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Langlade County News

Spychalla ski chalet to be in place for busy Jake Lake trails

October 1, 2015

Ten months after his death, the memory of Jim Spychalla lingers over the Jack Lake trails, where he logged thousands of miles skiing and running over his 87 years.

In a few weeks, there will be a visible tribute as well.

In their patriarch’s memory, the Spychalla family has presented the Langlade County Forestry and Recreation Department with a check for $35,000 to be used toward a ski chalet that will grace the entrance of the Jack Lake ski trails by the opening of this ski season.

“My father was a fixture at Jack Lake Park for perhaps the last 40 years of his life,” James Spychalla said. “He would frequently have strings of over a hundred days in a row at the park. Dad was an accomplished amateur athlete. He was always either cross country skiing, running the trails or even circumnavigating the lake in his triathlete days. “

Like its benefactor, the building will be simple, yet sturdy, appealing to skiers and outdoors enthusiasts.

The log-sided structure was designed by county maintenance director and architect Nate Heuss and will compliment the various pavilions and shelters located at the nearby Veterans Memorial Park.

It will be 24 feet by 18 feet in size, with a lean-to for storage on the back and a covered porch on the front. The roof will feature green shingles, switching to metal over the porch and lean-to.

The inside will be filled with furniture crafted by the forestry and recreation department staff, Jack Lake caretaker Tom Lazers explained. There will also be a propane fireplace on an electric timer, providing quick warmth for skiers in a safety-conscious manner.

“As anyone who knew my father knows, dad was always a very practical person, almost to a fault. For example, he would continue to drive his old smashed up four-tone minivan because as he would say, ‘it runs just fine.’ He was always one to patch his clothes or patch his ski equipment rather than buy something new,” Spychalla said. “He was all about the athletic outdoor experience, either skiing or running. I'm afraid dad would be a bit embarrassed by the new structure. I can hear him now saying, ‘James, is that chalet really necessary?’ On the other hand, I think he would be pleased that he has been able to return something to the community and the park that he loved.”

Lazers and his staff sited the chalet on a small rise just to the north of the parking lot, an attractive setting that will be visible from Highway J to ensure security. The park caretaker has also cut some new sledding runs into the rolling hillside alongside the chalet, creating an outlet for some additional family fun.

“The whole idea is to make this a place for the entire family to gather,” Lazers said. “Families can go skiing together, come back and warm up at the chalet and enjoy some sledding as well. It will be a true gathering place.”

Jack Lake has long been known for the quality of the ski trails, with eight loops for traditional and skate-style skiing covering 15 miles. But while the trails regularly draw praise from skiers, the amenities have failed to keep up with surrounding areas, such as Gartzke Flowage with its on-trail shelter and the expansive chalet at Kettlebowl ski hill, which also includes cross-country trails.

“The park has excellent ski trails and my mother Gert and siblings thought that Jack Lake Park deserves a beautiful chalet to match the quality of the trails,” Spychalla said.

Much of the site work has already been completed and the concrete will be poured within days, Lazers said. Adam Nicholson Construction will do the actual building and, weather permitting, that won’t take long.

“It will be ready for the ski season,” Lazers said. “It will be a beautiful addition to the trail system and will really help to make Jack Lake a destination for skiers.”

Future plans call for improved signage along with new restroom facilities at the trailhead.

Spychalla, who died on Dec. 1, 2014 at the age of 87, was a potato grower, owning and operating James Spychalla Farms, Inc. In addition to his athletic endeavors, he was a skilled builder of farm machinery, constructing some of the industry’s first self-propelled potato harvesting machines.

In addition to his wife and his son, James, other family members include two daughters, three sons, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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