The Lower Peninsula's first premier cross country ski center, Forbush Corner, has been teetering on insolvency for several years. Poor snow years and additional competition have each added to reduced skier turnout. Concerned patrons for Forbush are meeting shortly to develop plans to keep the center open for the 2004-2005 season.
Opened in 1980, Forbush Corner offered professional grooming well beyond anything seen in Michigan before. Owner Dave Forbush had a well known ski shop, provided inexpensive bunk beds for overnight stays, added high pressure sodium lights for night skiing, and expanded the trail system in state and leased private lands.
Dave's prowess at grooming was legendary - it was the performance skier's choice. As Dave says, "Other than Royal Gorge, there is no place else in America with more equipment (2 Pisten Bullys & 1 Bombardier) devoted solely to Nordic grooming. There is no place in America that can match our versatility in light or heavy snow." Dave helped other centers improve their grooming by renovating then selling cross country ski grooming equipment.
Competition and Poor Snow
Over the years, however, downhill ski resorts added cross country ski trails and the Vasa Trail opened with local support. The Cross Country Ski Headquarters even added snowmaking equipment. The diversity of options - a joy for cross country skiers - has reduced the number skiers that might ski at any one on any particular day.
What has hurt most, says Dave, "is having a 2 month snow season. It not only shortens the income producing period but it also reduces the overall skier numbers."
The result? Several cross country ski resorts have gone out of business, victims of not enough skier traffic to cover costs. Cool Cross Country, Wilderness Valley, Marsh Ridge, Sylvan Resort (Treetops) and Lakeview Lodge have all shut down their Nordic ski operations in the past several years.
"Vasa has hurt a little as it's basically free," says Dave. "They pay no taxes, no equipment costs, no operators, they have a bathroom that would cost well over $100,000, free land - it could easily be impossible to compete with the taxpayers deep pocket. I think we can outgroom them as our patented plates are a unique design. We have everything the finest of these areas have plus the plates that set a durable skate area that doesn't start out too soft and wind up rock hard by the end of the day. But I don't think most people notice. We also have a lightweight but full sized Bombardier rigged for extremely light snow. I feel we can set tracks when people using snowmobiles are having a difficult time."
A number of Forbush Corner fans, led by Frank Nizio, are leading an effort to keep Forbush Corner open. Some of the options include forming a co-op or adding additional money making services, including lodging. Frank is proposing a dinner meeting at the Michaywe' restaurant on Saturday, July 24 at 7:00 for anyone interested in joining in the discussion. Please let him know whether you are able to attend so that he can make dinner reservations. Frank is also available at other times if that presents a problem for anyone. Frank can be contacted at nizioallen@NOSPAMcomcast.net (remove "NOSPAM" before you send the e-mail message) or (313)259-6259.
Michaywe' is located about 7 miles SE of Gaylord. From the South, exit I75 at Waters (mile marker 270), go west about 1/2 mile to 27, go north about 5 miles to the flashing light at Charles Brink, turn east and follow Charles Brink until it turns into Opal Lake Rd. The Michaywe' restaurant called In the Woods will be on your right after you pass the Lakes golf course.