MARQUETTE - Nestled away in the Hiawatha National Forest is a hidden gem, a small ski hill that offers up big fun with a lot of love behind it. The Chatham Ski Hill is located in Rock River Township, past the town of Chatham, and has been there for many years.
Many locals remember skiing there as children and have returned with children of their own. The Chatham Ski Hill has a family atmosphere and is welcoming to all ages and ability levels, from the youngest skier just getting started to the most experienced.
Assistance from The Compound ski shop and owner Brandon Croney in Marquette has helped to get more kids out on the hill and up on skis. They even hosted a "Chilly Dog" night, providing all the fixings for chili dogs for riders, cooked over a bonfire. They spent time taking jumps and riding with the kids.
At left, the Chatham Ski Hill, located in the Hiawatha National Forest, about a 45 minute drive from Marquette, offers daily ski passes for only $5. (Journal photo by Claire Abent)
An A-frame chalet serves as the warming house at the site. (Journal photo by Claire Abent)
Assistant manager Marc Collier is a recent graduate of the Northern Michigan University outdoor recreation leadership and management program and has spent time in Wyoming interning at a large ski hill, but he likes the size and style of the Chatham Ski Hill.
"It's really cool to help with a ski hill like this," he said. "It's to promote community skiing and to get people out riding... It's just a great ski and snowboard experience."
Collier has been a snowboarder for a long time and he sees the Chatham Ski Hill has a great place for kids to get started.
"It's got a unique aspect," he said. "It's really fun and a lot of the kids here start out here, then they move on to bigger places. Everyone is really enjoying it."
The hill survives off a small price for a daily pass and the kindness of volunteers and donations, along with a manager and assistant manger who help with operations. The Friends of the Chatham Ski Hill is comprised of a small board and numerous backers, volunteers and fans who make sure that the hill stays open and in top condition. Katie and Chris Fink, Mark and Tammy Burrows and Kyle and Pam Ryon are the core group involved with the hill.
The hill is only 100 vertical feet and children can be seen zipping down it, right to the tow rope, then back up again in a matter of minutes. More experienced skiers and snowboarders hit jumps on the way down.
The hill is lit for night skiing on Wednesdays, when students are bused there straight from school at Superior Central in Eben or Munising, according to Friends of the Chatham Ski Hill member Katie Fink.
There is a small and cozy A-frame warming chalet with a double barrel stove that allows skiers to come out of the elements and enjoy a cup of hot cocoa.
Sledding, cross country skiing and snowshoeing are available all the time at the ski area, free of cost.
Claire Abent can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.