MWLSAP

mark@mwlsap.org

Midwest Lost Ski Areas Project


 

Weirdest Ski Areas of the Midwest

Some Interesting, Or Just Weird, Facts About Midwest Skiing

 

Shocker Mountain - artificial slope under Cessna Stadium at Wichita State University

Skiing inside Soldier Field football stadium, home of the Chicago Bears

Fall skiing on straw at Lookout Hills Ski Park in Spruce, MI

Year- Round skiing and tubing at Sleepy Hollow in Des Moines IA - Snowflex was installed in 2023

Ski both sides of a continental divide at Buena Vista Ski Area in Bemidji, and take the same charilift up each side .

Sitz Lift, ride up the hill on your skis while sitting down

Chailifts that go down and up, up and over, or where you don't hang from a cable

First reporded use of recreational skis in the US occurred in Beloit,WI

And then there is Mt. Bohemia in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

 


Shocker Mountain - skiing UNDER Cessna Stadium at Witchita State Univeersity

Shocker Mountain was an artificial slope served by a rope tow under Cessna Stadium at Wichita State University, Wichita, KS. It was open from 1977 to 1986 and offered ski school lessons for beginners, intermediates, and with keeping with the times, freestyle ballet. They also had a separate area for "chairlift instruction" so those new to skiing would be prepared for their first trip out west. They even had moguls that they "could drag on, and off, the hill".

 



 Skiing IN Soldier Field, Chicago

Soldier Field (home of the Chicago Bears NFL football team ) Chicago, IL

Soldier Field's Winter Wonderland 

one season, 1957-58

2 rope tows

 

Chicago Tribune, Feb 21, 1958

 

Winter Wonderland (at Soldier Field)


 Fall skiing on straw at Lookout Hills Ski Park

Season too short? Fall weather too warm ? Mo problem at Lookout Hills Ski Park in Spruce, MI. In 1948 they experimented to provide early season turns to there dedicated customers by covering the hills with straw. What could go wrong? As mentioned in the The Escanaba Daily Press (Escanaba, Michigan) "the strae provides fast and tricky skiing amid a scene of blazing autumn colors".

 

More information on Lookout Hills at MWLSAP.org

 

The Escanaba Daily Press (Escanaba, Michigan) · Sat, Nov 6, 1948

 

 
Year-round skiing and tubing at Sleepy Hollow Sports Park

Year- Round skiing and tubing at Sleepy Hollow in Des Moines IA - Snowflex was installed in 2023

Snowflex for year-round skiing

opening 2024

 

 
Ski both sides of a continental divide at Buena Vista Ski Area, MN

Ski both sides of a continental divide at Buena Vista Ski Area in Bemidji, MN (and take the same charilift up both sides

Buena Vista Ski Area in Bemidji Minnesota sits on a continetal divide. In the spring, melting snow on the back side runs eventully will end up in the Gulf of Mexico. Snow melting on the front side, north facing runs, drains into the Hudson Bay in Canada.

So, you are able to ski both sides of a continental divide at Buena Vista. (and take the same charilift back up both sides to the top - see CHAIRLIFTS below.)

http://mnearthscienceguy.blogspot.com/2011/11/minnesota-continental-divides.html


Sitz Lift, ride up the hill on your skis while sitting down

 

Sitz Lift, ride up the hill on your skis while sitting down

The first Sitz Lift ski lift was installed at SkiTonka Ski Area in Minnetonka Minnesota in 1968. This was followed by installations at six other Midwest ski areas (two more in Minnesota at Lutsen and Buffalo Valley; three in Wisconsin at Devils Head, Trollhaugen, and Snowcrest; and one at Mt. Holly, Michigan).

What is a Sitzlift? It might be most analogous to today's conveyor lifts,except the skier would sit on a bicycle-type seat rather than stand. It had two elevated tracks for your skis, but only the seat would move as your skis slide along these tracks. The tracks were elevated so that the seats could return to the bottom of the hill underneath the contraption. To load, " a bike seat emerges from an opening in the 'floor' and idles while you, with your ski on, straddle it. You pull a lever and the seat takes you topside." (from Minnesota's Winter Resorts: Skiing Plus - Chicago Tribune · Sun, Dec 21, 1969 )

The Sitz Lift did not appear to catch on as these are the only intallations that could be found and it appears as though none operated long. No information could be found as to how the skier would unload. Hopefully, the bike seat did not just drop under the track as it began its trip to the bottom. If so, Warren Miller could have had a heyday.

 

Ski Tonka, MN (lost)

Devils Head, WI

Trolhaugen, WI

Mt. Holly, MI

Buffalo Valley, MN (lost) -

Snowcrest (lost)

Lutsen, MN

An "Austrian Sitzlift" - is basically a Poma lift (see below)


Weird Chairlifts

Chailifts that go down and up, up and over, or where you don't hang from a cable

 

Down and Up Chairlift

We all envision ski area chairlifts as starting in a valley and ascending one side of a hill or mountain. But what if the ski area has runs on both sides of a valley? Couldn't one chairlift simply be extended to service both sides?

Four ski areas in the midwest thought so. Snowcrest in Somerset, WI, Birch Park in Houlton, WI , Ski World (later Royal Valley) in Buchanan, MI , and Mt. Brighton in Brighton, MI each had "down and up" chairlifts with one chairlift serving both sides of a valley.

 

 

 

 

 

Down and up lift at Snowcrest Ski Area, Somerset, WI

Up and Over Chairlift

If a ski area has runs on both sides of a hill why not have one chair lift go "up and over". Four of these are still in operation in the midwest (as of 2024) with two at Little Switzerland in Seinger, WI (that's a total of four lifts hauling skirs but only two dirve motors)., one at Buena Vista Ski Area in Bemidji, MN straddling a contiental divide, and one at Whitecap Mountains in Upson, WI. One was also installed at the Lansing Ski Club in East Lansing, MI, now lost.

The lift at Whitecap actually goes up to one peak, then across a valley to another peak, then down the other side. Skiers are no longer allowed to ride across the gap as the significant height of the chairs makes emergency evacuations difficult.

Two unloading stations at th top of Buena Vista Ski Area from one lift.. This part of the lift no one rides (photo from Liftblog.com)

Traked Chairlifts

Chairlifts with no hanging cabes were instaled at Caberfae, MN and Chestnut Mountain, IL

Caberfae, MI


First reported use of recreational skis in the US occurred in Beloit,WI

 

https://www.mwlsap.org/firsts/firsts.htm#1841

 

In 1841 miners from Beloit, Wisconsin became the first to people to be documented to ski recreationally in the US.

Fast Facts - Recreational Skiing In The US Started In The Midwest?! - Matthew Zabranksi, Midwest Skiers.com

Skiers and Snowboarders of the Midwest Facebook Group

History of Skiing - The Story with Great Photos - freethepowder.com

A Brief, Incomplete, Semi-Accurate History of Skiing - mmsdragon.org

The History of Skiing - Kendall Springob - 1800s

 


And then there is Mt. Bohemia in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

No grooming, no snow making, and no beginners.

True double and triple black diamond skiing in the Midwest. Mt. Bohemia is truly unique.

109 season pass (yes, you read that correctly) and a $1299 lifetime pass

passholder only Saturdays

no cash for many years and poor wifi

busses

named one of the country's best by USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards in top 5 for 5 years in a row or more

https://www.snowindustrynews.com/articles/2021/december/mount-bohemia-named-one-of-usas-best-ski-hills/

North Pole Bar voted the best ski bar in thr country by me. locaed in a yurt (round, canvas, tent

 

 

 

https://www.mtbohemia.com/

 

 

 

 

 

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