Note, no mention of skiing or jumping.)

Echo Valley is apparently still operating (they closed for the season on the first weekend of March, 2011) for tubing, tobogganing, and ice skating. If I interpret their site correctly, they have been operating since 1937. An email query to the area elicited a response from Melody that Echo Valley never had skiing, but did have a ski jump at some time in the past. Apparently more than one; a follow-up inquiry produced the response that jumping started there 65 or 70 years ago (not long after 1937?) and that the last jump was removed in about 2003 (although I suspect it was not used for the last few years it was up.)

Echo Valley Toboggan Runs

Echo Valley Toboggan Runs

An all-season sliding surface called Everslide has been installed on each run. Runs are a quarter-mile long and you’ll reach speeds of up to 60 MPH. The staff will return your sled to the top via an overhead lift. Apparently, you have to walk back up, although they do have a rope tow for the tubing hill which also has snowmaking.

Echo Valley is due east of and abuts the Robert Morris Park, which occupies land which used to be Fry’s Landing and Fry’s Winter Sports Park, which is listed as having skiing and a tow.

If you have any information about ski jumping or lift-served skiing at Echo Valley, please post it or send it using the directions on the About MILSAP page.

7 Responses to Echo Valley – Kalamazoo

  1. MaryBeth Smith says:

    My grandparents built Echo Valley, and it started out as a ski jumping area. I have a number of newspaper clippings/copies from my late grandmother. Yes, the ski jump was ultimately torn down.

  2. profesorav says:

    On the Facebook group Vanished Kalamazoo, there is an amazing video of Echo Valley in the 1950s. You can see the ski jump and even glimpse a skier coming down the hill toward the end of the film. Here is the link, but I believe it is a members-only group:

  3. Bob Sisco says:

    EV is alive and well, revisited 1/16/16 with my 3 grandsons after a 15 year hiatus. Not much change. Up to $18 each . Tubing included.
    Boys and I loved it, skating pond is not operating.
    The old lodge has tons of photos and newspaper articles on EV. Love the retro feel and the toboggans still fly!

    • Bob Sisco says:

      I emailed Bob Knox @ milsap several pictures I am hoping he can post here for all to see as my picture posting skills are poor.
      Picture of an article in the lodge from the ’50s mentions Boyne mtn converting its single chair( from Sun Valley?) to a double and listing a new area near Cadillac called Mad Cap amongst other listings.

  4. Would anyone know what year Echo Valley in Michigan first began operations? I van not find it on the web. I see a woman said that her parents started it, but she didn’t mention the year. Does anyone know? Many curious people, me included.

    • Marybeth C. Smith says:

      Marybeth (Chalker) Smith here. My brother Tom Chalker posted the old home movies our grandfather Harold J. Moore, Sr. took of Echo Valley on the Vanished Kalamazoo FB page. Our grandfather started building the ski jump in 1934, while my grandmother was pregnant with our mom (she was born in February, 1935). The first ski jump blew down in a storm, as it hadn’t been anchored down yet. In the summer of 1935, the ski jump was rebuilt; it was a wooden structure, and my grandparents insured it with Lloyd’s of London. It was a good thing they insured it, because a tornado came through and brought that jump down (August, 1937). A third ski jump was built (30 meters); this one was made out of steel pipes and rods. It is this ski jump, or rather the remains of it, that I remember from my growing up years at Echo Valley.
      The home movies displayed on the FB page are not in chronological order, as I can see the number of toboggan runs going from four to six (or eight) and back to four; and the clubhouse ( warming house) next to the ice rink goes from its early version to its later version and back again.
      In looking over a history of Echo Valley that was created by my grandmother, Marjorie F. (Stafford) Moore and my mother, Janet M.(Moore) Chalker, it looks like my grandfather started building the toboggan runs in 1936, after he had visited Caberfae, and Grayling (which may have had toboggan runs by then). The first toboggan run was made out of mud, then wood, but it only lasted one year . After that, my grandfather made the toboggan runs out of concrete–all done by hand. In 1947-1948, three more toboggan runs were added–1600 feet long–as well as the ice rink. Water for the ice rink was pumped from Campbell Lake. Actually, the first toboggan run did not have a banked curve, so sometimes the riders ended up on (in) Campbell Lake! The water wasn’t very deep (only ankle-deep or so in that area), but sometimes my grandmother would have to wring out wet clothes! The house seen in the home movies was my grandparents’ house. My grandfather built it too; it was completed in 1946. He also built at least six “cottages,” which were year-round rental homes that helped provide income, especially whenever there was little snow during a winter season. I spent the first six years of my life living in one of the cottages; I also spent every Christmas except for one at my grandparents’ house until 1995, the year my grandmother passed away.
      In 1949, the toboggan shop was built; before then, the toboggan had been stored in the basement of the house. In 1959, the four runs became six runs, necessitating that a bridge be built over the runs so the guests could get to the clubhouse. In 1960, two more toboggan runs were added, for a total of eight. That is when the end of the ski jump was torn down. The “turns,” instituted to prevent riders from sliding out onto Campbell Lake, had been only earthen banks; in 1960, concrete block walls were built to prevent riders from going up and over into the next turn.
      I learned to ice skate at Echo Valley by pushing a kitchen chair in front of me on the ice. I worked in the clubhouse, starting in 8th grade, until I graduated from college. I still swing by the place when I go back to Michigan to visit my brother. So many of my memories revolve around Echo Valley! By the way, the spot where Echo Valley was built used to be a motorcycle hill climb; the area was known as Devil’s Gorge.
      My grandfather, an immigrant from England, was introduced to winter sports (skiing) at the age of six years old, when his family ended up in the Upper Peninsula ( to work in the mines there). He was a skier and a ski jumper–a December, 1934 article mentions his attempts to organize a ski club in Kalamazoo (It became the Kalamazoo Ski Club). He jumped 167 feet at Rochester in 1929. Apparently, he finally quit ski jumping at the age of 54, at the urging of my grandmother. Another article mentions the Midwestern Championships being held at my grandparents’ place on Campbell Lake. This first meet was held in 1936; one of the competitors jumped 97 feet. The meet drew competitors from Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. I have a scrapbook filled with newspaper articles about Echo Valley. A 1955 article mentions the ski jump and skiers at the resort; five years later, there was no more ski jumping.

  5. Bob Sisco says:

    That is such a cool video!! Thanks for all the detail Mary Beth. Looks like there was skiing too.
    The ice skating was a big draw too! I skated there the first time I was there in 2001 but was not operating in 2016. I need to get back there with the whole family. It was sure a bustling operation on that video. Thanks again!

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