Thursday, February 2, 2017

Thunder Mountain Ski Resort, Chicago, Illinois.

Thunder Mountain Ski Resort was the only Chicago ski resort. Its brief life was as short as a run down its 285-foot slope.
Located at what was the Brickyard Shopping Mall on the Northwest Side, the grandly named Thunder Mountain was open for one season, the 1967-68 winter. It boasted the biggest vertical drop of any place within 200 miles, according to a 1967 Tribune story, a feat it managed because skiers started at the top of a man-made hill and ended in the bottom of the clay pit excavated over the decades by the Carey Brick Co.

The Careys launched "Thunder Enterprises" and divided the landscape into three different runs for experts, beginners, and intermediates, all served by tow ropes. Owner Robert Carey had big plans for the place, envisioning a five-story chalet on the Diversey Avenue side, toboggan runs, an indoor swimming pool and a hotel. Ski lifts also were planned. 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.
Thunder Mountain view looking northeast toward Steinmetz High School.
The Tribune reported that the family had been enjoying the slopes for a few years before deciding to open it to the public. But a March 1968 story blamed a horrible lack of snow and "some growing pains" for a first season that was "hardly a smashing success." The ski run never reopened, though the Tribune reported in 1971 that abandoned ski lift poles at the site were used by ham radio operators for a simulated emergency exercise.
Thunder Mountain view looking southeast toward downtown Chicago.
Oak Park resident Deb Pastors, who grew up near the site, has been telling people about the ski run for years, she wrote, and "people look at me like I have horns growing from my head. I think the whole brickyard story would be pretty interesting, but the story about the ski hill would be really fascinating."

For the record, the Carey Brick Co. made a fortune for political heavyweight and onetime mayoral candidate Thomas Carey and his family. It was part of a Chicago-area industry that produced 300 million bricks a year. In 1950, the company was fined for using those clay pits as illegal dumps, ending a protracted battle with neighbors. The factory closed about 1960.

The original Brickyard Mall opened in 1978, and the site's brief fling as a ski resort faded into history. By 2003, the mall was nearly 80 percent vacant, so the city council approved a $100,000,000 redevelopment plan to demolish the structure. Opening in its place was a strip mall with Target and Lowe's, along with a relocated Jewel supermarket.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 


  1. I was quoted in this DNAinfo article about Thunder Mountain on February 8, 2017.

  2. I had no idea ! This would have been so fun for ski club but I wasn't in high school yet.

  3. Never realized The Brickyard had once been an actual brick yard. Duh!


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