Royal Valley – Buchanan

WMR sent a comment that he used to ski at Royal Valley which later became Ski World in Buchanan in the late 70’s and early 80’s. He sent a link to a Chicago Tribune snow report listing the Ski World area and its address. The address puts it on the only hill near town, just west of the river, uphill from the trailer park. The lodge was apparently at the top. The satellite view doesn’t show anything like the remains of slopes.

On Dec. 30, 1976, The Cass City Chronicle printed the AAA Michigan 1977 Guide to Michigan’s 58 Ski Areas which listed Royal Valley with 2 bars (T-bar or J-bar), 2 ropes and 12 runs. That’s 1 slope up and 5 ropes down from their report on Jan. 9, 1965.

If you have any information about skiing at Ski World or Royal Valley, please leave a comment or send us a message via the instructions on the About MILSAP page.

55 Responses to Royal Valley – Buchanan

  1. Peter Bigford says:

    I worked there as a ski instructor when I was in High School.

    It was owned by Albert Rottman (sp?) who immigrated from Germany.
    Very small, mostly rope tows, one chair in the the back of the area.
    Traffic was mostly school groups from the South Bend area.
    Fondest memory was building a kicker on the slope right behind the Lodge – you literally were in the air from the kicker to the bottom of the slope – you had to make sure you didn’t fly to far and land on the flat.
    Worked for Al during the summer also – clearing trails by hand.

    Peter Bigford

  2. Kitty Martin says:

    I was an instructor and on the ski patrol. Then in the mid ’70’s i was in charge of the ski school. Instructors were local, from Notre Dame and from Andrews University. We taught a lot of local schools as well as busloads of park districts from the Chicago suburbs and church groups from Indiana. It was a great time and we always seemed to have plenty of snow. Owned by Al and Sybil Rottman. Their daughter Sharon took over some of the responsibility as I was leaving the state. Great lodge on the top of the slopes with windows all around. I just remember trying to get a running start at the bottom of the hill up to the parking lot. Good times!

    • Alan "Lucky" Lemke says:

      I was the Ski School Director at Royal Valley from 1980-82. I remember you Kitty, especially your hat. Sometime after I left, Royal Valley became Ski World. I returned to the Buchanan area in 1993 and checked out the ski area. It was not operating and the lifts must have been sold off. I returned to Wisconsin and taught at Majestic, Alpine Valley, and Cascade Mtn. I remember the Quad chairlift that operated in a valley with loading at the bottom and unloading at the top of the two facing hills. There were some X/C runs as well. Good snow conditions, but after two successive short seasons, I moved on.

    • David Siekman says:

      I would Love to see some of the group once again. So many great memories!
      I was just a pup then

  3. Katie Lawson says:

    I’m the daughter of one of the former ski patrollers. My brother and I learned to ski here at ages 3 and 5, and we eventually joined our mom there every Friday night and frequent weekends when she patrolled. We hung out with the other patrollers’s kids-so much fun! The place was not huge-I think there were 3 rope tows, 1 double chair, 1 quad and a T-bar. They did races nearly every weekend. A lot of the traffic was from nearby schools. The main lodge was pretty nice too, with a giant fire always going in the middle. It was a fun and different way to spend Friday nights and weekends in middle school. Lots of great memories!

  4. Christoph says:

    Royal Valley, WOW!!! Skied there regularly with my family in the early 80s and on park district bus trips for the day with school friends etc…Pretty much cut my teeth skiing at R.V. Memories of loading up the family truckster (a 1975 Cadillac Coupe de Ville) with skis snacks and gear, leaving in heavy snowstorms from 30 mi south of Chicago to get up there on a Saturday morning. Remember the aforementioned kicker jump too! And skiing the steep, mogulled and wooded run below the lodge. Took my first love there at about age14…threw Mom n Dad under the bus by leaving “the rookie” behind to pursue my own challenges! Selfish, but true. Now I spend most of my ski time teaching my 3 yr. old daughter to ski at Boyne Mtn.(next year will be Big Sky)…my only hope is she gets as many great memories and experiences out of skiing as I have! And it all started at Royal Valley! Oh, by the way, I still have my R.V. patch sewn on a jacket along with many other ski areas I skied as a kid! God blessed us with these hills, this snow, now get out there and DO IT! As Ella would say,”lets go schuss Daddy!”

    • MILSAP says:

      If you could send us a photo of that old Royal Valley patch, we would appreciate it, Christoph.

      • Carrie says:

        I am gonna look talk to Christoph about that coat… we are going skiing in a few weeks… maybe he still has it… Hoping Ella will wear it with pride soon…

      • Carrie says:

        how do i send photos? i have a few

      • MILSAP says:

        Carrie, follow the instructions on the About MILSAP page. Sorry to be so long in replying, this is my busy time–skiing 5 days or more each week.

    • Carrie says:

      Wow.. I was thinking this sounded just like my brother…. and when I saw the last sentence… I knew it was him… Love you brother.., I took my first “Big Jump” under the lodge. I was so scared… I was about an 8 year old girl on WAY TOO LONG Rossignals, and you yelled “you can do it” AND I DID…. I still do.. and Ella will too… Let’s Go Schuss Brother… and bring that neice of mine along… Here we come!

  5. Mike says:

    Came across your site by accident! What fond memories I have driving up to Royal Valley… You made me remember something though.. I still have an original glass mug from there with the logo on the front! We used to go there as a group from Calumet City, IL.. It was close enough to get to and back easily in a day…

    Just as a side note, the other place we would hit occasionally was by Michigan city, and one of the old chair lifts up until this year was still visible just off the Indiana Toll Road by Forrester Rd. Anyone remember what this site was called?


    • Mike says:

      Yes, it was Ski Valley, located in LaPorte Indiana. So many fond memories if that place. The lift you could see from the toll road was a T-bar and rarely ever operated.

    • Dale Price says:

      I taught there in from 1983-1986. I loved the atmosphere, although small, quite quaint and always fun. Miss it!

    • Dale Price says:

      Having grown up in nearby Galien I was a frequent visitor and an instructor for a couple years in the early 80’s. Wonderful memories of a great place. Too bad it couldn’t last.


  6. Mike says:

    No sooner spoken…. It was called “Ski Valley”

  7. danny jones andrews academy 1985' says:

    i learned to ski there while attending the Village Elementary School in Berrien Springs, Mi. BIG FUN!!

    • Scott Knight says:

      I skied there with you on many occasions! Good times.

      We went there as a family for years before I went with the school groups. So, I probably first went there sometime in 1972 or 1973. Can’t remember going once we went to the academy (1981).

  8. Ryan says:

    I was able to find what’s left of the old slopes using Bing Maps “Bird’s Eye View” feature. It seems to give a much better view than Google Maps.

    In the center of this image you can see the main slope (with the curve) and a straight slope to the left of the main slope (separated by a group of trees). I remember going down that straight slope as a beginner and nearly flying into the woods at the bottom of the hill. The building you see in the bottom-left corner of this image is the old lodge:

    In the bottom of this image is the same lodge building as seen in the above link. Directly to the right of the lodge is a slope that I believe was called the “Bowl” or something similar. This slope seems to have trees and possibly a pond at the bottom of it now. Also seen in this picture is the larger building at the top of this image, which where one rented skis. Small slope to the right of it was the bunny hill (it looks like there is a swimming pool at the bottom of the bunny hill now).

    The Bing birds eye views are really fun to move around to get a feel for this site. It seems just like yesterday.

  9. I have several fond memories of Royal Valley. I grew up in Munster, IN, about 1 1/2 hours southeast of Royal Valley. My high school buddies and I used to ski and (later) snowboard there in the late 1980s, among other places in southern MI and WI. My fondest memory of Royal Valley was the last time I was there. It must have been late March or early April 1989. It was a warm day, end of the season. We had called ahead to see if they were open, and they said they were. When my three friends and I got there, nobody was at the ticket window or anywhere else as far as we could tell. No lifts were running. Still, there was snow on the trails and sun in the sky, so we slapped on our snowboards and rode down to the half-pipe, figuring that we would just hike it. We rode and hiked the pipe for a good hour or so until someone came down. We thought that we were in trouble. Instead, the guy told us that we were welcome to ride and that he would turn on the chair lift for us but that nobody would be there to run the lift. We actually rode the lift with no operator! And for free! How cool was that? I remember that day incredibly vividly. That memory still makes me smile.

  10. Tom says:

    Ran across this site…very cool!
    I met Al & Sybil at the Chicago ski show & I took over the ski school (i operated other successful schools & we were brought in to increase the group business) my director there was Alan “lucky” Lemke….some may remember him. I believe it was around 1980…will check it out.
    Royal Valley’s outcome was the same as many small areas that were hit with rising insurance and operating costs. They also owned the nearby trailer park. Their daughter, Sharon, had a disco in the lodge basement.
    I will post more and some pictures.

  11. Chris Baker says:

    My father was on the ski patrol from ’72 to’74. We skied at Royal a couple times a year. I heard some stories from my dad about some crazy wipe outs. I broke my leg in ’73 while skiing there. My dad was the first one there. I think he was more scared than I was. Ahhh the memories of that broken leg. Ski equipment has come a long way since then. 40 years have passed since then, so have most of the people associated with that era in my life, but I’ll always remember Royal valley. I know I had many good times.

  12. Rik says:

    Heck yes, ski world , royal valley. We would find jumps and just sky off of them. We were all from Merrillville and would go every weekend and look foward to the hour drive!!!! Miss it a lot !!!

  13. Tater says:

    I grew up in South Bend and skied at Royal Valley all through high school. It was really a nice little ski area. Sometime in the mid 70s they replaced the T-bar that served the back area with a chairlift that also brought skiers from the back area up to the lodge. I remember tthe owners’ daughter Sharon quite well. She was a stunningly pretty girl – the consensus amongst the guys I skied with was that Sharon looked just like Olivia Newton-John. We always tried to show off when she was around but, not surprisingly, she could out-ski all of us. I ended up going to college with here and she married another college classmate who went on to become a lawyer.

    I started skiing Swiss Valley after they increased their vertical by building up one of their back hills and then added a couple of chairlifts. I use to avoid Swiss Valley because that’s where all the Elkhart kids skied – they all seemed to ski on Head or Hart skis with Scott boots and Moog bindings (the goofiest plate bindings ever).

  14. Rob Logay says:

    My family and I used to go there in the mid 80s! It was killer! Where is it located exactly and is anything going to ever happen there again?

  15. Jerry Kucera says:

    I was in the 12th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Army Reserve unit From 74 -83. We used to do our ski training at Royal Valley because it was close to our Team Commander’s house in Baroda. We always took our Wives/Girlfriends.. A lot of fond memories. I remember one time it was 19 below Zero. The women stayed inside at the lodge while we skied. We would also go when we weren’t training. It was just a fun place to go. Went back on Active duty in 83, and haven’t been there since. When we moved to Michigan in 01 I couldn’t find out anything about the place. I don’t remember any T-bars. We always rd a chair. I think it was a triple, but cant remember for sure.

  16. Betsy says:

    I learned to ski at Royal Valley. My dad was on ski patrol and had me on ski’d at 18 months old. I skied there from 1981 till they closed. My dad then patrolled at Mt. Wawasee and now Swiss Valley. I loved skiing at RV. As a kid it seemed huge, I wonder what my adult perception would be! I still remember skiing Nastar on the “straight run on the left. I was always afraid I would end up in the creek at the bottom of the hill! Good memories.

  17. Glen says:

    I was looking to see what became of Royal Valley / Ski World and came across this site. Looks like it’s just a memory now. I would have gone up there this weekend or next if it was still there. I loved that place. We had a house in Niles Michigan and my family would ski at Royal Valley almost every weekend. My parents had me on those slopes when I was 5 years old. We used to play tag with our extended family and I hit a tree. The whole place found out about it. Later that day, after my cousin tagged me, he asked if I had heard about the kid who hit the tree. I said that was me :D. Remember Jupiter Bowl? I absolutely hated that thing! The tow-rope on that was terrible, especially at the top. I usually fell to the side and climbed up. Jupiter Bowl was on the other side of the lodge. The chairlift through the woods dropped you off on one side and the other was the horrible tow-rope. Oh yeah! Challenger was the hill off to the right of main chair lift. The slow winding hill down to the main chair (from the lodge I think) was called Timber Line Trail. I think the rental skis used to have cords that would tie around your ankles. Who’s bright idea was that? 😀 I think my mom still has a Royal Valley patch if anyone wants to see a photo? It’s of a Swiss type wooden house and Royal Valley is in a script type-face that always reminded me of Swiss Miss hot chocolate. Thanks for having this on the web. I’m going to let my family know about it.

  18. Joel says:

    We had a place in Niles and skiied there all the time growing up, from 1978 to maybe 1984. My brother and I are trying to remember run names:
    – Challenger
    – Timberline Train
    – Jupiter Bowl

  19. Larry Dunn says:

    I lived in LaPorte and went to Royal Valley with friends in the late 70s and early 80s. Love the Ski Valley reference also.

    Some of my favorite memories.
    *That large round fire place/pit with the big copper hood over it. Heck I think 30 or more people could sit around it and warm their gloves and themselves.
    *A friend falling off the chair about 10 feet from the loading area, landing in deep snow.
    *Wearing new jeans, getting them soaked and leaving a blue streak down the snow where I slid.
    *Friend would undo my binding and my ski would hang from the strap until I reattached it before reaching the top.
    *Snow falling at night while on the lift with music playing over the ski area.

  20. Randy Wlodarski says:

    Belong to the IUSB Ski Club around 1975 – 1976 our group would go up there every Thursday. We all learned to ski there, using a method called GLM I think. You started with short ski’s and each week moved to a longer set. Loved the lodge, and sitting by fire after skiing. I still think about those friends and fun we had. Hard to believe it’s been almost 40 years ago.

  21. Pat Schutte says:

    Royal Valley was purchased (within the past decade) by professional motocross great Mike LaRocco. Several of the old snowmaking towers from Royal Valley can now be found at nearby RedBud MX, both at the entrance to the track (wrapped in signage) and overlooking the start/1st turn for the TV cameras. Had a chance to ride around the property with Mike and you could see where the old runs, albeit grown over, were cut. Enjoyed reading everyone’s accounts above!

  22. rob says:

    I grew up 3 miles from Royal Valley and it was my main hang out throughout middle and high school. I have skied all over the west and haven’t found a lodge that I like as much as that one, with the big round fireplace, windows and arcade. Learned to ski there in the 70’s in leather boots and plate bindings, staying out until my jeans were frozen solid and eyelashes crusted over with ice, and then thawing out by the fire. Great memories, I wish the place could have stayed open.

  23. David Siekman says:

    Was a national ski patrol there do 13 years
    Father was patrol director( still living)
    Had great times and many fond memories!
    Kind of a lost treasure in Buchanan
    Al Rottman…Many funny stories of an amazing man.
    Sure remember you Kitty, and you Lucky, and Pierre who really taught me to ski

    • Bill Panzica says:

      Hi Dave, we sure had good times on that patrol. I remember spending most my winters up there skiing and goofing off on those slopes. We were all part of the Big 3 – Royal Rut, Swiss Dish and Bendix Bump. Tell your dad I said HI

    • Eric J Peterson says:

      My dad, Bill Peterson, was also on the ski patrol. We learned to ski there. Great times. Great lodge!

      • David Siekman says:

        I had forgotten about Pierre. He really taught me to ski the next level also.
        It would be great to find some of these people. Many of them though, like Pierre, I have no clue of a last name

  24. Bob says:

    As a freshman at Notre Dame, I signed up for a “learn to ski” program to fulfill the Phys Ed requirement that existed at that time. They would bus us from South Bend to Royal Valley every Tuesday and Thursday for 8 weeks where we learned the GLM method. That was Jan – March of 1979.

    • Jimmy says:

      I have old wooden flat medic or “body” board used by ski patrol. It says Royal Valley on the “foot” end. I thought it was cool but maybe someone on this thread would think so as well.

    • Jimmy says:

      This was the only website I could find about Royal Valley. All you guys have some great stories and I liked them all. It’s cool to know some background on the origin of the board I have. ^

  25. David Siekman says:

    It would be great to see a picture

  26. David Siekman says:

    I remember that you were just a little rascal back then. That has certainly been a while ago. It would be interesting to see some old memorabilia from Royal Valley

  27. David Siekman says:

    Great to hear from you. We did have some great times and colorful memories! Are you still around here. Just ran into Bill Perkins on a bicycle. We talked awhile. Just realized he is a neighbor.
    Sure would be fun to try to find phone numbers and try to get some of us together.

  28. Jason says:

    Midnight Madness!

  29. Ethan says:

    The slope names as recalled by my family:
    Bunny hill
    Jester’s Bowl
    Wedeler (name of a German football team)
    Timberline Trail
    King’s Dive
    My family is from Buchanan. My parents still live a couple miles from there. My Mother worked at Royal Valley in the 70’s and taught us to ski there. She recounted how the owners’ giant and lovable St. Bernard used to sneak up and snatch people’s sandwiches while they were getting drinks. He’d go hide under a table and eat it! We were lucky to be able to enjoy such a unique place. My favorite Xmas present ever was a pair of skis to use at Royal Valley.

  30. Jeff says:

    I remember that St. Bernard. It had a small whiskey barrel on its collar. I think we skied there about every Friday night in the late 70’s.

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