The City of Traverse City’s Nordic course at Hickory Hills has been awarded a homologation certification by the International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS). With this stamp of approval, Hickory Hills becomes the only homologated cross-country ski course in Michigan’s lower peninsula and joins two other homologated courses in Michigan, both in the Upper Peninsula: Ishpeming and Houghton. There are only 37 homologated courses in the United States.
Homologation or “course approval” was awarded following a multi-year effort coordinated by volunteers of VASA Ski Club, City staff, and the non-profit Preserve Hickory that included preparing specific documents describing the course, site visits, and a report by an FIS Homologation Inspector. The homologation process confirms that the technical requirements of FIS have been met, and it allowed local organizers to discuss protective safety needs, course preparation, and use of the facility with the inspector.
The first race on the newly approved course will be the Junior National Qualifiers, scheduled for late January 2024.
FIS Homologation Inspector Gary Larson reflected on his site visits to Hickory Hills, “The success of Hickory Hills is a direct result of the active ski community and the excellent support and cooperation with the ski hill. One thing that sets Hickory Hills apart from other locations is its convenient proximity to the population of Traverse City. The terrain has dictated a challenging course that will test every skier. Good things are ahead.”
The new 3.3 km Nordic course is a part of the non-profit Preserve Hickory’s significant advocacy and fundraising effort that began in 2014 with the development of the Hickory Hills Master Plan. Over $5 million has been invested in the park to support park improvements. Phase 2 of the Master Plan, which included expanding snowmaking and lighting and preparing the Nordic ski trails for homologation, was launched last year with a $125,000 grant from the Great Lakes Sports Commission. In addition, support for Phase 2 was provided by Preserve Hickory, our fundraising partner in the amount of $260,745 a $50,000 Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant, $7,500 from in-kind services from contractors, and $5,605 fund balance for the project. Traverse City Light & Power also provided $28,465 in materials.
“The degree of collaboration from area clubs and community volunteers involved in this process was incredible. Hosting high-level Nordic races is just another step in Hickory’s storied history,” Laura Ness, President and co-founder of Preserve Hickory, said. “Receiving a grant award of $125,000 from the Great Lakes Sports Commission filled in a gap in funding needed to complete the project. The FIS certification would not have been possible without their support.”
“The goals of the Hickory Hills project are well-aligned with the goals of the Great Lakes Sports Commission,” said GLSC Executive Director Eric Marvin. “FIS-sanctioned races will contribute to the area’s economic development by attracting regional and national athletic event participants. The new course will also help develop youth athletes in the region.”
Parks and Recreation Superintendent, Michelle Hunt, stated, “We are thrilled to receive the FIS homologation certificate. This achievement highlights the dedication of our staff and partners and underscores Hickory Hills' position as a premier destination for cross-country skiing enthusiasts in the region. We also look forward to hosting the Junior National Qualifier in 2024. The opportunity to welcome athletes, families, and spectators to Hickory Hills is not just a privilege but a celebration of sportsmanship and camaraderie. We look forward to creating a memorable and exciting event that showcases the best of our community's spirit and the thrill of Nordic competition. "
Located in the heart of Traverse City, Hickory Hills opened in 1952 and is owned and operated by the City of Traverse City.