Researched and written by Michael Huey
The following is what I have been able to piece together, covering the years from around 1940 until around 1960. Since I was born in 1964, I am obviously not a first-hand witness, but have assembled this through historical records available to me in part because of my grandfather’s close connection with the beginnings of the ski area. Others may be able to help fine-tune by correcting inaccuracies or providing additional info. Carl Ganter can surely assist with the post-1960 era. At the end of this timeline I list the source materials I have used; some of them are pictured on my own Facebook page as well as that of the group “Friends of Sugar Loaf.” Since the history of Sugar Loaf is closely connected to that of the Leelanau School(s), I start with a brief overview of skiing at the school:
—From the winter of 1929/30 until the early 1940s boys (and, beginning in 1940, girls) from the Leelanau School ski on a number of local hills, including what they refer to as “the old golf course” (I take this to be the defunct D.H. Day Estates property off M-109 near Glen Arbor/Glen Haven); another hill on the east side of (Big) Glen Lake; and the so-called “Indian Trail”—the steep path from just north of the (original) Homestead Building to the top of Prospect Hill. As far as I know, none of these were equipped with a rope tow at the time. Since the school has no bus in the 1920s/’30s, students are transported to the ski hills via state roads on a wooden toboggan pulled behind the school’s woody station wagon (!!), as documented in photographs and early 16 mm films. (Incidentally: Camp Leelanau for Boys was founded in Glen Arbor in 1921; the Leelanau School in 1929; and the Homestead around 1935. All three were owned and managed in unity first by William M. ‘Skipper’ Beals and Cora Mautz Beals and then by Arthur S. ‘Major’ Huey and Helen Mautz Huey.) For further information on this history see my recent book Straight as the Pine, Sturdy as the Oak/Skipper & Cora Beals and Major & Helen Huey in the Early Years of Camp Leelanau for Boys, the Leelanau Schools, and the Homestead in Glen Arbor/vol. 1 1921-1963, Schlebrügge, Vienna 2013.
—According to the Sugar Loaf Bulletin (vol. 1, no. 1, June 1947): “Originally, part of the [Sugar Loaf] tract was owned by the county and after a survey of winter sports possibilities was made by a committee of Leelanau County citizens in cooperation with Post No. 199 of the American Legion, the enthusiasm shown convinced the county officials that great potentialities prevailed and the balance of the present area of 400 acres was purchased by the county government in 1940.”
—According to a short history of the project recounted in a 1945 letter to Edmund F. Ball from my grandfather, Arthur S. ‘Major’ Huey, who was an active initiator of the project, an avid skier, and later (1966), vice-president of the United States Ski Association: “Although the war temporarily delayed us in our active plan for promotion, we have managed in the interim to get the Board of Supervisors to give us $1,000.00, the Post-War Planning Commission $500.00 and the Prospectors Club in Leelanau County approximately $500.00. It is our thought that we can get the Post-War Planning Commission to give us an additional three or four thousand dollars as a matching fund. Our goal at the present time is to raise among our friends in Leelanau County and Traverse City approximately $8,000.00 which will be used for preliminary engineering plans, artists’ conceptions, and generally to accumulate as much information of this nature in an attractive brochure so that we can approach Lansing with the idea of getting State funds to make this a State project.”
—Sometime around 1943 students from the Leelanau Schools (Leelanau for Boys and Pinebrook for Girls = the Leelanau Schools, plural) evidently also begin to use the hill at Sugar Loaf—likewise prior to the installation of its first rope tow, as far as I can tell. According to school legend, the students help to clear this slope as part of their work program. (The heaviest logging work comes later and is done by experienced men with teams of horses.)
—According to my grandfather, Chester Clark & Associates “made the first designs for which the Federal Works Agency gave financial help.”
—Sugar Loaf Winter Sports Club is incorporated as a non-profit on March 10th 1944 with Major Huey as its president and—according to the Traverse City Record-Eagle of May 21st 1946—Fred Dickinson as vice-president, and Robert Gaines as secretary-treasurer. (The aforementioned 1945 letter from Major instead lists the vice-president as Paul Smith and Julia Dickinson as secretary-treasurer). Major names the following individuals in his letter as “directors”: A.G. Jordan, Cedar; Clifford Smith, Leland; (Mrs.) A.L. Bournique, Leland; Ralph Cordes, Leland; Albert Kelsch [Kelch?], Lake Leelanau; A.G. Jordan, Cedar; Fred Baker, Maple City; and George Johnson, president of the Empire State Bank.
—On September 17th 1945 Major Huey writes to Edmund F. Ball about the future of the club and solicits Ball’s assistance. (Beginning in the 1960s the extended Ball family will have a major role in the resort.)
—At the urging of Harry S. ‘Bud’ Raymond (a Leelanau School alum from the class of 1936), Hans ‘Peppi’ Teichner introduces himself in a biographical letter to Major Huey on April 16th 1946; Teichner describes at length his life’s journey and his qualifications for the job of managing the winter sports club. (Teichner had worked with W. Averell Harriman to develop Sun Valley and both he and Bud Raymond had been in Army’s elite 10th Mountain Division.)
—Major Huey hires Peppi Teichner on May 18th 1946 as club manager; at the same time, Major hires him for the faculty at Leelanau (instructing German, presumably, but also Spanish, as he had lived in Spain for four years and coached the Spanish Olympic Team); he is the Leelanau ski team coach.
—Professional clearing of Sugar Loaf slope in the summer of 1946, according to the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
—From an (anonymous) memorandum from August 14th 1946 entitled “What everybody in the County should know about the new Sugar Loaf Mountain Project”: “…after the first season, a corporation will be formed and by sale of shares and stock the fund will be raised to build a first class hotel close to Sugar Loaf with the expectation of Summer and winter business.” Further: “The preliminary money will be raised by both contributions and memberships. The latter will be a life membership which entitles the owner to free use of the lift facilities during the first season and reduced rates thereafter. Furthermore, the owner of a life membership will have an opportunity to buy preferred stock once the Corporation is formed.” Also: “…the splitting of the financial set-up in two parts—raising by contribution or membership and by forming a corporation—was necessitated by the short time left to prepare the hill for this seasons skiing. The organization of a Corporation and the raising of the funds by sale of stock and shares would have delayed the actual skiing until next year. This way we expect to ski by Xmas.”
—Official opening of the Sugar Loaf Winter Sports facility on January 26th 1947 with Michigan Governor Kim Sigler and his daughter Madalon in attendance. Films exist from this day showing the arrival of the governor at Cherry Capital Airport, the opening ceremonies, and a skiing demonstration: snow cover was not too impressive!
—From the late 1940s through the next decade Leelanau students make regular use of Sugar Loaf and also take yearly skiing trips to Aspen with Major Huey and Peppi Teichner.
—Peppi Teichner’s death in 1957.
—The Leelanau Schools clear their own ski hill on Prospect Hill in the fall of 1960; their use of the Sugar Loaf facility diminishes. Going forward through the early 1960s, Sugar Loaf begins to take on the appearance of the resort that thrived through the 1970s and beyond.
*Michael Huey (b. 1964 in Traverse City) grew up in Leelanau County, graduated from Leland Public School, earned a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College in 1987, and continued on to receive a master’s degree in art history from the University of Vienna in 1999. He has lived in Vienna, Austria since 1989, working as a conceptual artist and writer. His work has been shown in Vienna, Berlin, Rome, London, Lisbon, Chicago, Cleveland, and New York; he has published extensively on subjects relating to those exhibitions and his career in the arts, as well as on art historical subjects and topics of local/family history, including the history of Camp Leelanau for Boys, the Leelanau Schools, and the Homestead resort from their beginnings in the early 1920s through the early 1960s (Straight as the Pine, Sturdy as the Oak). Early on, he worked in the editorial department and as a staff/freelance writer for The Christian Science Monitor; he is still a regular contributor to arts and design magazines such as The World of Interiors (a new book, Inside Stories—Writing About Home, is scheduled to appear at the beginning of 2021). Currently he is working on a biographical account of the life of Count Felix Schaffgotsche, who “discovered” Sun Valley for Averell Harriman and managed the ski school there during several seasons, including the winter of 1938/39 when Peppi Teichner was teaching there, too. He spends summers in Leelanau County together with his spouse, Viennese art historian Christian Witt-Dörring.
Sources include family papers, newspaper articles, photos, and film documents (all Michael Huey & Christian Witt-Dörring Family Archive):
–Articles of Incorporation of Sugar Loaf Winter Sports Club, March 10th 1944
–Arthur S. Huey to Edmund F. Ball, typewritten letter, two pages, September 17th 1945
–Hans H. Teichner to Arthur S. Huey, typewritten letter, two pages, April 16th 1946
–“Start June 15 on Sugar Loaf/Leelanau To Have Winter Sports Park Ready This Year”, in Traverse City Record-Eagle, May 21st 1946
–“What everybody in the County should know about the new Sugar Loaf Mountain Project”, anonymous typewritten memorandum, August 14th 1946
–“Development of Sugar Loaf/Show Colored Films of Skiing Monday P.M.”, in Traverse City Record-Eagle, September 21st 1946
–Archival amateur films (16 mm) of reception of Governor Kim Sigler at Cherry Capital Airport and subsequent opening ceremonies at Sugar Loaf, January 26th 1947
–“A Sunday Scene at Sugar Loaf Sports Park”, in Northport Tribune, February 6th 1947
–“History of Area” in Sugar Loaf Bulletin, vol. 1 no. 1, June 1947, p. 5–Hans H. Teichner to Chicago Tribune, typewritten letter, three pages, November 18th 1947