Midwest Lost Ski Areas Project

 Some Interesting, Unique, Or Just Weird, Facts About Midwest Skiing


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

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

Fall skiing on straw at Lookout Hills Ski Park, Spruce MI - Picture goes viral in 1948

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

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

World's first chairlift still operating (sort of) at Boyne Mountain, MI

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

Upside down ski areas with lodge and parking at the top of the mountain

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


Shocker Mountain - skiing under Cessna Stadium at Wichita State University

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".


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Skiing in Soldier Field, Chicago

Called Winter Wonderland, rope tows and snow guns transformed Chicago's Soldier Field football stadium, home of the NFL's Chicago Bears, into a ski area for the 1957-1958 season. Initial plans were for from four to six rope tows and a sixty foot vertical, along with toboggan slides.

By putting hay bales between the rows of seats and covering them with snow from twelve snowguns, Winter Wonderland was created and opened on Dec. 7, 1957 with two slopes, two electric rope tows, and four toboggan slides. Four ski instructors, including Helmut Teichner of Switzerland, were hired to provide ski lessons. Teichner was the ski school director atnearby Wilmot Hills (Mountain) ski area [still open]. In 1983 he was inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame.

By mid-January, 1958, The Daily Calumet newspaper reported "Thousands each day and night are utilizing the many facilities at the lake front stadium. . . . A ski shop,, warming rooms, clubhouse and other facilities have turned Soldier Field into a second Sun Valley". The article adds that "Oscar Brotman and Eli Loitz, who conceived the venture and put it into telling effect, report that the fame of the winter sports mecca has spread to all corners of the nation and they are being asked by other cities to consider them for similar ventures next year" including Yankee Stadium in New York City, and Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis.

Surprisingly, the Chicago Tribune in its July 9 issue, 1958, reported "Oscar Brotman, operator of Winter Wonderland at Soldiers' Field last winter, declined to pick up his $10,000 a year option to operate skiing and tobogganing facilities at the field next winter. Park officials attributed Brotman's cancellation to Chicagoan's lack of interest in lake front winter sports accommodations."

Chicago Tribune, Feb 21, 1958

Fall skiing on straw at Lookout Hills Ski Park - Picture goes viral in 1948.

Over one hundred newspapers across the country and into Canada ran a picture of Edythe Moisan, skiing on straw at Lookout Hills Ski Park near Spruce, MI, in 1948. From California to Maine and Texas to Manitoba, the picture went viral, before viral was even a thing.

In 1948 Edythe Moisan was photographed skiing on a straw covered hill at Lookout Hills Ski Park. As found on, the picture was picked up by over one hundred newspapers in the US and Canada. So how was the skiing? The Escanaba Daily Press (Escanaba, Michigan) reported "the straw provides fast and tricky skiing amid a scene of blazing autumn colors".


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 county owned Sleepy Hollow Sports Park in Des Moines IA - Snowflex was installed in 2023

Snowflex for year-round skiing Largest Snowflex slope in the US 50,000 sq. ft. and 600 ft long

Mt.Tremblant installed Neveplast in 2023

Sept. 2009 Liberty Mountain at Liberty University opened with 40,000 square foot Snowflex slope

Buck Hill 2018 Neveplast didn't perform well snowboards were overheating.

opening 2024

  • Sleepy Hollow [still open] was closed 2021-2022 and 2022-2023, but Snowflex is being installed in 2023 for year-round skiing, snowboarding, and tubing.
  • o: 1997-1998
  • Des Moines, IA
  • facebook

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

Buena Vista Ski Area [still open] in Bemidji, Minnesota, sits astride a continental divide. In the spring, melting snow on the back side (east facing) eventually will end up in the Gulf of Mexico. Snow melting on the front side (west facing) drains into the Hudson Bay in Canada.

There are several ski areas in the United states where there is lift served skiing on one side of a continental divide (Loveland, CO). There are also ski areas that have lift served skiing on one side of a divide and back country skiing on the other side like Monarch Mountain, CO. But, I believe Buena Vista is the only ski area in the country with lift served skiing on both sides of a continental divide although Monarch is scheduled to add a chairlift on their back side by the 2025-2026 season.

Furthermore, at Buena Vista one, up and over, three-person chairlift serves both sides of the divide. So, you are able to ski both sides of a continental divide and take the same chairlift back up both sides to the top - see CHAIRLIFTS below. 

The Sitzlift

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

The first Sitzlift ski lift was installed at Ski-Tonka Ski Area in Minnetonka, Minnesota in 1968. This was followed by installations at six other Midwest ski areas (two more in Minnesota at Lutsen [still open] and Buffalo Valley; three in Wisconsin at Devils Head [still open] , Trollhaugen [still open] , and Snowcrest; and one at Mt. Holly [still open] , 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 would 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 skis 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.

Weird Chairlifts

Chailifts that go down one side and up the other; or up a hill, over the top, and down the other side; and where the chairs do not hang from a cable but follow a track.


Down and Up Chairlifts

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 called Royal Valley) in Buchanan, MI, and Mt. Brighton [still open] in Brighton, MI each had "down and up" chairlifts with one chairlift serving both sides of a valley.

For more information, pictures, and trail maps


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


Up and Over Chairlifts

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 Swinger, WI (that's a total of four lifts hauling skiers but only two drive 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. But, skiers are no longer allowed to ride across the gap as the significant height of the chairs makes emergency evacuations difficult.


For more information.

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


Chain-Drive Chairlifts

Chairlifts with no hanging cables were installed at Caberfae Peaks Ski Resort [still open] , MI and Chestnut Mountain [still open], IL,

Caberfae's first chIairlift was a "tracked" or "chain-drive" chairlift where instead of hanging from a cable, the chairs were attached to a chain conveyor. Such a lift was also installed at Chestnut Mountain, IL.

Caberfae bought its chain-drive lift from Mt. Snow, VT, where I believe they were developed. Mt. Snow had three chain-drive, or "conveyor", lifts.

Apparently they were very slow, noisy, and the chains dripped grease on the riders, necessitating the inclusion of a small roof above the riders.

For these reasons Caberfae's "conveyor" lift only lasted one year (1959-90) before it was removed. Little information could be found concerning the Chestnut Mountain chain-drive lift.

For more pictures of the chain-drive chairlifts at Mt. Snow, VT see: f



Caberfae Peaks Ski Resort, MI

World's first chairlift still operating (sort of) at Boyne Mountain, MI

World's first chairlift still operating at Boyne Mountain, MI

Invented by Omaha NE resident

Boyne installed 1948 began operating Jan. 9, 1949 (Hemlock Chair, single, changed to double in 1951, moved from Sun Valley, ID)

Was world's first chairlift when installed at Sun Valley, Dec. 1936

First chairlift in the Midwest

Everett Kircher bought the world’s first chairlift, a single, from Sun Valley in 1948 and installed it at Boyne, Michigan, in 1949.

In 1951 the lift was changed to a double chair, becoming the fifth double in the US.

Triple, Quad, 6-Seat Chairs: A Mini-History - 

Boyne Resort had many firsts including the installation of the world's first triple chairlift in 1964 at The Highlands Resort, and the world's first four-person chairlift, installed in 1964 at Boyne Mountain. In 1990 Kircher installed Michigan's first high-speed detachable quad chairlift at The Highlands Resort. And in 1992, Boyne Mountain unveiled America's first six-seat high-speed chairlift.

For more information



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

 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 and Snowboarders of the Midwest Facebook Group

History of Skiing - The Story with Great Photos -

A Brief, Incomplete, Semi-Accurate History of Skiing -

The History of Skiing - Kendall Springob - 1800s


For more information


"Upside Down" Ski Areas


Thirty-two lost, and fourteen still open, ski areas in the Midwest were, or are, "upside down" with the lodge and parking at the top of the mountain.



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

Mt. Bohemia [still open], MI

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, $109) and a $1299 lifetime pass

passholder only Saturdays

no cash for many years and poor wifi


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

North Pole Bar voted the best ski bar in the country by me. Located in a yurt (round, canvas, tent) with poor cell reception and all payments must be through an app.

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