A series of stories and memories – real people describing what Hickory means to them. Over time, you’ll recognize some common themes among these short profiles, including a shared desire that other children can and will appreciate the same adventure, freedom, independence, escape and speed– in a quaint yet expansive place, in a safe and simple park that accepts all comers.

Preserving Hickory isn’t just about protecting our own memories. It’s about sharing formative experiences and ensuring that those will be available for others who come out to play.

By Briggs Chapman

Raised at Hickory, Briggs Chapman loves both downhill racing and freestyle skiing. After competing in both, he led the University of Oregon’s Freestyle Team of 50 skiers. While building his first ‘tiny’ house in 2016, Briggs started a freestyle clinic at Hickory. He has since launched North of Normal Design.

As a kid, I skied at Hickory Hills five days a week. After race clinics, I’d switch to my twin tips and ski till close. 

Freestyle is freedom, no rules. There’s room to run. It’s super unique, about doing your own thing with whatever the mountain gives you.

It doesn’t take a mountain though. Hickory’s tows are challenging. Quick, ideal for hitting just one feature or jump. In one season, I got more vertical in at Hickory than four years of mountain skiing. 230’ of Hickory vertical stacks up to a lot of vertical.

Skiing got me outside every winter day and became my life – it still is.

By Lola

Lola‘s dad taught her to ski at Hickory when she was three by hanging on to a hula-hoop around her waist. He could barely keep up then, let alone now that she’s nine.

My dad always tells me to slow down. Like on Pete. Slow down you’re gonna get hurt, bump into guys. He looks away, I speed up. Fasterfasterfaster. Up and down, up and down. Weaving around makes me even faster.

It takes us 2 minutes to get to Hickory. We go in pj’s and get into snowsuits in the back of our car! I stick my tickets on top of the others ’til they get so thick I have to tear it off and start over. Last year I had to change it out like five times.

I never get cold. I would ski at Hickory every day if I could.

By Cam Owens

At 13, Cam Owens tied for 1st at the U14 USSA Rocky/Central Jr. Championships and then competed against older racers at the U16 National Championships. His downhill racing started at Hickory Hills. “Where else can you ski 40 runs in a night?” he says. Cam hopes to race as long as he can.

I love to ski. It has a flowy feel. You’re floating, and it feels good to carve a turn. And the speed is cool.

I learned to ski at Hickory between my dad’s legs when I was two. I started racing there when I was seven. Hickory’s tows, short hills and repetition made me into a competitor, but it’s not a competitive place. It’s a friendly place.  People know your name. At the end of the season, after 50 ski days at Hickory, I’m already missing the candy and Bosco sticks. It’s “dang, it’s done.”

For me, losing Hickory would be like … someone taking your dog.

By Niki Roxbury

While in high school, Niki Roxbury helped Central’s Nordic Ski team win the State Championship three times. As an individual, she advanced at Junior Nationals. Now, she’s a first year plebe at the US Naval Academy.

Nordic racing has been the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, physically and mentally. We raced sprints at Hickory twice a week. What always mattered was the team. Encouraging teammates, cheering for them even when they left me behind. At the Naval Academy, it’s all about teamwork. In that way, I came well prepared.

I brag to my fellow midshipmen about where I’m from. Hickory is the epitome of Traverse City… small, familiar, outdoorsy, a great place where everyone knows your name. I appreciate it now more than ever.

By Stella Sterling

For Stella Sterling, skiing wasn’t a choice. Her dad, a ski coach, packed her up and took her along. She skied competitively for years, but mostly loves to free ski, especially through trees.

One of my first memories is me in a line of skiers, flying through the woods – at Hickory.

It’s what I did when I was at my dad’s. We skied. But he was the coach that never pushed me. It was about fun.

I’m 16 now. Skiing is still how we spend time. Tree skiing. Powder. New. All at once. On your toes. For me, thrilling.

Skiing is a part of what my dad passed on to me. I choose it. I love it. Now, I meet friends at Hickory and just ski. Hickory is the same as my earliest memories. Everyone looking out for each other and someone always there to help.

By Larry Warbasse

A transplant from downstate to Hickory at the age of 9, Larry Warbasse wouldn’t have become the professional cyclist he is today without formative experiences at Hickory Hills. Larry now races for Ireland’s First Professional Cycling Team.

I skied at Hickory weekdays, weekends and hours on end with my friends. When I was 11, I attended a mountain bike camp hosted by the Grand Traverse Ski Club for cross training. That camp, and several after, sparked in me an early passion for cycling.
Hickory opens doors – for kids to take up winter sports, and for some, the gift of a rare chance to excel. I’d be devastated if Hickory closed and with it, those open doors. It’s a place other cities only dream of having, a place to be proud of for what it’s given generations of yesterday and today. I’d love to be able to take my own children to Hickory someday.
As a professional athlete, I don’t usually stop until I conquer something, and I don’t like to take ‘no’ for an answer. Same for our efforts to save Hickory. To ensure the park is there for future generations, give a dollar, a hundred, a thousand. Give your time if you don’t have that. Just don’t give up.

By Geoff Burns

Since grade school, Geoff Burns has run trails at Hickory Hills. An avid and talented runner (a walk-on to University of Michigan’s track and cross-country teams), Geoff didn’t really hit his stride until he started running ultra-marathon distances at the age of 24. In 2016, he won the 100k National Championship in a course record time. Currently a member of the US National Team, Geoff is one of top 10 fastest, elite runners in the ultra marathon category in the world.

According to Geoff, 100k (62 miles) is the distance in which his personal speed output and his cardiovascular limit coincide, a sweet spot. At that ultra distance, Geoff has to use everything he has, literally.

Geoff, now pursuing his PhD in Kinesiology at Michigan, holds BS and MS degrees from UofM in biomedical engineering.

My summers training at Hickory, with the physical exertion and pride in getting to the top of a hill and the bliss in bombing down, fostered in me the joy of running. Hickory’s trails are a common thread through my running history.
Then, like now, Hickory is unspoken gem in the summertime. Running through a cool, hip city, then hitting a public trail system in hilly, wilderness, is just one thing that makes Traverse City incredibly unique. Hickory’s trails are so close, so beautiful.
I am a product of my place. This same place forms a contextual framework from which I compare everything. The woods, hills and water provide beauty. The four-season weather – develops physical and psychological toughness. All in a place where Midwestern kindness is in the paint and under the hood. It’s in my blood.

By Vince Halek

Vince Halek introduced his son Joey to disc golf.  They’re still playing, and at 23, Joey is finally beating his old man. Their favorite course? Hickory Hills which with its challenging design and terrain and top 5 state rank, draws players from across the state.

Vince is 50, an ‘old’ disc golfer. He and his son Joey meet each and every Thursday for dedicated father-son time, over a 2-hour disc golf game at Hickory Hills. They catch-up, wager, sweat and fight for bragging rights.

The 19th hole, with its downtown and water views, reminds Vince and Joey why they cherish this game and place with each other.

Go to Tilley’s to find your lost disc or turn one in. Such is the code among Hickory’s golfers, another reason why Vince and Joey love this place.