The Cass City Chronicle for Jan. 4, 1968, printed the “1968 AAA Michigan Guide to Winter Sports Fun”. The report listed the Big M, 16 mi. east of Manistee off M-55 as having 14 ski runs, a double chairlift, T-bar, 11 rope tows, and snow making.
Michael Fleckenstein passed along this picture of himself racing slalom at Big-M in 1961.
The area was apparently located west off Udell Hills Rd. at the base of the range of hills that rise to the west. The nearest hill has about 200 ft. of vertical and shows the scars of runs and lifts on its north face on the satellite view. Is this the same area as Udell Hills or the Manistee Ski Area (or both)? From the satellite view, the lodge building could be the same as the ones in the pictures of those other areas. Perhaps it just changed names over the years before it closed.
The lodge is still in existence and is used as the base lodge for the Big M Cross Country Ski Trails, a volunteer-run and donation-funded complex located in the national forest. They have about 30k of x-c trails and it is circled by a 39k loop for mountain biking and snowshoeing. Some of the rope tow poles with wheels attached are still standing and their trail map shows one route (not listed as an official trail) called a challenge route which climbs to Capper’s Peak and follows along the ridge to intersect with the Catamount Loop, which is graded “most difficult”. The section from the lodge to Capper’s Peak would be up the face of the former downhill runs.
If you have any information about skiing at Big M when it was a downhill ski area, please post it or pass it along via the directions on the About MILSAP page.
Tom Fullerton (see his comment below) passed on a couple pictures of the area: