My mother, Peg Bird ’40, often spoke about the ‘ski hill’ on the UW campus. Is it still there? Where was it in her era? I’d like to visit.
The ski slide your mother remembers so fondly was located on Muir Knoll overlooking Lake Mendota. It was constructed over winter break in 1919 under the leadership of a group of Norwegian students, and the sport quickly caught on. The original slide was wooden, and by 1930 it had fallen into disrepair and was condemned. But the UW wouldn’t let the ski slide go without a fight. Led by Dr. H. C. Bradley ’10, adviser to the UW Ski Club, and Porter Butts ’24,, MA’36, director of the Memorial Union, $1,600 was raised to save the slide. By 1933, a new steel slide was built on the same site, weighing in at 55 tons and standing 56 feet high.
According to an article in the 1957 Daily Cardinal, the steel slide enjoyed heavy use in the years to follow by the Hoofers ski club, members of the 1941 Olympic team from Wisconsin and Madison-area skiing enthusiasts. But in 1955, the vice-president of the university asked the Hoofers to practice at the nearby Blackhawk ski jump so that parking space could be developed on the site. That year, there were an estimated $400 in repairs needed for the jump, and it was dismantled and moved to Madison’s Hoyt Park.