Teeple Hill – Highland State Recreation Area

Teeple Hill in Highland Recreation Area overlooks Teeple Lake and seems to be a bit over 150 vertical feet from the lake to the top of the hill. According to the topo map, it is fairly steep in places. There are still cross country ski trails in the recreation area, (and some mountain bike trails that one reviewer termed “the trail from hell” ).

I found one reference that Teeple Hill had “about 200 feet of vertical and several rope tows. On Dec. 21, 1951, The Ludington Daily News snow report listed Teeple Hill with 3″ new snow on a 5″ base. Ten years later, on Feb. 10, 1961, The Ludington Daily News ski report listed Teeple Hill as having 2″ fresh snow on a 3″ base for poor ski conditions.

On Feb. 3, 1966, The Cass City Chronicle printed the AAA Guide to Winter Sports Fun in Michigan which said Teeple Hill had 4 slopes, 1 beginners slope and natural snow only. In the Jan. 4, 1968 issue of that paper, the AAA Michigan Winter Fun List says Teeple Hill in the Highland Rec. Area (operated for the public by the Pontiac Ski Club) was 12 mi. west of Pontiac on M-59. It had 4 slopes, one beginners slope 4 tows, and natural snow only. It operated only on weekends. The same paper on Dec. 30, 1976 printed the AAA 1977 Guide to Michigan’s 58 Ski Areas which listed Teeple Hill as having 3 ropes and 7 runs.

If anyone has any more information about Teeple Hill’s alpine ski history, please let me know. We are particularly interested in dates of operation, pictures, brochures, trail maps, and the like. See the “About MILSAP” page for directions to submit information.

Dec 31, 1957 Pontiac Ski Club at Temple (sic) Hill

Dec 31, 1957 Pontiac Ski Club at Temple (sic) Hill, Highland Rec Area

24 Responses to Teeple Hill – Highland State Recreation Area

  1. geoff smith says:

    I have a Detroit News Sunday magazine dated January 27,1952. There are two pages devoted to Teeple Hill. My father, O.L. “Doc” Smith was one of the founding members of the Pontiac Ski Club that ran Teeple Hill. He and his buddy Roscoe Goddard were on the patrol there and stayed involved in the patrol and as ski instructors for 50 years after that. The facilities were donated by the Edsel Ford estate. In 1952 there were five rope tows in operations. Art Kollin was president of the club. The nickname of the club, which was emblazoned on the logo, was “on wings ‘o wood.” I first skied there at age 4. I will try to copy the magazine pages and forward them to you. The pictures are great!!

    • MILSAP says:

      Look forward to seeing the magazine article about Teeple Hill. You probably know that Roscoe Goddard moved on to Mt. Holly when it opened in 1955 and was Patrol Director there from 1955 until 1960. I think I remember meeting him in 2005 at the ski patrol’s 50th anniversary banquet. He passed away in July, 2009 at the age of 93.

      • geoff smith says:

        Doc moved with Roscoe to the Mt. Holly ski patrol. We often picked Roscoe up on the way to Mt. Holly. Doc went over to Mt. Christie when it opened and then reunited with Roscoe at Pine Knob when it opened. These two were true Michigan ski pioneers.
        I sent the magazine article but am not sure it went through. Let me know and I’ll try again..

  2. Tom Bullard says:

    Teeple Hill was the first place I ever skied, besides out in the back 40 at home outside of Clarkston; it was probably 1955, I was maybe 5 yrs old. The whole family skied there a number of times. I can remember that it was a lot like cross country skiing in some places, folks slogging through the woods, skis in parallel tracks on the flatter trails but also on some of the narrow, gentlish down hill parts. I remember people (at least we did) would try towing a skier along on a rope behind the car on the snowpacked road in and out of the area. Doc Smith probably tended to my brother Rocky (lives in Clarkston) who got his jacket caught in the rope tow, went through the “safety gate”, and bounced off one of the wheels before the rope tow engine powered off. I was sent out to look for him and passed him on my way out of the lodge, or I thought it was him because I recognized his hat; he was bundled up on the patrol sled so I couldn’t see his face. Don’t know who stitched him up, Doc Smith, or my dad who was a MD. Geoff, what are you up to these days? Still in MI?

    • Geoff smith says:

      Tom sorry for the tardy reply. I transferred to North Carolina in 1997 and retired from there to Vail in early 2011. I do remember the Bullards

  3. M.D. Pachla says:

    Teeple was a great place! It was still rolling in the early 1980’s when I skied there as a boy. It really had the feel of a much larger, local New England ski hill: ski rentals and hot chocolate right out of the corner of the Big Barn that stood at the base of the hill. (Abandoned, it just fell within the last 10 years.) Nearby, its still easy to find fresh maple syrup to this day. People were so pleasant and helpful to first-time skiers. The open top of the hill had a big feel to it, with tall, nicely-spaced hardwoods providing a pretty setting to the narrow, New England-CCC-style trails leading off in many directions. The real shame for Teeple was that it didn’t survive until the age of snowboards. If it had survived ten more years, it might still be open today. Highland State Park remains a rare, southern Michigan place for challenging cross country skiing and rugged mountain biking. It’s much more like the northwest lower peninsula than the rest of southeast Michigan.

    As much as I love skiing, I worry about its future because the sport has become too expensive for many families to even consider. You know, it’s ironic that towns are spending so much money on skateparks. And there’s Teeple: still standing, still waiting for the people to return. For everyone who believes that affordable skiing should be the birthright of every young boy and girl in Michigan, there should be places like Teeple. They were once part of what defined Michigan’s winter culture. We didn’t used to stay indoors so much and whine about the weather. We geared-up, went outside and explored. Give the kids a place to hang-out and enjoy the company of others who’ve also gotten off the couch to enjoy the winter sun. Kids and teens would enjoy it to this day.
    Bring back Teeple !

    • Robert Guzman says:

      Hello MILSAP,

      I am writing on behalf of my father, Louis Guzman, who was the president of the Pontiac Ski Club for three years, from about 1965-67. Monthly PSC meetings were often held in the finished basement of our home at 18 Neome, Pontiac, over a 30-year period.

      The PSC had a contract with the State of the Michigan Dept. of Parks and Recreation allowing the club to operate the ski areas as a non-profit service to the public. Ticket prices in those days were $2 for kids, $3 for adults.

      The primitive facilities available at the ski club consisted of what was probably the office section of the ‘Big Barn’ – Edsel Ford’s sheep barn, and the vestibule leading into it. Inside the barn was a well-used kerosene heater, and a small kitchen with electric outlets to which were connected a coffee urn, an electric kettle for hot chocolate, a roaster for hotdogs, containers of ketchup and mustard and an electric warmer which provide chile con carne, usually cooked by my mom, Aline Guzman, now 84 and still with us.

      Louis is also notable as probably the first Mexican-American skier and member of the National Ski Patrol.

      Dad felt strongly that since we lived in a state like Michigan, all of his eventually seven children and his wife should learn to ski; they all did, including my Arkansas-born mom, who at first would get into knock down quarrels about being left alone with young children every Sunday throughout the fall, when the slopes were groomed by members (and their children) using grass whips and chain saws, and of course, every Sunday in winter. She eventually calmed down and learnt to ski, as Louis would not be deterred by any amount of hysterics.

      Currently, he is 87, alive and well, and has a very detailed knowledge of literally all the members of the club during the 1945-76 period, when the family moved to the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee.

      He was a close friend of PSC co-founder Roscoe Goddard, and Si Green, founder of Teeple Hill Ski Club, and at least a dozen other members of what was a very close group, which used Club profits to arrange chartered bus trips to ski areas all over Michigan and Canada.

      Louis also knows exactly where the five tow ropes ran and the course of all five ski hills. They consisted of Hill Number One, the main ski area closest to the Edsel Ford sheep barn, Number Two, a more challenging slope connecting to Hill Number Three, with its powerful Detroit Diesel engine, donated to the club by the GMC.

      Dad is also in frequent contact with Jerry Suchner, 75, who may be seen as the ‘second generation’ of the PSC, and if data is needed about the last days of the club, you can contact him through Louis.

      The Teeple Hill Ski Club’s demise was brought about my massive over-development of the western Oakland County (Waterford/Highland/Howell) area. So much virgin field and timberland was paved that climate change was triggered. There is no longer near enough snow during winter to allow skiing there, even if snow machines could be used.

      Although as a child, I remember the Teeple skiing experience as one of bitterly cold weather and frozen hands and feet being warmed on the shelter stove, this is no longer much the case. Unfortunately, lack of cold winter weather and snow in the changed climate make reopening the ski area almost impossible.

      If you wish to communicate with Louis (or Aline) re the PSC, you can call him at
      (423) 623-3653.

      Robert Guzman

      • Carla Green says:

        Hi Robert, this is Carla Green. Somewhere I have pictures of both my mother and my father skiing at Teeple Hill. My mother was the storyteller of the family. I heard the story many times about how my father was so disgusted at the Kandahar ski club because they were so exclusive that he decided to start The Pontiac ski club. I remember the name Rosco Goddard. I was only two on my parents left Michigan in 1957. My parents came to Montana where we lived at and owned and operated Marshall ski area for 26 years. When I come across the picture, I will get a copy to you.

      • MILSAP says:

        Great! We’d love to see it.

      • Thad Sienkiewicz says:

        So very happy to “meet” you & hoping you will feel free to jump back on board at Haven Hill in any capacity. Redbud Reveal (our annual spring awareness event) is coming even if spring is late! I would like you to be a part of the annual winter event, the Boy Scout-sponsored Snow Snake Day at Edsel,s barn in Jan. So much fun awaits! Pam S./FOHRA
        Sent from my iPad
        >

      • Carla Green says:

        I forgot to mention my mother and father were Si and Velma Green. Carla Green.

  4. M. D. Pachla says:

    Robert,

    Great information, Robert. Not sure about global warming as a cause of its demise, though. We’re still skiing 3+ months a year in southeast Michigan and there’s still plenty of undeveloped land out in White Lake Township and Highland Township. Without elevation to help regulate temperatures, Michigan had warm winters before that, too. Remember, too, we’ve have a population contraction in Michigan and, especially, Detroit. My guess is those few warm winters in the mid-1980’s and declining state budgets (due to Michigan’s declining tax base) were probably the main culprits. Rising liability insurance probably didn’t help, either.

    The close proximity of Alpine Valley was the rest of the cause. There’s lift-served, man-made snow and groomed skiing only two miles away. But it’s not cheap. Would you believe that a season pass at Alpine Valley now costs $525 dollars! They cut you a big break for additional family members over the age of 10. They only cost an additional $425 ! You can get EPIC season passes in Colorado (with unlimited skiing) for LESS money. This is why its such a shame that Teeple Hill isn’t running; especially in this economy. What if the family budget only has an extra $300 total for one kid to ski? By going to a local ski swap or by scanning garage sales and by going to a place like Teeple Hill, someone could ski all winter for $300. By looking for local pass deals, they could get a few two-for-one passes at Alpine and Pine Knob, too. Instead, so many teenagers are sitting on the couch, putting-on excess weight and playing video games. Michigan’s kids need to re-connect with the outdoors. Parents need to lead them to it, by example.

  5. pam sienk says:

    Hi: We are the Friends of Highland Recreation Area (www.fohra.org) & are doing our darndest to keep Haven Hill as alive as we possibly can with all our volunteer hours. There is some interesting info here as well as interesting people! We would love it if some of you could come to this year’s Boy Scout snow snake races held there annually. Dates will be on our website. In August we have an olde-fashioned summer festival with olde-tyme baseball & hot dogs & tours. Our team, the Barnstormers, has a second back-up team, the Gatehouse Gang! This summer the Greenfield Village La-De-Dahs put us on THEIR schedule! Great fun is still at Goose Meadow, etc. Hope to meet you. Pam S./FOHRA

  6. Cathy Gosenca (Sheppard) says:

    I first started skiing at Teeple Hill when I was four – wood skis with lace boots and cable bindings and no poles! Don’t remember much but my parents have pictures. We then moved on to Dryden Ski Area and then on to Mt Holly. To Geoff Smith – your name and your dad’s Doc Smith sound very familiar as does Roscoe Goddard. We started at Mt. Holly in the 60’s, my high school raced there and both my father and I became members of the National Ski Patrol at Holly, my dad patrolled Thursday nights and I was on Monday nights. I live in Colorado now and this is my 60th year of skiing!

    • MILSAP says:

      Yes, Cathy, The Mt. Holly Ski Patrol has pictures of Rosco Goddard, Doc Smith and you and your dad in their scrapbook commemorating their winning the NSP Outstanding Ski Patrol award in 1970. They are right alongside pics of Dick Warden, Jack and Jim Stallings, Tim Gaffney and other pioneers of south east Michigan skiing. I remember you as Cathy Gosenca from the second time you joined the Mt. Holly Ski Patrol before you moved to Colorado.

      • Cathy Gosenca (Sheppard) says:

        Would I know your name?

      • Thad Sienkiewicz says:

        Missed ski folks at the Sno Snake Races this month! You will be surprised at the Barn work being completed with the help of an Amish construction company from The Thumb! Pam Sienkiewicz, Milford

        Sent from my iPad

        >

    • Geoff smith says:

      Cathy, I raced at my holly for my high school 1963-1965. Like you I am a Colorado resident and still at it. Hopefully we both have many more years to enjoy

      • Thad Sienkiewicz says:

        Hello! On this Saturday Docents from Greenfield Village and Edsel,s big Grosse Pointe house are coming to Haven Hill for lunch and tours. If any Teeple Hill folks could join us, it would be terrific! Around noon at the gatehouse people will start gathering. Sharing your memories of a fun time at Haven Hill would be a nice addition. Pam Sienkiewicz, Treasurer FOHRA (Friends of Highland Recreation Area)

        Sent from my iPad

        >

  7. MILSAP says:

    Submitted on 2015/03/23 by Mike at 11:39 am | In reply to Robert Guzman.
    I will never forget my first time skiing at Teeple Hill in approximately the winter of 1959-60. I had new skis from Christmas, bear trap bindings of course, and the exhilaration I experienced that day is hard to overstate. Robert, I, too, like to bicycle, having put at least 20,000 miles on the Assenmacher tandem I enjoy with my wife. I suspect that the lack of reliable snowfall in Michigan is caused by things other than overdevelopment. I relocated to the country near a small town in mid-Michigan and found much less reliable snow and ice than in the 60s, even though our area stayed relatively underdeveloped. (Copied from the About MILSAP page)

    • Thad Sienkiewicz says:

      May 9th is the next Haven Hill “Redbud Reveal” at Highland Rec if you would join us to see the restoration work facilitated by an Amish construction company! Pam S. Of the Friends of Highland Recreation Area

      Sent from my iPad

      >

  8. Stephen Kinn says:

    My Mother’s made name was Teeple. Her father had a brother, my Great Uncle, named Rob Teeple from Dearborn. He dealt in a lot of real estate transactions. I have wondered if Teeple Lake was named after him?
    But I have also seen that one of the Chippewa Indians in the first Greek town Casino venture was named Teeple. I also saw a picture of a Chippewa named Teeple in the Midland paper who looked a lot like my Uncle John Teeple. So perhaps the name goes back to a Chippewa named Teeple. Any comment?
    There is also Teeple Lake in the Highland metro park in White Lake.

    • Hello: I learned the name sequence of Teeple Lake to be first Steeple, then Teeples, and finally Teeple. The plat maps are at the Oakland County Historic Wisner Home in Pontiac.
      Pam S., Friends of Highland Recreation Area, Home of Edsel and Eleanor Ford’s famous “Haven Hill” Estate.
      Join the annual Boy Scout Sno Snake Event* at the Barn is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 31. Please visit FOHRAVOLUNTEERS.ORG for latest info.
      *of Native American origin

    • thaddeus sienkiewicz says:

      Hello Milsap! Hope you can make it to the Redbud Reveal, FOHRA’s annual spring event at Haven Hill, for updates and just to enjoy OUR Park! May 14th noonish…P.S. Treasurer, Friends of Highland Recreation Area

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