Amazing things happened at Telemark Lodge!

It is difficult to put into words. Yes, people learned to ski. An epic ski race was born of the stuff of Telemark. A mountain bike race that has become a fixture for the whole Midwest community. Families started traditions. Cross country skiing was elevated into something far more majestic than a frosty ski through the woods. The whole of Northwest Wisconsin was lifted up. 

But it was far more than that. Something happened with the people who worked at and inhabited the halls of the old Telemark. They gained some magic powers. Some confidence, some grandiosity, maybe some Sisu – that allowed them to succeed and prosper long after Telemark went away. 

Talk to anyone who lived through it and they will try to articulate it. 

“Tony would walk in with a big plan,” they say, “and we were expected to make the plan a reality.”

“It was crazy,” they say with a laugh. 

And they go on to describe some scheme Tony had: “Fly all the best athletes in and have a World Cup race. Now, mind you, there was no such thing as a World Cup at the time. Tony made that up . . .”

The stories go on and on . . .

All of these people who were touched by Telemark seem to live life with a gleam in their eye. As if they are in on some great secret: “Anything is possible in the world – and we can have an amazing time making it so!”

And it seems that all of them went on to celebrate amazing successes – as if they had all gone to Harvard Business School for entrepreneurism. 

The fear is that these stories, this magic, that era, will die off with the generation that lived through it all. It’s almost as if the stories and the magic were buried with the old lodge. 

This proposal is meant to avoid all of that. 

Because Telemark and the spirit of Telemark are not dead. The spirit lives on every time someone skis the Birkie. Every time a biker heads out on the trails. Every time a new Northwoods event is conceived. Every time we celebrate the history and ask “what if?”

And now, with the new Mt. Telemark Village the spirit of Tony and Telemark will have a new home. 

Mt. Telemark Village is a $10 Million project meant to revive Telemark and the spirit of entrepreneurism that defined the old Telemark era. The project is led by the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF) – an organization that may have seen a slow start, but has now revived the can-do entrepreneurial spirit that defined the early days. 

This is a think-big Tony-style project with a big (for the ABSF) price tag. But we think it will be well worth it. 

The project will specifically do two things. 

First, it provides a permanent home for the ABSF and the whole community. First class trails, including a revival of the old Telemark Trails, with snowmaking (recall that Tony was an early leader in snowmaking technology with the old Mt. Telemark), new mountain bike trails (Tony was always quick to adapt to the newest trends), and a new hiking trail that takes folks to the top of Mount Telemark for a grand view of the whole area from the new Kawabaming Tower. A hotel, camper cabins, a restaurant, a coffee shop, and bike and ski rentals provided by a variety of partner vendors – again harkening back to Tony’s “mall” in the old lodge. Finally, a new base camp building, complete with a gathering space and the Tony Wise Museum. 

Second, Mt. Telemark Village is an opportunity to tell the stories and honor the past that brought us to this present moment. In addition to the Museum, MTV will include a new Lobby Plaza in order to welcome the new and honor the past. Built literally in the same location as the grand lobby in the old lodge, the cornerstones of the new Lobby Plaza are pillars preserved from the old lodge. We envision those pillars standing as tributes to that special spark that made the old Telemark work. 

We need your help with both pieces. We need your help financially – so that we can make this grand plan into a reality and help to bring people back to Telemark. But we also need your stories, your pictures, and a bit of the fairydust you acquired in those magical days of yesteryear. On this latter piece we admit that we don’t know exactly what we are looking for. I guess one way to put it is that we are hoping that those that lived through Telemark’s glory days can help us better define what telling these stories looks like. Is it pictures or murals? Is it verbal histories? Is it videos? Is it a Tony Wise Academy of some sort? We don’t pretend to know the answer to this question. But we know that we want to get this right. We want to honor Tony, the stories, and the memories. More than that, we want to help those stories, that fairydust, pass to the next generation: so that the Cable/Hayward area remains this strange little hotbed of forward-thinking and entrepreneurism. 

Please join us in making Mt. Telemark Village a reality and, more than that, in making sure that it is a place that carries on the incredible spirit of the old Telemark and all it stood for.