History: The Ludington Ski Hill.

October 11, 2019

History: The Ludington Ski Hill.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

Editor’s Note: MC History Spotlight is a regular history column brought to you by Ludington Woods Assisted Living and Memory Care. This regular column features a story from our county’s past. Today, we feature the story of the Ludington Ski Hill.

Back in the early 60s, a group of fruit farmers had an idea to supply some winter fun for their families. Eugene Lathrop, George Wagner, Ralph Knudsen, and Wilbur (Willie) VanNortwick built a ski hill on the John Bigsby farm, located on Morton Road south of Hawley Road (an area affectionally known these days as Morton Hill).

The quartet wanted to provide some winter fun for their immediate families but word soon spread.

VanNortwick, 96, recently recalled the story of The Ludington Ski Area while preparing for Riverton Heritage Day, which will take place on Saturday, Oct. 19 (see story here). VanNortwick is the only member of the group still living.

“I had a small hill on my farm on Kistler Road,” he said. “One day I was talking to the other guys and we decided to approach John Bigsby about his hill. We just wanted a small area for our families. Then word spread.” The year was 1960, he said.

A newspaper article about the ski hill quoted Lathrop who said the first two was rather crude.

“Soon the slope was so full of others we could hardly find room for ourselves,” Knudsen said in the article. “We were forced into expanding.”

The four started scrounging junk yards looking for building materials. Soon the hill had three rope tows and six slopes. A quonset hut was erected for an office and ski shop. A farm building served as a warming shelter and concession stand. The slopes were even lit.

“We had a lot of fun building it and running it,” VanNortwick said. “We had Wednesday night skiing and lit up the whole hill.”

The men’s wives were also part of the business. Audrey VanNortwick, 90, said she remembers making the meals to sell, including chili.

Then the government stepped in.

“We started this thing on a whim and after a few years we started getting questions about having permit and liability insurance. We decided that the risk was outweighing the benefits so we shut it down.” VanNortwick said the ski hill was active for about five winters.

“Those were good times,” he said. “It was fun while it lasted.”

Presented by Ludington Woods Assisted Living and Memory Care, 502 N. Sherman St., Ludington, MI 49431; 231-845-6100; www.ludingtonwoods.com.

Celebrate Riverton Heritage Day on Saturday, Oct. 19 at the Riverton Township Hall from 1 to 4 p.m. Read more here.

This story is copyrighted © 2019, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

Betten Baker Ford

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