IT IS NOT a good thing when people try to live in the past. It is, however, a very good thing when people stop now and then to look back at their past.

As I always do a few times a year, last week I revisited a small piece of the past that was a huge part of my life in the 1950s and ’60s. With Gordie the wonder dog scouting ahead, I walked the long, uphill curving service road to the top of Musky Mountain.

I was 7 years old when Mus-Ski Mountain ski hill, as it was named, opened about 2 miles the way the crow flies from my parents’ home west of Sayner. During its short 10-year existence, Mus-Ski Mountain played a large part in not only my life, but that of my entire family.

My uncle, Neal Long, was one of the Sayner businessmen who ponied up cash to build a chalet and bulldoze the ski runs at Mus-Ski Mountain. Grandpa Maines was the first lift operator to work at Mus-Ski Mountain. My dad was the first and I think only chief of the ski patrol. For part of the ski hill’s existence, my mother ran the lunch counter.

My brothers, cousins and practically everyone else in our extended family were avid skiers. For the first few years, the chalet was located off to the right of the main hill. It sat at the bottom of Bunny Hill, which was serviced by a rope tow powered by an old pickup truck engine.

Later, it was moved to a location at the bottom of the main hill. Along with skiers, all the old folks in the area loved to come out and sit at picnic tables in the chalet Sunday afternoons from which they watched all the skiers flying down challenging runs.

By the second year of the hill’s operation, I was first allowed to use the Sitz Lift or J-Bar as it also was called to go to the very top of Mus-Ski Mountain.

The first time, it was a little intimidating to stand at the precipice of a hill measured at that time as the seventh highest point in Wisconsin. Two hundred vertical feet down to the bottom looked like a long, long way to go to me.

Nonetheless, I pushed off, flew down the steep top section, glided across the slightly sloped midsection and gained speed again on the steep bottom section. After that, you couldn’t keep me away from the Sitz-Lift and the top of Mus-Ski Mountain.

Along with skiing, as a teenager I was a member of the junior ski patrol. My most vivid memory of being a patroller was the day we got called to get out to the bottom of Birch Valley. A skier was reportedly down there and in great pain.

Upon arriving we found an old codger in the deep snow just off the packed run, moaning like the Grim Reaper was only a few seconds away. My dad and the other adult patrollers got his skis off, checked him out carefully, gently worked a stiff cardboard splint around one leg and got him on the rescue toboggan, all the while with him screaming in pain.

With the loading of the patient complete, I stood wide-mouthed as the “severely injured patient” arose, laughed and shook my dad’s hand. He was a fake. He was the subject of a training exercise only my dad was in on.

Here’s the kicker. Two weeks later, I happened to be in the chalet’s ski shop when another injured skier was reported. I skied down into Birch Valley with the rest of the crew.

Wouldn’t you know it? The injured skier was the same old faker. This time he wasn’t faking. Sticking through the top of the toe of one of his leather ski boots was the sharp metal point of his ski pole. Like the last time, he was moaning and groaning like he was in acute agony.

Gently, my dad and another patroller removed the pole point, got his boot and socks off, and checked his foot which they expected to be gashed and bloody. Except, it was their turn to laugh. The point had lodged between his big toe and the one next to it without even breaking the skin. I’m sure the old guy was panicked and scared, thinking he was hurt and in great pain, but seeing the end result, he even chuckled a little while he stood up with a hangdog look on his face.

Not all the skier injuries were that mild. As I stood at the top of Mus-Ski Mountain the other day, I could see the spot where Kathryn Froelich fell and broke a leg. I could see the spot at the bottom of Headwall where Brad Hammer fell. I was the only member of the ski patrol at the hill when he broke his ankle, and I led a couple helpers getting him splinted and down the hill.

My only disappointment when I climb Mus-Ski Mountain these days is that I can no longer look out from a barren hilltop to gaze across parts of Plum, Razorback and Star lakes. Trees growing on the hill now for more than 50 years pretty much totally block the view.

No longer can I look to the north and see the rising big hills north of Mercer heading up to Hurley. No longer can I look east and see the tower along Highway 17 just south of Eagle River, the red lights of which we could easily see on evenings when the hill was open for night skiing.

As usual, it was with a little reluctance that I turned around for the hike back down the hill. So many memories, so many good times. I’ll relive some more of them the next time I make the climb.

It’s good to do that.