Chicago’s Ski Resort—Thunder Mountain

Once Chicago had an actual ski resort within the city limits.  Its name was Thunder Mountain.

By the 1960s the Carey Brick Works had been in business for decades at 2600 North Narragansett Avenue.  In the process of digging out clay for bricks, a massive pit had been formed in the ground.  Then, in January 1967, Chicago was hit by a record blizzard.  What could you do in a city that was paralyzed by snow?

Thunder Mountain-view NE, toward Steinmetz High School

Thunder Mountain-view NE, toward Steinmetz High School

The Carey family had done some skiing at their brickyard already.  During the summer of 1967 work began on converting the property into a public ski resort.  Thunder Mountain opened on January 5, 1968.

Because of the man-made hill and the pit at its bottom, Thunder Mountain claimed the highest vertical drop within hundreds of miles–285 feet.  The 55 skiable acres included three runs.  Two certified ski instructors were on the premises.

Thunder Mountain--view toward the summit

Thunder Mountain–view toward the summit

Thunder Mountain’s original operating schedule listed hours from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., seven days a week.  Lift charges were $3.50 during the week, $4.00 on Saturday and Sunday.  Parking cost $1.00.

There were grand plans for developing a full-scale resort.  A onetime brick kiln was already being renovated into an A-shaped chalet.  Management talked about putting in a toboggan run and a 125-unit motel on Diversey Avenue.  Negotiations were underway to purchase a gondola ride from the recently-closed Riverview amusement park.

Thunder Mountain--view SE, toward downtown

Thunder Mountain–view SE, toward downtown

None of these ambitious projects became reality.  Thunder Mountain ran into a couple of warm winters and public indifference, and closed after two seasons.  A  shopping plaza called The Brickyard was eventually built on the site.



5 Responses to “Chicago’s Ski Resort—Thunder Mountain”

  1. 1 Ralph October 4, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Nice article. I lived near there in 1976 and we use to ride our dirt bikes around there. In the late 1960’s, did they even have snow making machines?

    • 2 J.R. Schmidt October 4, 2013 at 5:12 pm

      Ralph– According to contemporary newspaper reports, Thunder Mountain did have a snow-making machine. But it evidently didn’t produce enough snow to make the place profitable.

  2. 3 joe honer October 19, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    I grew up on Natchez ave and used to play on thunder mountain against my parents an other adults warnings. In 1975 I had a near death accident in which I almost bled to death and never returned. I do have awesome euphoric memories of this place however. Joe Honer

    • 4 Andrew Pincsak September 24, 2015 at 11:15 pm

      Well I grew up on Neenah and that Mountain was = to todays game-boys etc. We made ramps for bikes, we had rafts in the pond, we had fights with the Riis park kids. We learned the streets. We had rock fights and drank our first beer in the old abandoned trucks and cars. It was like a vacation in Wisconsin but only it was down the block on the other side of Diversey Ave. After a long days of messing around we would scrape all our money together and go to Mr. D’s hot dogs down the block.
      This old ski resort and brick yard was the best kid’s playground ever.
      Sometimes we would hide in the weeds by the tracks and hop the train when it went by so we could get a free ride to the Kimball candy factory
      on the other side of Belmont by Nashville Ave. great times.

  1. 1 | Trackback on October 10, 2013 at 10:06 am

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