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.|
|Thunder Mountain view looking southeast toward downtown Chicago.|
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.