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November 23, 1999

Ski area is a monument for community to preserve

Every community should be lucky enough to have a Warren Brosch.
      Brosch, who ran the Mt. Holiday ski area in Traverse City since the mid-1980s, made a difference. And when he died last week in an accident at the ski hill he left a void that will be difficult to fill.
      Over the years, friends said, Brosch remained true to a commitment he made when he first bought Mt. Holiday - to offer programs for kids who might not otherwise get a chance to ski.
      He wanted them to have the experience even if they couldn't afford some of the higher-end trappings of what can be an expensive sport, and family and friends said he was willing to risk the bottom line to do it.
      Jeff Morrison, who was director of skiing at Mt. Holiday for the past decade, said Brosch's attitude could be frustrating from a business perspective. "He would always say, 'I don't care if we make money,' " Morrison said last week.
      Brosch was also committed to the idea of keeping a community ski hill alive in the community and keeping the land from becoming another subdivision. He felt the community needed such a facility and was willing to work to keep it that way - sometimes 20 hours a day.
      Brosch had a lot of allies in his quest. Every year a group of volunteers gathered to help Brosch run his learn-to-ski programs and keep them at a reasonable cost. Some were parents of children learning to ski, others had had children go through the program. Others just wanted to support what Brosch was doing.
      The question now is what the future holds for Mt. Holiday and whether someone with the passion and vision of Warren Brosch will come forward to keep the community ski hill in the community. It won't be easy. Morrison said Brosch often put in 20-hour days keeping the place running and even then had a hard time breaking even.
      Mt. Holiday is a throwback to the days when many northern Michigan communities had local ski hills, often run by the community. The city of Traverse City still operates the Hickory Hills ski area west of town and it offers the same kind of opportunities as Mt. Holiday - inexpensive skiing and a chance for children to learn what can become a lifelong sport. But Hickory Hills isn't nearly big enough or accessible enough to replace Mt. Holiday and could never fill the gap.
      And getting government into the ski business probably isn't a good answer, either. Hickory Hills is a fine recreational offering, like a beach or a park. But running a larger area with greater commercial potential, like Mt. Holiday, is better left to the private sector.
      Hopefully some solution that will allow Mt. Holiday and Brosch's commitment to continue will emerge and generations of children yet to come can learn to ski and enjoy themselves right in their own backyard as thousands of others have before them.
      If it doesn't the community will be the poorer for it - just as it is already the poorer for losing someone like Warren Brosch.
     
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