Hickory-Hills-facebook Skier pauses at top of Hickory Hills slopes with Traverse City in background. (Hickory Hills/Facebook)

The small city owned ski area Hickory Hills, located in the tall hills surrounding Traverser City, Michigan, is getting a major upgrade thanks to a Preserve Hickory $4.1 million project.

Spearheaded by the local group that rose over half the funding with the city adding another $1.5 million, four new slopes will be added, existing trails widened and a sledding hill and learning area will be created. The upgrades are scheduled to be completed in time for next season.    

Skier on Hickory slopes. (Hickory Hills/Facebook)

The 68-year-old ski area is somewhat legendary. Stein Eriksen on loan from Boyne Mountain, taught skiing and racing to local skiers in the mid-1950s, shortly after the fledgling area was opened. The ski area had a rope tow back then.

Stein Eriksen skiing on Boyne Mountain's slopes in 1950s (Boyne)

The ski area today has five rope tows and soon to be 12 runs. It also offers night skiing to city residents. Its size is not measured in the stats, but in the thousands of local skiers and snowboarders it has produced that help carry the sport forward. It’s been the home of the Grand Traverse Ski Club since its inception. They and the local Kiwanis Club reaching out to Everett Kircher, Boyne’s founder, were responsible for getting Eriksen and his entourage of Norwegian ski instructors to come down to Hickory Hills a couple of times per week.

It’s been the home of Traverse City Central High School since they adopted the sport, and they currently hold a state mark of having won eight state championships in a row from 1988-95.

Hickory Hills slopes are popular with locals at night. (Hickory Hills/Facebook)

The day lodge, constructed in the mid-1950s, is still in use today with a fireplace and snack bar. Plans call for building a new lodge, high on the priority list, and adding a new maintenance building and renovating the parking lot.

The ski area averages 70 skiing days per year with the addition of snowmaking in the mid-1980s. An all-day lift ticket is less than $20 for city residents.