IT’S AMAZING HOW a 20-minute walk can bring back so many good memories of so many good times.

Every winter, I search out places where I can walk my dogs without worrying about having them getting hit by a car, snowmobile or some other motorized vehicle. There are just a few such places near my house and Sunday afternoon, I took them to one of those places that holds a treasure trove of great memories for me dating to when I was 6 years old.

Mus-Ski Mountain was the name of the ski hill west of Sayner that operated for a decade in the ’50s and ’60s. Musky Mountain, as it is called on the map, is the seventh highest point in Wisconsin. No wonder they call it a mountain.

Mus-Ski Mountain came into existence through the efforts of several Sayner businessmen who thought it would bring some extra dollars into the local winter economy. They worked with the old Wisconsin Conservation Department and once they got the paperwork finished, the shovel in the ground work began.

Forrest Dean did the bulldozing, which I have to tell you would have scared the bejesus out of me, especially on the almost straight up and down headwall run. Holiday and Birch Valley would have been no picnic either, at least on the steep top section.

When Mus-Ski Mountain opened, it had four runs going down from the very top, along with the bunny hill off to the side and out of sight of the other runs. Originally, the ski chalet was located at the bottom of the bunny hill.

That was where my downhill skiing career began. Most of my skiing that first winter was at night. The bunny hill was rigged with lighting and twice weekly, a good many local folks gathered there to ski. I was one of them. My dad was the head of the ski patrol, but aside from Sundays, his only day off from work, nights were when he could ski and patrol.

My first skis had bear-trap bindings, as did most skis of the day. There was no safety release from the cable that locked your foot into the forward toe holder so if you fell, there was definitely the chance of bones breaking. Fortunately, that never happened to me though over the years, good friends like Carole Froelich, Kathryn Froelich, Brad Hammer and one of the Boulder Junction girls, one of the Klassens, I seem to remember, did break a leg.

During that first year of skiing, I had no trouble with the downhill part. I would schuss straight down to the chalet, utilizing the sit down and slide technique in order to stop and avoid ramming into the chalet. Nobody told me it was a lot easier to turn and stop.

Going up was the hard part. I was too short to reach the rope tow at the bottom, so I would stand inside my dad’s skis, hold onto his knees and ride up in front of him. I gotta tell you, it made me feel like a really big man the next winter when, by hopping up as much as I could on skis, I could grab the rope and go up on my own.

All of us local children couldn’t wait each December for enough snow to ski on. Don Swanson was the hill manager and on the first day open, he would have children line up across the hill to sidestep together to the bottom. It was the quickest way to pack a base when there was no machinery to do it with. After we finished packing, we could ski for free the rest of the day.

On the big part of the hill, accomplished skiers rode to the top on the Sitz lift and skied down through heavy powder with a big roller behind them. One by four slats were nailed around a 3-foot in diameter wooden disc. A water pipe was used for an axle and 1-inch tubing extended in a U-shape to about 6 feet in front of the wheel.

The idea was to ski straight down the hill with the roller behind you, preferably without crashing which would usually result in the roller rolling over you. I began pulling the roller down about the time I was 12 and only crashed once, fortunately with no damage to me or the roller.

Later on, a huge Polaris snowmobile which had a seat wide enough for three people and was powerful enough to climb the hill even through deep powder was employed to pull three rollers spread out on a hitch behind it, much as you see golf course mowers doing today.

In high school, along with my cousin, I worked weekends at Mus-Ski Mountain, which by that time had lighting on the big part of the hill. By then too, the chalet had been moved to a position at the bottom of the big hill for better spectator viewing. 

We also were part-time instructors and went through the junior Red Cross ski patrol training with a few of our friends of high school age. We mainly watched senior members do the rescue work, but one year on a Saturday when no adult patrollers were there, I wound up being the lead doctor splinting up Hammer when he broke his ankle on headwall. I worried that it was a pretty bad job of splinting, but he survived to the hospital, wore a cast for several weeks and walked on that ankle for the rest of his life, so I guess it was okay.

Sunday afternoon, as my dogs and I wound our way up the tower maintenance road that once upon a time was the Back Trail run, all sorts of memories came flooding back. 

There were the Saturday night dances at the chalet, clandestine tobaggon trips down Birch Valley at night, kissing a girl for the first time when she “accidentally” fell on me going down Back Trail, climbs up the state’s 80-foot fire tower for views which went forever, watching Porter Dean finish a February foot race to Mus-Ski Mountain while barefoot, competing in and sometimes winning high school slalom races, and flying 60 feet through the air off of self-constructed jumps near the bottom of Holiday.

It’s all changed now and the ski runs, the friends I made from Boulder Junction, Mercer and beyond, the winter festivals, and the tourists who flocked to the hill during Christmas vacation are mostly memories from the past. Good memories, good times. I’ll never forget them.