William Mulyca had a perfect solution to make skiing affordable for his family: He’d build his own run
They enjoyed trips down to Scotch Valley, a small Delaware County ski operation about an hour away. Only even back in the 1950s, skiing wasn’t inexpensive, especially for a farmer and mechanic with a family of six.
The Mulyca children devised a solution in the winter of 1963. And it was far closer to home.
The children were well acquainted with a steep hill on the family’s sprawling 280-acre dairy farm. During their early youth, they’d traverse it each day to reach their one-room schoolhouse on Putnam Road — just a short hike up the ridge and trek across some pasture.
“When we’d get snow or sleet, we’d take a sled and slide home,” recalled Vince Mulyca, one of three sons.
After some prodding, the father fired up his bulldozer and began clearing off brush at the top of the hill. Soon, the family was zipping down the ridge with reckless abandon.
The snow was thick and wet, as could be expected along the Mohawk Valley. There was no lodge at the bottom and no mechanism to bring them back to the top of what is now Maple Ski Ridge.
“We walked up most of the time,” recalled George Mulyca, the eldest son, who turns 80 today.
Maple Ski Ridge is celebrating its 50th anniversary this winter.
Today, Maple Ski has a double and triple chair, two rope tows, eight snow jets and lights for night skiing.
There’s a lodge at the bottom and a ski shop for rentals, including snow boards that didn’t even exist when runs were first hewn from the farmland. The operation is far from what any of the Mulycas first envisioned when their father jumped on the bulldozer more than a half-century ago.
“We didn’t look that far in the future,” said Vince Mulyca, 78.
They also didn’t envision an entire family that would gravitate to the ski business. George Mulyca’s daughter, Carolyn LaHart, is now the mountain manager, or as he affectionately calls her, “the most important part of the place.” Her sister, Marilyn Peterson, is general manager.
Vince’s daughter, Kate Michener, is Maple Ski’s marketing manager. And his son, Joe Mulyca, is the operations manager at Royal Mountain in the Fulton County town of Caroga.
Bill Enos, the son of William Mulyca’s daughter Cindy, is a coach with the U.S. Ski Team.
“It’s kind of stayed in the family,” Michener said.
There’s too many memories for the Mulycas to recall in a sitting. Vince remembered he and his father building the first rope tow for the mountain in 1967, using scavenged parts such as the rear end of a 1955 Mercury.
The design required good arm strength to hang on to the top, but was far safer than many others that were operating at the time. Only their word didn’t exactly cut it with the state inspector, who required detailed plans.
The family, however, had an ace card: A neighbor who was an engineering draftsman working for General Electric. Once the tow was built, they described the design to him and he’d make plans that would pass muster with the state.
“We’d test it, make sure it worked good and he’d draw up the plans,” he recalled.
George Mulyca recalled how the ski runs seemed to get a windfall whenever a massive capital project was under way in the region. For instance, the state paid the family handsomely to extract shale from the bottom of the ridge that was later used in the construction of Interstate 88.
Workers used dynamite to blast the shale from the ridge one summer, sending a shard crashing through the roof of the lodge and into one of the hand-made tables the Mulycas built. The table, they insist, still has a vague divot where the rock struck it.
The original Mulycas are getting older now. George still helps around the lodge, but the others, including his brother David, are more removed from the operation.
A third generation of Mulycas is now running the show. And when they decide to leave the business, a fourth seems ready to take over.
“They’re engaged in it as well,” said LaHart, while taking a brief break from grooming the mountain.