Traverse City Record-Eagle

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Do you have a Hickory Hills story?

Do you or your family have stories to share or memorabilia (photos, patches, racing equipment or vintage apparel specific to Hickory or the Grand Traverse Ski Club) regarding your experiences at Hickory Hills? The authors of an upcoming book on the history of the ski area would love to hear from you.

Help out by posting some of your own memories here for all to see by leaving a comment below. ‘Meaningful history,' as defined by you, can be something from 1951, 1965, 1980 or last week. Please include contact information so that the authors can contact you for further information if necessary.

Also, the authors are seeking donations and sponsorships for the project to allow for 100 percent of the proceeds to be given back to Hickory Hills. If you are interested in a sponsorship or donation, please contact Laura Ness at lauraness@charter.net.

The book will be published by Hickory Hill’s 60th anniversary in November 2011. For more on the authors and the book, pick up a copy of the Fall edition of Reflections magazine.

  • Ron Korn

    Two words duct tape.

  • Peter Haase

    Mid-50′s … buy a little patch for what – a dollar? – to sew on the sleeve of your nylon slip-over hooded parka. Ski all year. NO designer anything! Suicide bindings. Mr. Tracy ??? from the Parks and Rec. Dep’t who kept things going and could discuss philosophy too! Watching my Dad in his late 30′s learning to ski – nobody else’s did that! Finally – being way up top on a clear snowy night and looking down over the town – “Wonderland by Night”

  • Meg Godfrey

    Some of my favorite memories at Hickory Hills….

    -On Sunday mornings our parents would allow us to wear our ski clothing to church so we could make it to Sunday races on time at Hickory Hills.

    -Always having butterflies when I would hear Dr. Carl Madion saying, “racer, racer go when ready.”

    -Receiving a sucker at the bottom of the hill after missing EVERY gate!

  • Gregg Smith

    I grew up skiing one of the North’s other community owned ski hills that Hickory Hills was responsible, in part, for spawning. Boyne City’s “Avalanche” was similar in many respects, and even followed Hickory by being the first public ski hill north of Traverse City to have lighted night skiing. That was in the mid-50′s, and we even had a lighted cross atop the main slope. Later, a pomalift was installed, and we stopped wearing out the custom leather mitts made by local sports shop owner Zuke Sheaffer. One thing all of us in Boyne were painfully aware of was the quality of ski racer that Hickory Hills produced. A prolific training/feeder hill for some of the North’s outstaniding skiers, it was rare when Traverse City High School skiers weren’t leading state standings and medal counts. And though Boyne produced some fine skiers: the likes of Olympian Cary Adgate and the unheralded Morrie Hobbs, Hickory’s progeny reads like a ‘who’s who’ list of Northwest Michigan ski royalty.

    Perhaps heading the list is long time Traverse City ski coach Jerry Stanek. To this day, skiers who learned their craft at Hickory, unanimously credit Stanek for the outstanding local high school race coaching tradition. And though others might have gotten credit for it, it was Stanek who moulded and shaped the teams.

    Am hoping to see some of his ski exploits covered in the forthcoming Hickory Hills history book. Fixing his place in this fascinating ski history is long overdue.

  • Collin Salisbury

    My first skiing experience, ever, was at Hick in 1977; I was 3 years old. I turn 36 this week and live 1200 miles away now; however, when I hear the words: Hickory Hills, memories of ‘firsts” become the dominant images in my mind. First falls, first jumps, first “helicopters”, first races down Birch, first strange mixtures of pop called “suicides”, first kisses, first full moons, first tow-rope rides, and so many more firsts that this could become an obnoxious litany, if it is not already. We lived on Monroe Street and most of the boys that I began skiing with way back when remain close friends. The Mohrhardt boys, the Sirrine boys, the Smith boys, and the list could go on, but ultimately, Hickory was a place that we all learned to love skiing and each other. Money didn’t matter there, or what your parents did for a living, but what mattered most was your jump-making abilities and teamwork. We were like a mini-Marine recon unit using our skills of subterfuge to foil the likes of Mr. Burnie Fleetwood and his enforcement of the “no jump-making” policy. I would bet if you ask some of those boys from that era what they recall the most, their response would be the cat and mouse game we played on Saturday afternoons, or any week-day evening. Burnie was a worthy adversary and though we tried to subvert his authority, often, we had immense respect for him too. I skied there for 20 years. I raced there, I coached there and got muddy in the parking lot during February thaws. I live in Helena, Montana now, and have two young kids. I first moved here because I love to ski and last winter I introduced my kids to that love. I think I need some tissue, thanks Hick!

  • Beth Williams

    Glove guards, rope tows, pizza and feet up on the fire pit.

  • Jeff Owens

    My best memories of Hickory are Sunday morning races wearing jeans and my new Descente coat. Unfortuanalty it didnt make me fast enough to beat Tyler Blumenfield and Mike Wells.

    There is no better place anywhere for kids to ski!! What amazing freedom for kids to ski safely all day, you can take a thousand runs with no lines and no chairlift banging the back of your knees when your a kid. I hope it never change’s.

  • Julie Lane Leep

    Yep, Still have quite a few of the old Season Membership patches, from early 70′s. It’s a very colorful collection, changing from year to year so no one would try using the same patch, I guess.
    I started skiing before I was actually tall enough to reach the rope tows, so I rode up between one of my brother’s legs or their friends. At 4, maybe 5 years old, I was entered in my first GTSC race. It was about 1969 or 1970, and the GTSC cloth bib (#110) I was given, (like this cloth racing bib was the neatest and coolest thing I thought) – still hangs on the wall 40 years later, in my home in Bozeman Montana. It’s in the same condition. The numbers on those bibs are big enough to been seen over at Immaculate!
    I don’t think one understands what determination really is, unless they’ve tried holding on to a frozen tow rope on a cold night, desperately trying to just get the additional 20 feet needed to the top.
    Hickory Hills brought a lot of fun into my life; through life long friendships, the racing clinics, the consistant competition racing which was just a ton of fun, and haning in the lodge when it was too cold to be outside.
    Here’s to my all my co-ski friends that I skied and raced with at Hickory between during the 70′s. It was the best place to spend time growing up during in the winters! Ski On -

  • Dawn Shipman Abraham

    I skied cross country with Vojin Baic as coach during the early 70′s, and with Ivanka on the Varsity team on for 3 years on scholarship at NMU eventually. We often practiced at Hickory Hills as a group-Milan Baic, Dave Sutton, Eric Okerstrom, Kay Richards, Diane Culp, Nick Baic, and others.
    During 1972, 73, 74, I worked at Hickory Hills for the City of TC, I rented out skiis in the lodge, the boots had tie up laces, leather, they were that old. Sometimes I even sat up in the little hut on the hill having to shut off the tow rope if someone fell. It wasn’t terribly busy with skiers like Holiday Hills was, but there was enough activity to keep us busy.
    There wasn’t much in the way of food for the skiers, I do remember an old coffeepot with hot water to make the packets of hot chocolate in styrofoam cups, that is about all there was for warming up.
    I did visit recently with my daughter, as we were in a mountain bike race there for the Cherry Festival a few years back, and the memories came pouring in.

  • Don Sudekum

    The children in ourfamily grewup learning to ski from 5 yrs on Missaukee Mountain North of Lake City to Hickory Hill when our parent moved to the Boardman neighborhood on ’68. We looked forward with lighted skiing at Hickory. I don’t remeber the names of the hills, but there was one that came down right in front of the lodge, pretty steep, full of moguls. The 68-69 TC Central HS band had a slidding/skiing party then. Toward the end of the alloted time the drum major and others became bored. He was the 1st down on the Large coal shovel belonging to the park……….he made it almost to the bottom before loosing control….the rest were able to stiop It took the ambulance about 20 min……treated for a number of broken ribs and a strained ack. He was back week later draggin the top of the large bLACK AND GOLD band hat on the ground as he leaned back leading the band. there is still no better place for families than hickory.

  • abbie sirrine

    i have so many memories of hickory hills. i started skiing when i was 2. my dad, bill, would ski with me and hold me up on the bunny hill. i am not sure if i loved it or not, but i did know that i wanted to do everything that my brothers did. john and rob were great skiers and even better rule breakers. my most memorable day at hickory was one of the last days of the season and my parents let us ski in shorts. it was fantastic!

  • Deb Tatch Julian

    Memories of Hickory Hills ~ it was such a huge part of every Winter after buying my cousin’s ski’s for $50.00 in the 7th grade. I grew up in the 400 block of Elmwood and my two best friends who were sisters, Pam and Vickie Courturier lived at the base of Randolph Street and Madison. My Dad would only give us a ride one way up to Hickory….the other leg we had to use our legs….and walk with our boots on carrying our skiis all the way. I can tell you we pretty much lived at Hickory. We’d be there just as soon as we got out of school every weeknight until it closed and then every Saturday and Sunday. We weren’t on the ski team but were pretty great skiier’s all the same. I always remember seeing Vojan Baic, Milan and Ivanka and the cross-country crew up there nightly practicing and you could always hear Vojan’s voice coaching them on! I might add that Ivanka actually saved my life on the tennis courts near West End one summer day but that’s another story in and of itself. I loved the burgers and french fries and hanging out in the lodge with my feet up by the fire….but not for long because we’d be out on the slopes as soon as we were warm enough!

    I also was a Brownie and Girl Scout and remember going with Mrs. Brown and our troup there to camp out and literally ‘sing around the campfire’. in the summer months.

    I have loved taking my son there and boy do those tow ropes ever get your arms and body in shape quick! And I have still spotted some of the Baic’s and a Lockwood or two since I’ve gone back!

  • Kena Beard

    I am not currently living in TC area but have a lot of good memories of Hickory Hills….I used to work at MMC and volunteered as a ski patroller when my son was 8 through 10 yo. It was a blast to do, it is so close to the hospital and it was where my son learned to snowboard which he continues to enjoy to utmost now as well. Also, remember all the duct tape on gloves ( see Rob Korn, above ). It is a great place and the views from top of hills are awesome…love it!!

  • Karen Eitzen Rennie

    Marrying Jim Rennie, meant hearing Hickory Hills ski stories. Skiing is our families big connection. Myself growing up at Sugar Loaf and Jim growing up at Hickory in our backyards, we both loved skiing!! My own experience with HIckory did not take place until the winter 1997. The Merrill Invitational, with all the “old” guys, was one of the best memories and intro to Hickory I could have. Two and a half year old Peter between my legs, and one year old Christina in a backpack, I conquered the rope tows, while Jim skied old Pete and challenged more of the old friends of ski days out of the 60′s! The sun shone, while the spectators sat outside the warming hut, enjoying the the flashbacks of fun and family. Family members of the Rennie, Ameel, Bensley, Ligan, Merrill, Nixon, Potvin, Gibson, Dorman, and so many other other Traverse City ski families, were joined together at the bottom of the race course.
    Later years, gave us so much fun, with both Peter and Christina racing on the Hickory HIlls slopes and competing in the fun Grand Traverse Invitationals!
    Families of Hickory are wonderful, And they have been for 60 years!

  • Enrico Schaefer

    I have three boys 8, 10 and 12. I indoctrinated them so much on Hickory Hills that they now refuse to ski anywhere else in Michigan. Not Crystal. Not Nubs. Not Boyne. They believe chairlifts are for wimps, and that they are ‘rope tow tough.”

    We received an email from Catherine Dancer indicating that a 5 week old puppy had been abandon in the woods around Hickory Hills. We asked Catherine if we could bring her to our house to check her out. Of course, we fell in love with her. And of course we named her “Hickory” … she comes to Hickory Hills all the time to watch the boys ski and go backcountry with me on my telemark skis. She is a celebrity of sorts. Can provide pics at your request…

    Hi Karen!

  • Jack R. Keyes

    My grandfather was Isaac “Lud” Garthe and My Uncle was Gerald “Buck” Williams, these were the men who because they grew up skiing at the public ski hill at Norhtport thought that it would be a good idea to create a public facility at Hickory Hills, some property that my grandfather owned. Uncle Buck committed the city parks and recreation department, who he was the manager of, to run the facility. So in 1951 my parents took me to Trude Hardware on Front street and bought me my first pair of skiis, I think the were Lund Wooden Skiis with Bear trap bindings. The boots were leather and very stiff, but if you soaked them in water and wore them until they were dry they formed to your feet. The poles were made of cane with big baskets.
    On the first opening day of at Mount Hickory I was there. I was a four year old with some Norwegian heritage so this should be a piece of cake. Grandfather took me over and introduced me to my instructor Pepe Teichner. I was excited and scared at the same time. Pepe spoke english with a thick accent really loud. I think he used to teach army troops during WW II and came to the US because the Germans put a price on his head. He was my first drill sergent and this was the first Record Eagle free Ski school. I learned how to properly ride a rope tow. As the beginner slope rope tow was on my right I placed both poles on my left wrist stood next to the rope, gently grabbed the rope with my right hand letting the rope slide though my hand the reaching behind with my left had and squeezing the rope this rocketed me as my skiis split onto my face and as didn’t let go I was pulled up the hill lying down until Pepe screamed at me to let go. You see they didn’t have safety gates in those days or rope tow attendants so it could have been deadly not to let go. I laid there in the snow with the rope sliding over my body until Pepe pulled me out from under it and gave me my first lesson on how to properly get back on my skiis, do a gate turn, and slide down the hill. I used the butt in the snow method to stop, as I had not learned how to do the snowplow yet. I was wet and cold so after the lesson I went into the lodge and met Tracy, the lodge custodian and pretty soon my boots and mittens were steaming next to a warm fire.
    Thanks to my Grandfather skiing became a life long passion and at different times a profession. I skied at Hickory three to seven days a week until I twenty years of age and a professional ski patrolman for the city. Later I took Groups there when I was president of the Grand Valley State Ski club and when I was an examiner for the Professional Ski Instrustors Association. I was a minor member of the ski team in the fifties. I think that team went over a decade without loosing a meet. I you are missing some of the history I probably have in in my head somewhere so e-mail me or call me. I’m in the book. Jack Keyes.

  • Joe

    In the early-80s, whenever school was cancelled because of treacherous road conditions, my grade school friends and I would beg one of our parents to drive us to Hickory for a day of skiing. They usually succumbed to our relentless begging.

  • John McMillin

    Thru the 50s and the 60s almost every weekday night and every weekend, usually one of the last ones off the slopes at night. Way to many memories to tell. All of those us who were there will never forget. Hello to all the friends that were made at Hickory. Can anyone remember the names of all the runs, and do we all remember all the trails.

  • Roger Popa

    The one and only time i have ever played Disc Golf was at Hickory Hills. I went with two friends to try it and ended up huffing and puffing sweating up the hills which turned into a real blessing as shortly after i went to the ER at Munson Hospital to get checked out and was told i have Leukemia. If it wasn’t for those tow friends and for the steep hills at Hickory Hills i might not have been checked out and i might not be here today.

  • Erin O’Connell

    Like so many other children of Northern Michigan, Hickory Hills fueled a life-long love of alpine skiing for me. How many other towns can boast a city-run resort within the limits of town? This place made it easy for people to learn to ski, and parents could turn their children loose without worry or danger. I have fond memories of night skiing with childhood friends, chasing one another lap after lap into the woods, around trees, and in and out of the shadows of the overhead lights. In those days, my biggest frustration was the leather tow rope guards that we would wear over our gloves. After a time, they would mold to the shape of the rope itself, and our small hands would follow their their contour and freeze into small crescents that could never gain purchase on the rope itself. Then gravity would pull you backwards, as you struggled to find strength in your hands and arms to hang onto those ropes up those long hills!

  • Erin O'Connell

    Like so many other children of Northern Michigan, Hickory Hills fueled a life-long love of alpine skiing for me. How many other towns can boast a city-run resort within the limits of town? This place made it easy for people to learn to ski, and parents could turn their children loose without worry or danger. I have fond memories of night skiing with childhood friends, chasing one another lap after lap into the woods, around trees, and in and out of the shadows of the overhead lights. In those days, my biggest frustration was the leather tow rope guards that we would wear over our gloves. After a time, they would mold to the shape of the rope itself, and our small hands would follow their their contour and freeze into small crescents that could never gain purchase on the rope itself. Then gravity would pull you backwards, as you struggled to find strength in your hands and arms to hang onto those ropes up those long hills!

  • Debra {Merchant} Thomack

    My (maternal) grandfather was Oscar “Swede” Johnson, one of the original founders of Hickory Hills. The run “Swede” is named after him. My sister and I skiied at HIckory with our cousins growing up. Every weekend was spent at the Lodge. Some of us skiied, and some of us enjoyed the lodge, where the food and fire were! We took my father skiing one weekend, and still laugh at how he flew straight down Birch, and into the trees below. Whenver I think of that day, I can literally still hear the clink of hill poles bending, and see the rips in his clothes, as he emerged from the snowbank. Ah….such wonderful memories. Thanks Grandpa Swede!

  • Debra {Merchant} Thomack

    My (maternal) grandfather was Oscar “Swede” Johnson, one of the original founders of Hickory Hills. The run “Swede” is named after him. My sister and I skiied at HIckory with our cousins growing up. Every weekend was spent at the Lodge. Some of us skiied, and some of us enjoyed the lodge, where the food and fire were! We took my father skiing one weekend, and still laugh at how he flew straight down Birch, and into the trees below. Whenver I think of that day, I can literally still hear the clink of hill poles bending, and see the rips in his clothes, as he emerged from the snowbank. Ah….such wonderful memories. Thanks Grandpa Swede!

  • Lynn T. Rayle, Jr

    From the Blog replies, it is obvious that this article brought back a lot of fond memories of Hickory Hills. I wasn’t there at the opening, like Jack Keyes, but started my recreational skiing at Hickory a few years later. I too bought skis at Trude Hardware and spent as many days and nights as possible taking advantage of the free skiing.

    Some clarifications of what is in the article. CIBO Hill was a little further north than described in the article. It was on the hill behind what I believe is now the closed Ground Round restaurant. That area had been cleared when fill dirt was removed to reroute US-31 across the swampy ground near there in the late 40’s. I think I heard that the city originally leased the land at Hickory Hills. Jack Keyes could probably shed light on that since it was on his grandfather’s property. The people in the picture at the opening are mislabeled. I know that John Norton is the gentleman furthest to the right. I worked with him building the road on Wayne hill and attended high school with his daughter Mary. The firm he founded is the current Gourdie-Fraser.

    The pictures bring back a lot of memories. The night picture shows the steep Pete run on the left that took me a few years to be brave enough to ski down. It had the fasted rope tow and I would wear out a pair of leather gloves a year using it. You would wrap your fingers around the rope and squeeze, and when it finally grabbed, or the splice came by, it would almost take your arm off. I remember one cold night in the 50’s, when there were only a handful of us skiing because the temperature was below zero. There were no lines for the tows, so we skied all evening without many breaks. On the way home, I had this severe burning of my ears, and I learned about frostbite.

    The picture from the top of Swede is also memorable, as I remember when it was added. In the background is what is now Hickory Meadows Park which was part of Incochee Farm where I grew up. It is great that the community has stepped up and preserved it as a park. I do remember skiing to Hickory once from my home on Ramsdell Rd.

    I have lived in many places since I left Traverse City, but now realize how lucky I was to grow up in place where there were community leaders who saw fit to provide free skiing, ice skating, beaches and a youth center.

  • Lynn T. Rayle, Jr

    From the Blog replies, it is obvious that this article brought back a lot of fond memories of Hickory Hills. I wasn’t there at the opening, like Jack Keyes, but started my recreational skiing at Hickory a few years later. I too bought skis at Trude Hardware and spent as many days and nights as possible taking advantage of the free skiing.
    Some clarifications of what is in the article. CIBO Hill was a little further north than described in the article. It was on the hill behind what I believe is now the closed Ground Round restaurant. That area had been cleared when fill dirt was removed to reroute US-31 across the swampy ground near there in the late 40’s. I think I heard that the city originally leased the land at Hickory Hills. Jack Keyes could probably shed light on that since it was on his grandfather’s property. The people in the picture at the opening are mislabeled. I know that John Norton is the gentleman furthest to the right. I worked with him building the road on Wayne hill and attended high school with his daughter Mary. The firm he founded is the current Gourdie-Fraser.
    The pictures bring back a lot of memories. The night picture shows the steep Pete run on the left that took me a few years to be brave enough to ski down. It had the fasted rope tow and I would wear out a pair of leather gloves a year using it. You would wrap your fingers around the rope and squeeze, and when it finally grabbed, or the splice came by, it would almost take your arm off. I remember one cold night in the 50’s, when there were only a handful of us skiing because the temperature was below zero. There were no lines for the tows, so we skied all evening without many breaks. On the way home, I had this severe burning of my ears, and I learned about frostbite.
    The picture from the top of Swede is also memorable, as I remember when it was added. In the background is what is now Hickory Meadows Park which was part of Incochee Farm where I grew up. It is great that the community has stepped up and preserved it as a park. I do remember skiing to Hickory once from my home on Ramsdell Rd.
    I have lived in many places since I left Traverse City, but now realize how lucky I was to grow up in place where there were community leaders who saw fit to provide free skiing, ice skating, beaches and a youth center.

    • David Syftestad

      @ Lynn T. Rayle, Jr. I am searching for your address as a former USS Uhlmann officer.

      David Syftestad, davesv@gmail.com

  • Mary Wagamon

    Joining the long list of broken leg – Hall of Fame! (1953) The warm fire inside the lodge. Learning to hang on to the steep rope tow – no matter what the person ahead did to knock you off! Lots of snow – cold dark evenings.

  • Mary Wagamon

    Joining the long list of broken leg – Hall of Fame! (1953) The warm fire inside the lodge. Learning to hang on to the steep rope tow – no matter what the person ahead did to knock you off! Lots of snow – cold dark evenings.

  • Mary Wagamon

    P.S. Long skiis! (no edges) bamboo poles, first kiss! Tons of fun…..and my children now ski instructors!!! A marvelous experience – Hickory Hills.

  • Mary Wagamon

    P.S. Long skiis! (no edges) bamboo poles, first kiss! Tons of fun…..and my children now ski instructors!!! A marvelous experience – Hickory Hills.

  • lil' johnny lane

    I started skiing at the Hick in 1959 when I was four years old. Those early years were a series of trying to survive my brother's DARE YOU ideas. Creative bunch of sickos, my brothers.

    In the wonderfully advanced world of being a 9 and 10 year old — now, those were the years! Masters of the rope tow!! I'd come out of the lodge, all toasty from the fire, ready to go find some way to get in trouble with my buddies . . . only to have my bravado dinged a bit at the site of the aliens skiing down the face of PETE!!

    Who in their right mind???

    One year, curiosity claiming a rare victory over sanity, I tiptoed my skis to the edge of the top of Pete just to look down — and nearly fell into the bay!

    Did anyone ever actually know anyone who successfully made it all the way down Pete without a month or two at Munson? Or the hospital just up Elmwood a bit further?

    Thank God my eyes could turn away from Pete and immediately take in the daredevils on Bunny! Bravado restored! Let's go raise some heck on Swede!! Hurry — before our parents get here!!

  • lil’ johnny lane

    I started skiing at the Hick in 1959 when I was four years old. Those early years were a series of trying to survive my brother’s DARE YOU ideas. Creative bunch of sickos, my brothers.

    In the wonderfully advanced world of being a 9 and 10 year old — now, those were the years! Masters of the rope tow!! I’d come out of the lodge, all toasty from the fire, ready to go find some way to get in trouble with my buddies . . . only to have my bravado dinged a bit at the site of the aliens skiing down the face of PETE!!

    Who in their right mind???

    One year, curiosity claiming a rare victory over sanity, I tiptoed my skis to the edge of the top of Pete just to look down — and nearly fell into the bay!

    Did anyone ever actually know anyone who successfully made it all the way down Pete without a month or two at Munson? Or the hospital just up Elmwood a bit further?

    Thank God my eyes could turn away from Pete and immediately take in the daredevils on Bunny! Bravado restored! Let’s go raise some heck on Swede!! Hurry — before our parents get here!!

  • Dweaver8

    Hickory Hills what memories. This was the first time I was to try out skiing. My boyfriend and his family thought I should experience this thing called skiing. In 1976 his family decided to take me to Hickory Hills thinking this would be the perfect place to learn. I didn't have any equipment so they let me borrow some of the families. I kinda had some doubts when Rick said that I would have to put duct tape on my gloves. I said why would I have to do that? I soon found out why. It was to have some grip to go up the tow rope. The bad part about it was that it didn't work no matter how hard I grabbed onto the rope. I got up the hill a little ways and then preceded to slide backwards down the hill. It was quite embarrassing but one of the best times I had skiing. I went on to love skiing even though I never did learn how to stop.

  • Dweaver8

    Hickory Hills what memories. This was the first time I was to try out skiing. My boyfriend and his family thought I should experience this thing called skiing. In 1976 his family decided to take me to Hickory Hills thinking this would be the perfect place to learn. I didn’t have any equipment so they let me borrow some of the families. I kinda had some doubts when Rick said that I would have to put duct tape on my gloves. I said why would I have to do that? I soon found out why. It was to have some grip to go up the tow rope. The bad part about it was that it didn’t work no matter how hard I grabbed onto the rope. I got up the hill a little ways and then preceded to slide backwards down the hill. It was quite embarrassing but one of the best times I had skiing. I went on to love skiing even though I never did learn how to stop.

  • Kathy (Brigman) Woods

    Hickory Hills had numerous memories – yes some skiing but was never very good. Most important for our family was the beginning of Camp Roy-El a camp for the physically impaired. Camp Roy-El lasted for 40 years with the first two years spent at Hickory Hills.

    It also housed the Girl Scout camp at one time. In addition school activities back in the 60′s were held there.

    Please contact me for your book.

  • Bob Mc Call

    Your Hickory Hills comments bring back many fond memories of skiing at Hickory during my years on the TC Ski Team, ski meets and evening ski practices. During the mid 50′s skiing was done in the TC area either at Holiday, or Hickory. Names that come to mind are Stein Ericksen, Peppi Teichner, Royce Asher who all helped us and of course some of our coaches Dick Hoag, Barb Sherberneau and Art Schubert. During my senior year “57″ our boy’s team was composed of Jim Beebe, Marshall Carr, John Mc Guffin, myself, Mickey Joynt, Steve Arnold, and Jim Palmer. The girl’s team was Betty Shield, Connie Meach, Joan Lovell, Judy Rae, Meredith Raftshol, and Sue Arnoldt.
    If this 71 year old memory could remember all the good times we had as a ski team and ski club I’m sure we all would like to, during a simpler time, relive those those by gone days.

  • Gary Kent Keyes

    My name is Gary Kent Keyes. My grandfather, I.L. “Lud” Garthe and his wife Dorothy worked with her half brother, Gerald “Buck” Williams to decide to build a ski resort on the edge of Traverse City to help children learn to ski. Lud and Dorothy owned the majority of the property. Lud was born club footed and had to quit school in the forth grade to milk the cows and take the milk to Northport to be sold and do the chores. He and his brother Paul decided to move to Traverse City at a young age. Paul decided to go into appliances and formed a store that bore his name and sold refrigerators, washers, stoves, etc. Lud invented the metal casket and became the president of the Grand Traverse Metal Casket Company. When he and Kent Wright (the dentist) talked with Buck about the ski resort they got Jack Bensley and some other local men who were part of the masonic lodge to work with them to fund and build a lot of the initial site plan of the Hickory Hills Ski Resort. They hired Pepi Tishner to be their pro and advisor. He began what became the Record Eagle Ski School. In 1954 I got polio and with a faith healing by Rev. Alan Doton of Asbury Church, I could walk. My grandpa would laugh and take movies of us skiing. He would joke with us that he built the hill for us and all the kids of Traverse City. My grandfather made sure that I had skis and that I went to Hickory with my brother Jack at least a couple of times a week. In those days you had beartrap bindings that went just on your boots and could not release. I broke my first pair of skis on bunny slope at the age of five. They wanted to put them with the other skis over the windows with the other kids names on them, but I was too embarrassed and skied home on one ski. We lived at the corner of M 72 and M 22. My brother and I would ski over to Hickory and back often. One day my brother brought a hatchet to Hickory and started cutting a trail off into the woods. He said that he wanted to ski over some jumps and in somewhere different with some challenging sharp corners. So, we named it Jack’s Trail, because his name is Jack. I used to have a photo of Jack Bensley, Kent Wright, Buck Williams, and Lud Garthe with Pepi Tishner at the sign that says Hickory Hills. I think it was taken when they erected the sign. These were the men who made this all possible.
    They were caring, generous, and good men who cared about the kids and the community. My grandfather kept the ownership of the property until his death in 1961. My grandmother would lease out the land to the city for fifty dollars a year. Sitting beside me at my computer is a copy of the 1967 rent check for fifty dollars issued by the City of Traverse City Nov, 25, 1966. As my grandmother got older, I talked with her about donating the property to the city. Dorothy and I lived together at this time. She finally said that she would sell it to the city for the cost of her taxes that year, or for five thousand dollars. I was very happy because it was because of Hickory Hills that I became stronger from my polio that I got in 54 and learned to ski. I don’t know what year that was that she “sold” (donated) the land.
    I do remember going up there with Uncle Buck and thinking about some of the pleasant memories that we shared before he died. We had a laugh about Tracy making the hot coco and complaining that he was working too hard. But then when he ran the couple of kiddy rides at Clinch Park he would complain then too. I never was a great skiier. I did join the High School Ski Club and was just tall enough to be seen over John Naymeck’s shoulders when he was on his knees for the year’s high school photo. I did go before the City Commission ten years ago or so and ask that Gerald “Buck” Williams, Dorothy and Issac Ludwig Garthe’s photos be put into the lodge with a plaque that said that they shared in the idea that began and became Hickory Hills. Richard Lewis, the City Manager, from Indianapolis, Indiana, said that it would not be a good idea and told me that he would not support it. What gave him the power to be God? I would like to donate the copy of the rent check as well as see the photos of Buck, Dorothy, and Lud in the lodge with a plaque. It would be a fitting tribute to all their work and effort that they did to make Hickory Hills what it is today. Gary Kent Keyes…. you can call me to discuss this anytime.. 231 6207657 or email me at ufopilotsociety@yahoo.com

  • Christopher Tobias

    Being originally from South Florida, I had never skiied in my life. Finally, a couple of my high school friends convinced me to give it a try. So away we went to Hickory Hills. I never did master how to stop, so every time I got to the bottom of the hill I had to fall down to stop. Again and again I tried, again and again I fell down at the bottom. I also tried the bunny trail, and that was equally disastrous, so much so that the little kids watched me climb the hill, and when I got to the top they all cleared off the slope to avoid me.

    When I woke up the next morning I was sore all over, could hardly get out of bed! I never did try to ski again.

    Christoper Tobias
    resident of Traverse City for 25 years
    now living in Tulsa, OK

  • Rob Tremp

    Great posts! I had my post ready in my head…but Collin Salisbury’s post nailed it for me…even the part about the “suicides beverage” I was talking about that just the other day…So ditto Collin great post pal..you said it all.

    One thing I remember is after the races and or training was skiing on the snow bank into the parking lot…sparks flyin…hit the brakes when you saw your parents Suburban…one time I ran right into it….

    I also remember someone hitting the lodge really hard after tucking Pete…that was a big mile-stone too…the ol Pete tuck.

    My wife and I live in Tampa now…I do day dream of taking my little girl Claire (age 2) and Bobby “Lil Cannonball” Tremp to ‘ol Hick…maybe we’ll even go hike Timberlee for old time sa

  • Robtremp

    Great post Collin!

  • Bob Goddard

    We lived on the west side so it was not unusual to ski at Mt. Hick every school night. Just toss the skis in the back of the Pontiac Tempest station wagon and pretty soon you’re ready to grab that icy tow rope with everything you have in order to get to the top of Buck/Pete. Folks that have not been there in a LONG time may not know that the hills have been reworked into rather bland, uniform wedges. When I learned to ski there, the original, natural fall line of Pete was extraordinary because it got steeper as you went down the beast. I don’t think it was ever groomed, so to risk going down was literally taking a plunge into the unknown. Usually you had to navigate the nastiest, iciest crud bumps imaginable. After the first disastrous run with at least 3 episodes of putting my skis back on I avoided Pete for a couple years. But toward the end of the period when we skied there, I experienced a lucky lake effect powder day which I spent entirely on that hill. It was incredible, and I would zoom right onto the tow rope and do it again. I put down a lot of verticle that day! A lot of years have gone by and I’ve been fortunate to ski out west quite a bit and I must say that hill, on that day, rivalled some of the better black diamonds in the Rockies. We were so fortunate to have such an affordable place literally in our back yard. It started a life long love of skiing that now includes my wife and teenage kids!

  • Mh4964

    Hi Peter,
    I had a patch too…but your Dad wasn’t the only one who learned to ski then – my Dad, Judge Harold Hunsberger, was in his late 40′s when he joined us kids at Hickory Hills and took lessons. Granted he was often found in the warming lodge – remember that place?

  • Mary Hunsberger Link

    I learned to ski at Hickory Hills the winter of 1951 – I got skis for Christmas (from Trude Hardware – Front and Union) and my brother, Art Schubert, put steel edges on my ski’s and was also an instructor. He later was my ski coach on the TCHS Ski Team – we girls won the State Championship in 1960.
    I have pictures if you have time for me to search!
    The memories are many: refreshments at the lodge – warming house with a fireplace and Mrs. Bloomquist behind the counter…getting my braid caught in the rope tow on Old Pete and not realizing it until just before the top (yanked my hair free and had one braid about half as long as the other…maybe that’s when they were cut for good?)…Pepi Tiecshner (sp?) and Stein Erickson teaching us lessons…my sister, Helen, breaking her leg…setting up practice poles for slalom practice…my Dad, Judge Hunsberger, learning to ski with us. He drove us up there almost every day after school and on Saturdays. I don’t remember skiing on Sundays – we went to church. I remember when I got my first “real” ski pants – heavy stretch material (they were all black at first) and a seam down the front to keep the shape (which sort of worked)…feeling like I was graceful and gorgeous as I skied down the night lighted slopes to Tennessee Ernie Ford singing “Moonlight Gambler”…the music piped over the slopes was really great for rhythm practice…favorite slope was the one right next to Old Pete – well, to the right of it as you’re facing it at the bottom…haven’t been there in 45+ years, so not sure what it looks like now. How about a reunion of those who skied there in the 50′s?

  • Mary Hunsberger Link

    My contribution (mh4964 12/28/2010 09:00AM) should be under “Mary Hunsberger Link” instead of the e-mail address…[please change that!]

  • Gail (Sherk) Mitchell

    I haven’t lived in Traverse City since the spring of ’52, so I only had the one year at Hickory HIlls. I don’t recall any of the areas being named – just referred to as the ‘bunny hill’, the ‘bowl’ (to the right as you exited the lodge) where you took the tow up, schussed down so you could pick up the tow to the ‘big hill’. The lodge was best remembered as where you picked up the hot dogs to be roasted over the fireplace and drank hot chocolate. My last trip down was the time I was coming down the bowl, the tip of my ski hit something, and I went assoverteakettle. Someone was watching over me, as the binding bent and released my boot, thus saving me from broken anything. It was the end of the season anyway, and I never bothered to straighten the binding until another year.
    Gail (Sherk) Mitchell, currently of Fort Worth TX

  • Craigkreiser

    I have lived in Traverse City for 58 years, or as many say i am a Traverse City (NATIVE). I grew up in my teen-age years on Spruce street approx. five miles from Hickory Hills. We could not wait for saturday and Sunday so we could go to the ski lodge where we learned how to over come our favorite hill named Buck. Skiing down the most agressive hil where you either new how to stop extremely well, or take down the ski rack and then slam into the lodge. Needless to say I had many crashes learning how to stop. After spending the whole day at Hickory, we watched for the last run of the ropes going to the long, smooth hill named Sweed, where we could ski down and get a good jump on the long ski back to the house. Wow! today, we would have to spend hours trying to find the way around all of the newly developments. What great memories I have of the friends I had back then. Craig Kreiser

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cayce-Weber/1486120075 Cayce Weber

    Wow…Hickory Hills—err, Mt. Hickory as we affectionately called it. About 1974, started skiing, when Pat and Carol O’brien (Bay City) took me to ski at Timberlee. After that, it was Mt. Hickory everyday after school! We’d get a ride up with Skip Gregory or my Dad, Gardner Weber. John Gregory and I would ski all the time, and usually we’d “cross-country” ski home–on our our down-hill skis…go down the road a bit, then cut north across the fields, some small reservoirs, and somehow make it down to Monroe…hot, tired and sweaty! But never since did I feel sooo good!

    Pete–always scared the dickens out of the little kids. I remember when I finally got up the courage to go down Pete. My dad bought me some used skis–Harts–Long, deep red skis with a yellow stripe. Probably two feet too long for my size. I donned my old black snowsuit and off I went.

    Sitting in the lodge, lighting a wax cup on fire next to the fire place…from the bottom, it would fill up with smoke and start to hop…then a puff of smoke would burst from the top and the little kids around thought that was the best!
    –it was.

    Chasing all my friends around the hill, jump after jump after jump. Flying off a jump on the side of Buck, doing as big a spread eagle as you could, and then later, gathering your courage to try a helicopter, and then chickening out at the last second…not sure I ever actually did one!

    Well, now I live in Utah, worked at Sundance for 6 years, and ski at Snowbird, Alta, Park City, and the Canyons. Pete isn’t as terrifying now in my mind, compared to skiing down a double black diamond at Snowbird–(Oh the powder!) But nothing holds a candle to the memories of learning to ski at Mt. Hickory!

    Thanks Traverse for providing a great place to learn and ski cheap…a wonderful thing of the past…for sure.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cayce-Weber/1486120075 Cayce Weber

    Pam did you used to baby sit my sister Susan and I on Union or Monroe? Name is sure familiar…webergc@ldschurch.org

  • Meredith

    I remember Hickory Hills as why nearly every kid in Traverse could ski in the ’60′s and ’70′s, and cite it in the Adirondacks where I live now as an example of “the best” not always being desirable. Sure, it was pretty primative, but a season pass cost $2.50, and the ski swap meant childrens’ equipment was affordable. How frightening could anything else in life be after you’d faced Pete (not to mention the towrope on Swede, a working definition of “interminable”)?

    “Conditioning” for HS ski team in 1969 included boot-packing Pete and Buck (this meant put your ski boots on, then stomp your way up and down in close formation, then put your skis on and do it again). When TCHS hosted ski meets, we (Rondi Wuerfel, Shelly Thayer, Tracy Long, Mary Norcross, Lynn Hazelton; Dave and Dan Kipley, Mad Dog and Mad Puppy Hazelton–funny how I don’t remember the boys as well!)delighted in the open fear on the faces of our competition as we contemplated the course of close-flagged ruts on Pete, hid our own fear, and hinted that those without “black wax” would be in big trouble today!

    The seductive ambiance of night skiing and those racing clinics with the Boyne instructors–one of them was the first male to make a pass at me, no doubt unaware of my five older brothers! My mother–in thrall to skiing with a towrope behind Bud Norcross’ car on snow-covered roads–helped encourage Pepi Teichner to bring skiing to Traverse, spawning a legacy of physically-intrepid children. Bravo for whoever is celebrating this less-is-more approach to making do and making fun. Hickory Hills made so much out of so little for so many.

  • Lisa Oddy-Grace

    I started with National Ski Patrol as a patroller at Hickory Hills. We were a source of amusement to other more “modern” patrols in the area, but we were a pretty proud bunch (all 7 of us!!) We also liked that our lift evacuation drill was simply shouting “LET GO” from the bottom of the hill! We also were pretty proud of the fact that we could all take a fully loaded rescue togaggon up the toe rope!! What great memories!

  • Edwardmann

    It is great fun reading the fond memories so many have expresssed regarding their times at Hickory Hills. I too learned to ski at Hickory Hills under the likes of Pepe Teichner and Stein Erickson and like so many purchased my first pair of skis from Trude Hardware. I recall Stein Erickson doing a back flip on Old Pete. I also don’t recall ever being warm or having dry gloves as a result of riding the tow ropes. Great times night skiiing.
    T

  • http://www.facebook.com/jesseclem Jesse Clem

    I couldn’t agree more with Colin! So many firsts! Money didn’t matter there, and because of that I learned to ski. My dad would drop me off after morning Bowling while he went back J&G Lanes. If Hickory Season passes were not so affordable I wouldn’t have learned to ski at all. That love of skiing has taken me all over and I look forward to teaching my daugther that love soon! Hickory Hills does bring back only warm thoughts on cold nights and great friends to this day!

  • Noesark

    Jack,
    I am doing research on our family tree. I don’t have much on your grandpa Isaac Ludwig Garthe, maybe you can help me. noesark@cox.net I have a bunch of Garthe History and I am uploading it to ancestry.com. email me if you are interested in helping me build profiles of our common ancestors. I was googling him and found this post which I have no idea where I’m posting.
    Michelle Garthe Noe
    Gilbert, AZ

  • Bdsmith11052

    pat it’s your mom Barb Dean Smith- his name is Jim Schroder- not sure about the spelling- I think he is still in town- Hickory Hills was my begining in skiing also.  I do remember Tom Bensley crashing into the lodge after racing down Pete and breaking his leg – it seemed each and every year he broke his leg – scared his sister Barb away from ever skiing much- but never stopped me

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