The preserved remains of this ski resort near Traverse City, Michigan create a quiet nostalgia you won’t find in most abandoned sites. After the mountain closed in 2000 due to heightened competition on nearby slopes and poor management, the resort was left vacant. But oddly enough, it isn’t empty.
This shuttered ski lodge, still filled with hastily scribbled paperwork, snow-stained lift tickets, slightly faded race bibs, and sun-washed vintage posters brings to mind the memories of a real, living, breathing business in the way that a crumbling, graffiti-covered factory cannot. This place was abandoned, it feels like, instantaneously, leaving an ever-present snapshot of that moment in history. Finds like these are a gem in urban exploration, rarely existing and even rarer to find.
The site is comprised of a main ski lodge, a hotel with an outdoor pool, and a ski hill with deserted lifts hanging at eternal standstill. The entire place has the eerie feeling that it was simply paused instead of ended. The route map at the base of the hill proclaims that most of the runs are “open” and plowed, despite being closed and empty for years.
Peek through the windows and you’ll see that the hotel bedrooms are still neat and made-up, sheets tucked in, and trash cans emptied as if they will be accepting residents tomorrow. The lodge’s dining hall holds empty carousels meant for soft pretzels and slushie machines that sit unplugged on surfaces covered in a layer of dust that can’t conceal the neon logos beneath. The resort’s office space contains more scattered paperwork than they use for the “school’s out” scene of a high school movie.
Peeking in the windows is the best option to view the interior, as most windows are shattered. In addition, some ground-level doors are open to see into the rooms. The interior has the eerie feeling of a Stephen King movie. It is probably a safe assumption that the place is covered with asbestos as insulation, and other materials are all over the floors and coming out of the ceiling.
Catching a glimpse of the interior of Sugar Loaf is cool enough to be its own adventure, but don’t leave before climbing to the top of the mountain itself. You’re going to have to make the hike up a black diamond slope without the help of automated lifts (although five of them sit, vacant, to mock you), but the view at the top is worth it, with great views of Little Traverse Lake and Good Harbor Bay to the North and Lime Lake to the Southwest.
The resort was purchased in 2016, and its new owner has said there are plans to one day reopen it.
Update as of August 2021: The lodge is slated for demolition.
Know Before You Go
Be sure to view the resort from the outside, as attempting to enter is trespassing.