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AKA Grayling Winter Sports Park, Bear Mountain, Hanson Hills Recreation Area
The building was demolished in 2008. A YouTube video of that can be seen here.
The Fred Bear Museum originated in Grayling, Michigan in 1967. Eventually the museum's collection represented the largest privately held collection of archery artifacts in the world. At first the museum remained behind in Grayling, but in 1985 it too was moved to Gainesville Florida, where it found a home in the Bear Archery plant between Archer Road and Williston Road, just off of I-75. That museum closed in 2003, and the collections were sold to the Bass Pro Shops chain.
Since then, the Fred Bear Museum was displayed at the headquarters store of Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Missouri. Exhibits included the story of Fred Bear and bowhunting history, life-size animal mounts, bowhunting artifacts, some of his trophies and memorabilia, and historical bows and arrows used or built by Fred Bear and his company. The exhibit was temporarily closed due to the construction of an aquarium in the same building. Artifacts from the Fred Bear Museum have now been incorporated into the Archery Hall of Fame and Museum on the upper floor of the Bass Pro Shop Outdoor World.
Fred Bear was also the first president of Michigan's oldest archery club, Detroit Archers. A small collection of his memorabilia is located in the club house. The most prized piece is that of one of his polar bear skins, shot with an arrow. In 2006, Detroit Archers was broken into and the skin was stolen. The case is still open and no suspects or evidence has been found as to the skin's whereabouts.
All of the following entries are from the MILSAP blog
Grayling Winter Sports Park - 1929
The Hanson Hills home page (near the bottom) contains a brief history of the area. Opening 1n 1929, they claim it was the first downhill ski area in Michigan and the second in the midwest. They also recount:
“The “Snow trains” brought many people to Grayling where they would board flat bed trucks for the ride to what was then called the “Grayling Winter Sports Park”. The Michigan Snow Queens were crowned and honored at the annual Winter Carnival, famous for the elaborate ice sculptures built by local people. The old toboggan run was an attraction that thrilled many. Another exciting attraction was the 66 ft. ski jump that was built in 1934.”
On Mar. 14, 1941, The Cass City Chronicle noted: Due to generous support of the federal park service, state conservation department, and Civilian Conservations Corps, Grayling offers today the finest public toboggan set-up in the entire United States, and this isn’t paid ballyhoo. Six steel slides are the only ones of their kind anywhere not excluding Lake Placid or Sun Valley. Two ski tows have been in operation; next season there will be three.
The Grayling WSP was county-operated until the late 1960’s when operations were taken over by a group of local businessmen and entrepreneurs including Fred Bear of Bear Archery. They renamed it Bear Mountain and attempted to expand it into a major, commercial ski area to rival the bigger areas further north. They ran it until 1973 when a legal challenge over the use of the land for commercial purposes caused a judge to padlock it.
Since 1973, it has been operated as Hanson Hills Recreation Area by the Grayling Recreation Authority. This area has 225' of vertical and 125 skiable acres with 1 T-bar and 2 rope tows. The longest alpine run is 2640'. The season usually runs December to March; Thu-Sun. Night skiing Thu/Fri/Sat. Rentals & Lessons. Annual Snowfall: 60?. Snowmaking: 75%.
Bear Mountain – Grayling - 1960's
Operation of the former Grayling Winter Sports Park was taken over by local businessmen and entrepreneurs including Fred Bear of Bear Archery and operated as Bear Mountain for a few years in the 1960’s up until 1973. They wanted to build the area into a large, commercial area to challenge the big ski areas further north. Bear Mountain featured a polygonal hotel brought from the Montreal Olympic Village and many ancillary businesses. Bear greatly expanded the skiing facilities and lift plant. On Dec. 10, 1970, the AAA Michigan 1971 Winter Sports Fun List, published in The Cass City Chronicle listed Bear Mountain as having 20 slopes, a double chair lift, T-bar, Poma, and 12 rope tows. They offered ice skating, tobogganing, night skiing and snowmaking.
On Jan 4, 1968, The Cass City Chronicle printed the AAA Guide to Winter Sports Fun in Michigan which listed Bear Mountain (formerly Grayling Winter Sports Park) with 20 runs and slopes, T-Bar, chairlift, Pomalift, 10 ropes, Ice skating and tobogganing, snowmaking, and night skiing. Obviously the name change was this year or just prior.
Unfortunately, Bear Mountain was situated on land which had been willed to the state for military or recreational use. The family of the donor objected to the land being developed for profit and brought suit. A judge had the area padlocked in 1973. The area is now operating as Hanson Hills Recreation Area.
Hanson Hills Recreation Area – Grayling - 1973 to Present
Originally opened in 1929 as the Grayling Winter Sports Park on land willed to the state for recreational or military use, Hanson Hills is now run by the Grayling Recreation Authority, a consortium of the city of Grayling, Crawford County, the Crawford Au Sable Schools.
Hanson Hills is the successor area to Bear Mountain, which was the name of the area from around 1970 until 1973, when the area was padlocked due to a legal dispute about the use of the land. The History of Hanson Hills is recounted on their home page (near the bottom).
Hanson Hills has downhill skiing with a ski school (free to 3rd and 4th graders) and snowboard school, nordic skiing, a terrain park, and tubing. They boast 11 slopes, a T-bar and 2 rope tows. In summer, they have disc golf, mountain biking and archery. In the fall, they offer flag football and cheering lessons for elementary school youngsters. The recreation authority also operates the former state fish hatchery on the north side of town on the East Branch of the Au Sable River.