Schuss Mountain – Bellaire

Schuss Mountain opened in 1967 with a European village theme.  They had border guards and issued their own “currency,” and referred to themselves as “the Kingdom of Schuss.” In 1985, Clubcorp purchased Shanty Creek and nearby Schuss Mountain and combined operations under the Shanty Creek name. They operate both ski hills (about 3 miles apart) but refer to the former Shanty Creek slopes as Summit Mountain. lists 2 new Riblet double chairlifts at Schuss Mountain, a new area in 1967. Each had a 310′ rise. In 1968. they followed up with a Riblet triple chair with a 291′ rise. In 1975, they added an 1100′ Rice t-bar with a 237′ rise.

12 Responses to Schuss Mountain – Bellaire

  1. Scott "Scooter" Stillings says:

    Yes, Schuss Mountain did have their own currency. The Squimbimdingledangle was the primary denomination as proclaimed by King Daniel (Daniel R. Iannotti). The original advertising concept of The Kingdom of Schuss was created by the soon-to-be-famous Joseph Sugarman, a marketing dynamo, who was to become best known for the clever advertising program “Chicken Man” originally used by Kentucky Fried Chicken. Sugarman also brought the world Blu-Blocker sunglasses. The Kingdom concept was played to the hilt at Schuss. Most notably in the titles of the major stockholder/GM Iannotti and his family, referred to by the noble titles of Queen Dorothy, Prince Dan Jr., and the ebullient Princess Madeline. Were you to park illegally after crossing the “border” into The Village Square the local gendarmes would issue you a ticket that commanded the offender to stand outside their vehicle and yell at the top of their lungs that they had parked incorrectly. The official measurement of the huge sandwiches in The Ivanhof Restaurant was the “Squinch.” You can probably guess which standard unit of measurement The Squinch closely matches in the real world. Iannotti made headlines across the country, Wall Street Journal included, around 1972, when he banned women from driving snowmobiles on the property. After attaining national notoriety for his politically incorrect move (long before that label became part of our lexicon) he cleverly rescinded his Royal Decree and was again featured nationally for the entire affair. The “Kings” silver hair and matching goatee were caricatured on all kinds of printed material around Schuss. Matchbooks, napkins, posters, playing cards, and so much more, featured the benevolent King regally dressed with crown seated upon his throne.

    To compete with the famous Austrian Ski School at Boyne Mountain, a mere 30 miles north, Iannotti brought in French instructors to teach the new French Technique popularised by Jean-Claude Killy and his coach, Honore Bonnet, of L’Equipe Francois. The French arrived at night and, legend has it, looked up the “Face” of Schuss and assumed that the light atop the “Mountain” was merely a plateau where the rest of the “Mountain” would certainly continue up, up, up like western US or European resorts. Imagine their shock when they actually viewed the 300 or so true vertical feet in the daylight of morning and realised that was all there was! Schuss was covered with skiers trying to “sit back” and “jet” their skis while perfecting their “Avalement” and “Braquage” like their new French masters.

    The French gave way to Swiss teachers who eventually handed things over to Alba, Michigan native Marty Walker and his Dad, Jerry, in about 1972. In 1974, East Jordan, Michigan native and former Park West, Utah (now The Canyons, UT) director, Jerry Schenck, took over. He was followed by former Elf Club (the childrens’ program in Schuss-speak) Director David Hofacker winter of ’77/78.

    The Kingdom of Schuss was also a big supporter of early freestyle skiing and famous Warren Miller movie stars Mark Steigemeier and Ben Jones trained there prior to Chevrolet Pro Freestyle tour stops at Boyne Mountain, which were broadcast on ABC. Pat Hardy (and a partner whose name escapes me) did flip demonstrations Sunday afternoons beneath the Yellow and Blue chairlifts on “The Face.”

    The real estate surrounding the ski hill was sold very successfully by The Georgi brothers who started the now defunct Ski & Shore company. The first year of operation they sold over $1 million dollars in lots for chalets and condominiums! May not seem like much today, but remember these lots sold for just $4-$7,000! That is a lot of transactions and the valley is still full of chalets, some hastily built cheaply and others quite opulent, to this day. [Please note that $1 million in 1967 equals $6,900.000+ in 2012 dollars.] The most famous chalet owner at the time was popular Detroit Tiger and World Series champ, Mickey Stanley, who brought a curly-haired youngster with him one winter, Mark “The Bird” Fidrych. Mickey Stanley’s chalet was VERY POPULAR in the summer, when Mick was playing baseball, as he rented it to the waitresses who worked the famous Schussycat Shows in The Ivanhof. The Schussycat Shows were a troupe of singers and musicians, from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, who performed popular and show tunes during the summer “off-season.” Rumour has it that David Letterman visited his Ball State colleagues and performed with The ‘Cats on more than one occasion.

    A royal family, it’s own currency, French/Swiss instructors, an “international” border, sport/ski stars and a lot of characters made the first seasons at Schuss some of the most unique in Michigan skiing history.

    As a historical note, I skied Schuss beginning 1970, then taught skiing, coached ski racers or was the Kingdom of Schuss Director of Propaganda (Marketing) fall 1974 – summer 1977 and briefly in ’78. I still have the business card with the Schuss “Squiggly” logo, a set of playing cards and logo’d swizzle sticks from The Ivanhof.

    • Jeff Richards says:

      Scott; I left a note on the milsap website on teh Schuss Mountain page. I’m sure you’ll remember. I’m in Texas now.

  2. Mickey MacWilliams says:

    Wasn’t the flipper’s name Dan Nepling? (Don’t know if I spelled that correctly)

  3. Scott "Scooter" Stillings says:

    Great name to remember, but it wasn’t The Neeps. By the way, your spelling was close! Pat Hardy travelled with someone else, sorry. How about your memories of The Kingdom? I still love Manhattans and the 2 barns your Mom painted. Does brother Jay have any photos of yours and the Schencks barns?


  4. Jeff Richards says:

    I was a classmate of Madeline Iannotti in Bellaire Public School. I think she started with “us” in 3rd or 4th grade. My class – Bellaire 1978 was tight; if you didn’t start kindergarten with us you weren’t really part of the group and were always a “new kid.” Even then we recognized her as a rich “flatlander” putting on airs, but she soon came to fit in. I can remember having a contest in the school to name the ski runs; I can’t remember which kids had their proposed names selected, but I do remember “Blue Ski-Doo.” I remember going out to the hill to watch the ‘dozer work as the resort went in. I also remember my dad loving to take unsuspecting guests out for a plane ride – it is like going over the top of a roller coaster if you fly really low from the back side of the runs (all woods then) and then drop off over the face. In grade school we got to go out on (I think) Wednesday afternoons – dismissed from school to go skiing – how great is that? One time a friend didn’t lace his rental boot well; it came off part way down a run – boot and ski and all took off down to the lodge/pool and he had to follow down on one ski, the other foot covered only by his sock. Francois (who could yodel like a professional) was a truly great ski instructor – the only thing I really remember him saying was “Attack! Attack! Attack!” but as a young ski racer I don’t think there could be better advice. By 6th grade I was serving as ski team manager for the high school – 3 years before I could officially race. The Spence Bocks race camp was the way we got ready for the ski season; the downstate kids stayed in residence at the resort; we went home every night. The downstate kids ate a supervised dinner after a day on the hills and then came to the movie/chalk talk sessions. After we got off the hill for the day, us locals drove out to a dead end in the subdivision, ate a sandwich and drank too much, then came staggering in to the movie/chalk talk sessions to piss off the downstaters. I’m not sure if the staff ever figured out why we were so happy watching the movies. By high school our gang “owned” Schuss Mountain slopes; I usually skied 6 days/week, with one day reserved for hunting. Doing nefarious things in the woods, tucking all the runs, jumping off the lifts, jumping OVER flatlanders, and inventing (we think) the sport of “body slalom” which involved using people standing on the hill as gates. The best rounding of a “gate” was when you lifted your inside ski over the surprised victim’s skis, and the best run for body slalom was Canyon due to its banked sides. As teenagers we loved staying late on Saturday nights for bonfires and a glimpse of the Shussycats. Max Ellison would recite poetry to the lift lines by day and around the bonfire at night – sometimes at the resort and sometimes at Frog Holler. One of our “secrets” was to ski off the back side of Schuss on last run off toward Cedar River/Schuss Mountain Road. We had some special places where we could cross the river on snow covered logs and get picked up on the road for the ride home. Some secret: our route is now filled with some new runs and a chair that has it’s base right down by our river crossing. My brother Pat and I both (perhaps in sequential years?) won the Slush Cup and appeared on Schuss Mountain brochures. That was real fame. I never had the time or money to ski the CUSSA events, but went on to ski for (and drink with) the University of Michigan team. Some of the very same downstate kids who went to the Spence Bock camps were on the U of M team with me. I get back once in a while to visit family and friends in the area, ski a bit and reminisce about the 60’s/70’s and growing up in northern Michigan. I’ve been saving this note for the last; Scott, you were my high school coach for a couple of years, including the dreaded year at Shanty Creek (when my ski cut through my thumb tendon). The girls had a crush on you, if you didn’t know. And I still remember that you once caught me in your arms! I’m not sure what we were trying to accomplish – something about learning in to commit to turns by leaning in – pretty disturbing for a young male at the time to be falling into coach’s arms! Ah, the memories.

    By the way, who was that “mean” guy who ran the ski shop. Jablonski or Jabarra or something? He always gave us grief in the store. Probably because we hung out in there and never bought anything. To our credit, however, I’ll say we never stole anything, either.

  5. chuck roberts says:

    It is jabarra n he still has the store there.

  6. Scott Stillings says:

    Jeff… Certainly remember you and your brother. Had forgotten about your Dad buzzing the hill over Schuss. Those were some wild teams and times. I recall (no names mentioned) a certain lady skier filling her poles with whiskey to survive the ride home from a Sugarloaf meet. And, “Princess” Madeline? Unforgettable. The guys pretended to be so serious and the women all wore blue jeans. You beat me once on Good Night in a training run and I can’t remember the penance. Maybe we coaches didn’t make you skate at the end of practice? Yes, all your “secret” places throughout the enchanted forest were also known by the ski instructors. We snuck out just ahead of you many a time, those tracks were ours.

    And’ I was teaching you to incline down the hill. That is all.

    Thanks for reaching out, best of everything…

    Scott Stillings

    PS. He’s Rodger Jabara.

  7. Lisa Draper says:

    Hey Scooter!! Miss the good ol’ days, such fun. I’m still racing!

  8. King Daniel His Royal Highness says:

    Alas, the King has passed on to the Kingdom in the sky. As the sole male heir, the monarchy has succeeded to me. Like many monarchies, we live in exile (in Bloomfield Hills) waiting for a power vacuum that would allow us to regain our rightful authority.

    Yes, the court jesters could regale us for hours with an infinite number of enchanting stories – wild horse rides to and from Charley Dewey’s horse barn, the escapades of a number of Detroit Tigers in various chalets, Miss Universe playing tennis in an alarmingly wonderful bikini, catching monster brown trout lying under massive logs floated down the Cedar River during the hey days of lumbering in Mancelona in the early 1900’s, viewing the northern lights from the summit, the multitude of romances within the Schussy Cats, skiing the “out of bounds” areas while being chased by the ski patrol, fireworks and torch light parades lighting up the hill, three gate courses straight down the face, porcupines who would dine on the $500 tires on heavy equipment, skinny dipping in the outdoor pool, catching rainbow trout in Shanty Creek’s trout pond, correspondence with Grimaldi royalty in Monaco, telegrams to Henry Kissinger asking him to intercede in the skirmishes caused by the Kingdom succession from the United States, etc.

    But for now, we must accept our lot in life and carry on. Try as we might, we’ll never recapture the the magic in our lives from that period of time. But we are comforted by warm glow of the light within us as we remember the Kingdom’s beauty and wonder instilled in each of us.

    King (formerly Prince) Daniel

    • Weston Howland says:

      I broke my leg skiing when I was in 8th grade I remeber I felt do special when the King came to our house a pinned a broken bone club pin on my sweater. Funny memories.

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