Community leaders of Traverse City first envisioned a local ski area for children in the late 1940’s. Although there were a limited number of ski areas in the region, most children did not have the means to travel to these ski slopes. With the dream of a local ski area that was accessible and affordable for Traverse City families, community leaders, including Loren Bensley, approached the city manager and the superintendent of the public schools for assistance. Local engineer, John Norton, worked with Bensley to select a site on the west side of Rennie Hill (south of fourteenth street along US-31) owned by the Traverse City School Board. From this, a partnership was formed and the Ci-Bo Recreation Area (Ci/City Bo/Board ) opened for skiing in Traverse City in 1948.
In the first year of operation, over 100 school children learned to ski under the direction of Hans (Peppi) Teichner, Ski Professional at Sugar Loaf Mountain, Sun Valley and Aspen ski resorts. Within two years, Ci-Bo Hill was not large enough to accommodate the growing number of skiers in Traverse City. Loren Bensley then took it upon himself to seek a larger area to build more ski runs and include a warming lodge with a snack bar and restrooms. Through his leadership, and the support of many others, the Hickory Hills Ski Area was developed and opened in the winter of 1951-1952. The 12-acre site was owned and operated by the City of Traverse City.
At the time, ski racers were required to be a member of a ski club to participate in and qualify for regional and national races. Having no ski clubs in Traverse City, Hickory Hills Ski Club was formed, allowing local racers to start a long list of skiers who would represent Traverse City in ski races throughout the United States. The Hickory Hills Ski Club expanded into the Grand Traverse Ski Club in 1953 and became the foremost ski club in Northern Michigan. The Grand Traverse Ski Club continues to operate in the spirit of its founding leaders with a volunteer board committed to providing affordable and accessible winter recreation opportunities for the youth of the Traverse City area.