Ausblick History and Organization

 

We continue to seek information, news clippings and pictures regarding Ausblick’s colorful history.
If you have anything to share, please email us and we will get in touch with you. Promise!

Hill 027 (Small)

avalanche_1950_pic1Ausblick (which means “scenic view or overlook” or, if you rearrange the letters, spell “A Ski Club”) ski area dates back to the early 1950’s. Reverend Raphael Hockhaus, S.J., a WWII combat Catholic chaplain started the Marquette University’s Avalanche Club in 1948. He sought out a ski hill site for the club, which had been skiing at other area locations including Slinger and just west of Menomonee Falls. He drove around and found the site in early spring, 1950, days after the Avalanchers learned they were losing the hill they used in the Slinger area. “One look at that big thing towering up into the noon sun,” he said, “and we knew that was what we wanted – even though we were almost two miles away when we saw it.” The club figured it was Divine Providence that led to the discovery of the hill so, in gratitude, christened the area “Maryhill” after the Virgin Mary. They planned to bring orphans and underprivileged children out to learn how to ski when Maryhill was completed.

The property was part of the John & Myrtle Condon farm. A contract (copy in Dennis Evinrude’s file) shows that the university purchased the hill from John & Myrtle on November 1, 1950 for $5,000 after leasing it for two years from them. [The Condons owned farm land south of our hill top (in their mid 80’s as of January, 2002; John passed in 2014), leasing it out to other neighboring farmers when John retired from farming. The kids developed a subdivision called Celtic Ridge, neighboring Ausblick to the south.]

While the boys used their talents and brawn to build the lodge, the girls used theirs to keep everyone nourished (see below pictures). The timbers and related lumber were scavanged from a garage located on the Marquette campus, Fr. Hockhaus being known for “recycling” any materials he could find. An Avalancher newsletter talks about this here:

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This copy of The Avalancher represents a typical newsletter sent out to members of Marquette University’s Avalanche Ski Club. 

 

 

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Lots of trees had to be cleared to make the hill skiable.

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1930-something Ford with V-8 engine, damaged in an accident, powered the rope tow. Note the extra wheel/tire mounted on the rear to allow the rope to ride in between. When a skier grabbed the rope, the man behind the wheel "gave it some gas" to get them up the hill.

1930-something Ford with V-8 engine, damaged in an accident, powered the rope tow.
Note the extra wheel/tire mounted on the rear to allow the rope to ride in between. When a skier grabbed the rope, the man behind the wheel “gave it some gas” to get them up the hill.

After arrangements were initially made to lease the property, work began in June, 1950, clearing the rocks that beaded the long slopes. Rock clearing continued into the late fall. Crowbars, a portable tree saw, bulldozer, bucksaws, axes and trucks were donated by generous friends. A dynamiter gave the club dynamite to remove tree stumps, then loaned his services to blow them up.

After having a rope tow (powered by an old – ’30’s? – engine from a car one of the members wrecked) installed under the direction of Don Haas, a civil engineering student, Father Hockhaus scrounged materials to be used in construction of the original lodge, built under the direction of Jerry Wimmer, a student of Marquette’s College of Engineering.

Don and Mary Haas (in a 2003 visit to Ausblick) recall working all day along with others from Marquette, the girls making apple pies from nearby apple trees and the boys picking corn from a farmer’s field (Condon’s? Meissner’s?) to go with the hamburgers they made on which to feast after the work was done. Father and Don would recite poetry.

According to the Haas’s, in the early days, students had to pay to ski but could work on the lodge or grounds to earn a ski ticket (A 2012 visit to Marquette University’s Library archives found documents, to be added soon, related to the fee schedules.).

 

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AvalancheMU53  AvalancheMU51  history1954  history1958  history1959  history1963

(The above are pages taken from various MU yearbooks specific to the Avalanche Ski Club membership, on- and off-hill activities. Summer activities included volleyball and freshmen orientations.)

 

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This copy of The Avalancher represents a typical newsletter sent out to members of Marquette University’s Avalanche Ski Club.

(We have found Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel articles related to the Avalanche Ski Club and Mary Hill. We will post them as soon as possible with some commentary. Here is a sample, a teaser from March 1, 1965 …)   MaryHillShovelRacePic311965 (…. and, something else, one of 16 overhead back to 1941) AusblickAerialVw14

In 1970, Marquette University realized that expensive upgrades were going to be necessary for safety so reluctantly sold the hill to a private corporation, Ready, Inc., which expanded the lodge and added the first of many improvements, including snowmaking, grooming, and the first triple chair lift in Wisconsin. The deal was struck because Marquette needed land on which to expand the campus and the owner of that Milwaukee property, Kingston “Chip Swallow, Jr. was interested in running a “country club-style” hill. Chip Swallow and friend, fellow investor, John Buechel, were fellow ski patrollers at a Washington County ski hill and were traveling up north to a patrol test. On the car trip, they got to talking about their mutual passion for skiing and formed a partnership to take over Mary Hill. Later, they were at Pabst Brewery’s Ratzkeller pondering what to name the hill. They asked the bartender, Adi Binder, a German-born with a still heavy accent, what German word would equate to Buena Vista, a term they knew from some ski run names both in Europe and at some US resorts. Adi immediately answered, “Ausblick!” And, so our name was born.

Betty Jo Azpell (formerly Berghammer), our longest-term ski patroller, Len Anhalt, former ski patroller and past president, John Stollenwerk will relate some anecdotes about the early days (We will expand this history soon with some of those stories, as well as former student, Gary Kropp, whose name was found in a Milwaukee Journal story.).
After three unsuccessful years of operation, the site was sold for $200,000 – $100,000 in loans from some members, who were soon paid off & $100,000 in (I will get details again from Dennis) – to Ready, Inc. Almost immediately, Ausblick, Inc. formed in 1973 as a non-stock, non-profit corporation. It struggled for quite a few years trying to convince area ski enthusiasts to join the club. In the mid-1980’s, its maximum limit of members according to by-laws, then 300, was reached. Since then, a growing ski race team brought the need to expand from Wednesday night, Friday night, Saturday and Sunday skiing to include Tuesday and Thursday nights.
AusblickPatrollers Photo of National Ski Patrollers taken in the early 1970’s. Kneeling from left, Dick Gutenkunst, John Martin, Bill Tews. Standing from left, Nick Kaiser, Kent Schaefer (MD), National Rep Bob Leverton, Len Anhalt, Ted Campbell, Charlie “Stormy” Keller, Jim Derse. Picture taken in front of Ausblick’s first ski lodge.

 ….a very old picture of Ausblick’s first (still current=2018) hill manager, Evinrude, looking to where he heard the camera “click”, in front of our first lodge.

Two of the rope tows we had – one from the dogleg turn of the bunny run to the top and one on the east side of the race run – were not being used much, members favoring the triple chair, so were removed (late 1980’s/early 1990’s). The motor housing from one of them was salvaged to be used as our race run start shack. Destroyed a few years later by an arson fire, it required a “work day” for Len Jakus, Pat Barney, Tom Blong and Jim Stein to build a more spacious replacement. Continued growth of the race program brought the need for the main run start shack and ramp as well as improved timing shacks at the bottom. In the late 1990’s, we added the start shack at the top of the main run next to the upper lift shack to give the younger, budding racers the same experience as the older kids over on the race run. Then, in 2005, a new start ramp was built in part to relieve congestion at the unloading ramp and to allow the racers more room to line up and “stage” for their turn down the course.

Back in the days of Marquette ownership, there was no such thing as night skiing. No lights. Too expensive. When Ready, Inc took over, besides the “new” triple chair lift, “new” lighting was installed. At the time, it was the best one could get, before serious lighting technologies developed. That original hill lighting system, state-of-the-art when installed, left us with some serious “dark” spots. We could not improve hill lighting for night skiing without replacing old with new. We made plans to do the $100,000+ project in three annual phases completed in 1992 or so (ask Dennis).

Because our first lodge’s north wall was the property lot line, former president Len Jakus, at the urging of the Board in 1990 (?), negotiated to buy nine acres (we should have bought more) at a cost of about $50,000 from Dan Meissner, who had allowed our members to park their cars on his adjoining farm land in exchange for a family membership. This added land prompted your Board to look at how we could better utilize the added terrain for expanded ski runs. And, anticipating that Sussex to the east would annex land from the Town of Lisbon for property development, it became obvious that our “old” lodge would need significant improvements for us to retain our “conditional use” permit. Coupling that with the prospects of expanded ski terrain being able to handle more ski enthusiasts, we engaged in a long term plan that included replacing our original home, the source of MANY fond memories, with the current lodge.

After many attempts to take a building plan to execution in the early 1990’s, the 1999 Board decided on a design by then-member Dale Streitenberger. Membership response was generally favorable but many resisted, suggesting “the old lodge was just fine.” Construction finally started with excavation and footings poured in late 1999. State of Wisconsin approval was a formidable challenge, delaying the work more than once. Due to mild weather, completion just preceded our hill opening in December, 2001. So ended Phase One of our long-range plan.

After enjoying the accolades of our new edifice and casually discussing how we would fund further activity, your Board felt that we would tackle some of the necessary foundational work, focusing on those things that we could budget from year to year. So, work began on our Phase Two with site engineering to determine if we can relocate the top of our hill to the southwest corner of our property and increase the height by 15 feet or more. This would allow us to access all skiable terrain from a (to be) newly installed quad (four person) chairlift. Replacing the pond, increased in size at least once, with one located to the north of the existing upper bunny run will afford more direct access to the main and racing runs. Our placement of the new lift through woods to the west of the main run, originating near the front of the new lodge, would be complimented by pivoting the lone bunny rope tow to follow our natural fall line in a southwest-northeast orientation. It would afford skiers/snowboarders and, especially, new learners a single fall line to negotiate, rather than the double fall line we’ve had for so many years.

Part of our plan required removing our former maintance building, which was next to the triple chair lift and building a new larger structure that would accomodate our growing assortment of equipment, including snow grooming, snow making and related functions. Some people have called it the “Garage Mahal”, completed in 2010. The next phase has been started, 2011 & 2012 with regrading and dumping free fill to the west of the upper bunny run. With this, we removed the bunny rope tow. To accomodate beginning skiers, we installed a variable speed control on our triple chairlift. And, we added a handle tow to the north of where the old rope tow had been, running adjacent to the west parking lot area. Re-contouring the former lower bunny run would allow ski and snowboard instruction away from general skiing/snowboarding traffic. Part of the area to the north of the former rope tow is used for snowboarders and, maybe skiers too, to enjoy terrain features set up each season. Three of the former rope tow pulleys, old car/truck spoke wheels, were saved by Dennis Evinrude, who gave them to Jim Stein to use for clocks, which were inserted where hub caps would be. They are used at the lower lift shack and bottom of the handle bar tow/beginners’ training slope.

The new pond, located to the west/uphill of the maintenance building, has about 4.7 million gallons of capacity. At this writing (12-2016), it is now “on-line” supplying water to the snowmaking machines. A second well was dug, just enclosed in a shed is to the north/next to the handle tow operator’s shack. Water from that well fills the new pond.

Our next phase will involve replacing the existing water and electrical grid as well as adding a grid for the new area to the west of the current upper bunny run. We are doing this in segments so as not to disrupt year to year snowmaking, as well as paying as we go. Here is an overhead/drone picture of the pond taken this summer (2016) before chainlink-fenced in:

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Anecdotes from years ago: When we were in the original lodge, the kitchen was outfitted, as our new lodge has been, with pizza ovens. They are in almost constant use by our members and their guests. One Sunday, typically busy, Joyce C (a brief Ski Patroller and spouse of an original patroller, Ted C) came to your historian and said that someone has taken her pizza out of the oven. Knowing that a properly worded announcement would work better than screaming “Who took Joyce’s pizza?”, he/I went on the PA system and nicely asked if the person who mistakenly took the wrong pizza please return it. Some minutes later, a sheepish-looking Mrs C admitted that no one had taken the pizza. It had simply slid to melt/stick to the back of the pizza oven wall. When she pulled the grate, it stayed stuck to the inside of the pizza oven. He/I suggested that Mrs C get on the PA system and apologize for the confusing and unnecessary announcement.

Another good old days anecdote: One sunny Sunday, a group of us patrollers were sitting at the round ski patrol table chit-chatting. Our hill manager, Dennis Evinrude, came over and pointed to a snowboard in the rack just in front of the lodge. It had a very, very provocative likeness of Silverster Stallone’s blond wife wearing just a smile. Since the Sunday crowd was populated by many families, lots of kids, Dennis asked your historian what to do about it. Advised to get a garbage bag, he watched as your historian went out and draped the bag over the snowboard. We then all watched and waited for the owner of the board to go back out to ride. When he did, your historian went out with some red duct tape and asked him to “cover up the vital parts”. With an understanding smile, he did so. We patrollers were duly appreciative, as were many other onlookers.

Some past members to be recognized for their awesome histories: Betty Jo Zintek Berghammer Azpell, who graduated from Divine Savior/Holy Angels High School, Milwaukee, in 1958. She came back to teach Science courses, with very impressive credentials, from 1977 to 2015. Yet, she continues to teach, being asked to fill in for absent teachers (Her classroom is “graced” by a DNR-approved mounted Screech Owl, donated by your historian.). She was a National Ski Patroller at Ausblick from 1970 until retiring in (to fill the year shortly; she still skis in 2018)…Her first husband, Don Berghammer, was part of the firm (Berghammer Construction) doing most of the conversion work at the hill. (more on that)

Your historian has been remiss, partly out of ignorance, in not adding a long time Ausblick member AND Marquette High School/University Alumnus, as well as Avalance Ski Club member, John Stollenwerk. A very humble man, married to an equally humble JoEllen, he knows a lot of our hill’s history about which we will post as much information as John can remember soon.

Some impressive past ski race team club members: Julia Wong, daughter of former Race Team Director and professional ski racer, Billy Wong, went to US Junior Olympics competition in Colorado, winning the opportunity to compete in the International Junior Olympics in Topolino, Italy, where she placed 4th in the world in slalom. As a result, your ski club and its race team are known around the world.

Another former Ausblick racer, a once shy 5 year old, Annie Ochs moved with her mom and dad, Jenny and Don Ochs, to Crested Butte, so she could have far more ski racing weather and slope conditions than our hill could afford her. Now 23 (2018), she’s graduated with a degree in Engineering Physics from the Colorado School of Mines and is now pursuing her Master’s in Biomechanical Engineering and is a race coach at Loveland, CO. Pictures are coming…..

The club Ski Patrol decided back in the early 2000’s to ride in the then-Miller Ride For The Arts, the 25 mile route south to Grant Park and back to the Summerfest grounds. June 5, 2005 was eventful. Among the riders were Jim Mitschrich, his wife, Megan, and son, Zach, along with Jim Stein. Jim Stein was having a problem that morning in keeping up. Yet, they were ahead of the rest of the group. When the Mitschrichs and Stein got to the first rest stop, Jim Stein got off his bike and collapsed. “Mitsch” saw Stein on the pavement and rushed over to discover he had no pulse. Mitsch started CPR and his son, Zach, ran to get the rescue squad. They came with the AED and put the pads on Stein’s chest, turned on the machine which checked and called out to “press for shock”. The “newbie” EMT, in a panic, pressed the “stop” button, whereupon Mitsch yelled to turn it back on. Having done so, Jim Stein’s heart restarted. The EMTs loaded him in the ambulance for transport to St. Luke’s Hospital where a stent was installed in a 99% blocked artery. But, on the way, Stein’s heart stopped again, requiring another shock to restart it. Jim Mitschrich was awarded a National Ski Patrol award for saving Jim Stein’s life. (more soon)

(as the story goes, more history details to follow as your historian has many, many more documents to post here….)

Ausblick Ski Club’s purpose is to provide its members with the finest ski facility in the area at a reasonable cost and without congestion.

Assets of the club include the hill, triple chair lift, snow making equipment, grooming equipment, cooling pond, lighting, chalet, garage, and other miscellaneous equipment.

Ausblick strives to provide well-groomed conditions for the varied abilities and interests of its members. Ski instruction, racing and freestyle, and snowboard programs are offered to help members improve their skiing/snowboarding capabilities. Ausblick ski patrollers are part of the National Ski Patrol System.

The social committee organizes events and parties that foster the camaraderie among members, which has built many old and developed new friendships.

The nine member Board of Directors and through committees headed by board members, is responsible for the formulation and monitoring of:

  • Policies (Operations, guests, hill rental, etc.)
  • Programs (Social, membership, racing, ski instruction, etc.)
  • Budgets (Expenses, cash flow, funds)
  • Longer Term Improvements (Needs, priorities, funding plans)
  • Our Traditions and Rich Growing History
  • Board members term three years. Three board members are elected at each annual meeting. (Held in August, now). The Board of Directors elects club officers.

Past Presidents

1973

Chester Schneider

1987 & 1988

Robert Kuelthau

1974

Tom Vavra

1989 & 1990

Len Jakus

1975 & 1976

Ted Campbell*

1991

James Peck

1977

Len Anhalt*

1992

Len Jakus

1978

William Blue

1993

James Stein*

1979

James Grove*

1994 & 1995

Charles Rogers

1980

Gene Dallapiazza

1996

Dennis Hilgart

1981

Ken Leenstra

1997 & 1998

Ervin Woller

1982

Charles Cerney

1999 & 2000

C. Patrick Barney*

1983 & 1984

John Borgwardt

2001 to 2011

Richard Ludwig

1985

Wayne Dannenbrink*

2011 to Present
Robert Turowski*

1986

Lucy Crowley*

* denotes National Ski Patroller

Historical Photo Gallery