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The first iteration of Sugar Loaf was opened in December of 1946 by the Sugar Loaf Ski Club. You could buy a membership for $5 per season. Lift tickets were $1.50 for ½ day, and $2.50 for a full day. Governor Sigler dedicated the facility in January of 1947. Hans (Peppi) Teichner, a famous German skier, was the designer, trainer and supervisor of the slopes.
A ski jump was set up and tested by professionals in 1948. In 1949, the first Peppi Teichner open competition was held at the resort. By the 1960’s, expansion was occurring at the resort, the majority of which was opened in 1964. That was the time James Ganter of Indianapolis took over.
There were 10 ski runs with a 500 foot vertical drop. 2 chair lifts were installed and j-bars for the other hills. Snow-making equipment was added as well. An 18,000 sq. ft lodge was constructed with full equipment rental. Rec rooms, lounges, a cafeteria, and an enclosed sun deck were some of the other amenities available.
By 1965, “Teen Dances” were added to the agenda with live performances. There was Thursday night buffet with a smorgasbord of available food items. Much of this was an effort to maintain a year-round business. Anderson’s Country Store was built to sell ski equipment and the like.
Developers were adding housing around the Sugar Loaf site during this time as well. At some point even an air strip was added. A golf course was constructed as well. A sporting goods outlet, Wilhelm’s, built a store on the grounds of Sugar Loaf in the early 1970’s.
I think the trouble began in the 70’s and 80’s when there were all kinds of other resorts (big and small) being built around the state. Some of them were quite nice and were destination spots like Sugar Loaf while others offered a day of basic skiing in local communities. The Metro Detroit Area had several and still does. Many of those started in the 60’s and 70’s. The advent of snow machines probably hurt Sugar Loaf as areas in lower Michigan could compete with their fake snow.
Sugar Loaf got more elaborate, but with that comes more costs and overhead. Meanwhile they had increased competition. By the 1980’s, some of the original structures were probably needing maintenance and remodeling. More costs. In the 1980’s Bavarian Village opened an outlet at the resort. Most Michiganders would be familiar with that chain.
In 1983, the resort changed hands when Detroit-area investors John Sills and James Schenden took over. By this time the “Ski Report” in the newspapers listed dozens of ski facilities around the state. From what I read, the 1980’s were pretty good for Sugar Loaf. By the 1990’s, financial difficulties began to take a toll. By the late 1990s, things were very bleak and the resort was forced to declare bankruptcy. It was put for sale in 1999 for $8.5 million.
There have been several owners since that time who had ideas about re-developing the property but as of 2022, none of it has come to fruition. I would imagine the cost of re-creating what it was would be enormous and the return on the investment wouldn’t be there. One look at the photos tells you most of the place is too far gone to renovate. So, it sits in ruins.