Even though visitors to Nub’s Nob might not personally know Jim Bartlett, his work over the past 40 years has directly impacted the safety and quality of their skiing experience.
Bartlett started at Nub’s Nob as area manager in 1977 and then served as general manager for 30 years before retiring in 2017. In recognition of his many years of service to the ski industry, Bartlett was inducted into the Michigan Ski Hall of Fame on Aug. 20.
“I was humbled, flattered and very proud of the team that we have at Nub’s that allows us to be as good as we are at what we do,” Bartlett said. “That turned out to be a great thing.”
Ben Doornbos, the current general manager of Nub’s Nob, said the recognition for Bartlett was well-deserved.
“The induction into the Michigan Ski Hall of Fame is not just about how well you did at your individual ski area or your little corner of the ski business, you have to actually make skiing better for people in Michigan and JB certainly did that,” Doornbos said.
During Bartlett’s time at Nub’s, the skiable terrain increased from 130 acres to 248, doubled its chairlift count and boosted its snowmaking arsenal from 10 snowguns to nearly 300.
“We did a substantial amount of improvements,” Bartlett said. “I built a significant number of runs. We built a huge number of snowguns and increased our snowmaking capacity.”
Bartlett also listed expansions to the lodge and other buildings as well as instituting many new programs at the ski area among his accomplishments. However, Bartlett said his two proudest accomplishments were increasing the business while keeping a family-run atmosphere and working with a staff that are “second to none.”
“The pride of putting that team together and having it work as well as it does, I would take as one of my biggest accomplishments,” Bartlett said.
Bartlett, who got his start in skiing in high school, became a ski patroller while at Western Michigan University after being lured by the promise of a free lift ticket. He discovered a knack for first aid, and his commitment to safety in skiing has remained strong ever since.
Bartlett is chairman for the Michigan Ski Area Safety Board, which establishes common sense rules and regulations for Michigan ski areas.
“He made skiing better for anybody who skis in Michigan,” Doornbos said.
Doornbos said Bartlett was also the “driving force” behind the formation of the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association (MSIA). Bartlett was a founding member and first chairman for the association.
“It’s been around for decades and the formation of that organization allows the ski industry in Michigan to speak with one voice,” said Doornbos, who sits on the MSIA board. “To have a forum where ski industry folks in Michigan can come to a consensus and implement programs is huge. It’s not just marketing efforts, it’s also lobbying efforts.”
Bartlett has been skiing for nearly 50 years now, and he said one reason for that longevity is the sport’s camaraderie.
“The people who get involved in skiing have a great sense of adventure and strong outdoor spirit,” he said. “They really enjoy each season it seems like and make the best of each day. Most of them have a real positive outlook and it’s just a lot of fun.”
Bartlett also enjoys the multi-generational aspect of skiing. He said he is looking forward to this winter when he can ski with his granddaughter.
“That’s just a great, great, great family sport. Really hard to beat,” Bartlett said. “There isn’t anything about skiing I don’t like.”
Bartlett remains involved at Nub’s Nob as president of the ski area. He is also deeply involved in his local community.
Bartlett is a ski committee member for the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) and has served on the board of the Little Traverse Conservancy, Harbor Springs Harbor Commission, West Traverse Township Planning Commission, Harbor Springs Chamber of Commerce, Petoskey Chamber of Commerce, HARBOR Inc., Little Traverse Sailors and Little Traverse Yacht Club, in addition to being a West Traverse Township Trustee.
Bartlett said he wanted to give “a big thank you” to the Harbor Springs community for its support over the years.
“This is the best town on the planet to live in,” he said. “I’ve had a chance to visit, ski and sail almost all over the world and I would not come back to Harbor Springs and live there if I didn’t think it was the best place to live and work.”
The community is also very appreciative of Bartlett’s hard work. Doornbos said Bartlett’s legacy at Nub’s Nob will have far-reaching effects.
“He did an incredible job at Nub’s Nob. He built this place up, with a crew of folks. He assembled a team of really capable people,” Doornbos said. “He helped pioneer a lot of glade skiing and was really driving the industry forward and was setting the bar high for others to follow.”