There comes a moment in every ideal skiing day, when all the elements necessary for the perfect pass come together. It's usually when the sun begins to set, all the pleasure boats have headed back to dock, the wind lays, the rollers dissipate and suddenly…the surface of the water becomes like glass.
Everyone in the boat seems to quietly become aware of it at once, as if some unspoken signal was received. There's nobody else on the course. The time is right. At that moment you know a new personal best is within reach. As skiers, we have all known these times and have known them to be precious and rare, but now there exists a place where the water is perfect more often than not. That place is Everglass.
Since the giant machines once used to extract coal from the ground had long since grown silent in southeast Kansas, what is now Everglass Ski Lake remained largely unchanged with nature slowly reclaiming the scarred land. The State of Kansas had established the Mined Land Wildlife Area encompassing many of the old strip mines and their adjacent lands, but Everglass was excluded from this, remaining instead in private hands. When coal-mining efforts ceased in the early seventies, the companies responsible couldn't even give the open strip mines and their surrounding land away. Who could envision the lush landscape surrounding fish-filled lakes that would someday result from this crude rending of the earth? At the time, it seemed like a burdensome wasteland, but today it's one of the most popular recreation destinations in this region. What little remains in private hands is highly prized and sought after. Those lucky enough to own a piece usually turning it into popular commercial recreation spots such as Claythorne Lodge.
Growing up in southeast Kansas we treasured the strip pits. Robert Ong and myself spent many a summer day exploring the miles of unique water ways and adjoining lands left in the wake of shovels like the now-famous Big Brutus, which excavated Everglass early in its operational life. As skiers maintaining a ski course about eighty miles from home on Grand Lake in Oklahoma, one of our favorite pastimes was scouting for possible ski lake sites closer to home. The strip mines being state-owned automatically excluded the largest majority of them, but among those still in private hands, Everglass stood out. Here was a body of water that was at once close to home, perfect in size, privately owned and undeveloped.
The owner grazed cattle on the land surrounding Everglass, but aside from the occasional fisherman, the lake seemed largely ignored. As Bob aptly puts it in the "Lake History" article on our website, we were young and didn't have any money, so I personally didn't see the point in even contacting the owner. Here's where I have to thank Bob for his vision. He talked to the owner anyway, who promptly told him he didn't want to sell. But that wasn't the end of the story, what follows is the tale of discovering the perfect ski lake. In Bob's own words:
"In 1987, I obtained a topographic map of the area. The map showed the location and dimensions of dozens of strip pits, but Everglass stood out from the rest. It was wider and longer than most, and it was perfectly straight. Just like a manmade tournament site.
Barry and I took a canoe to Everglass to take some measurements. There was a No Trespassing sign at the small, muddy boat ramp, but there was no gate. We decided to risk it. The lake measured 205' at its widest point and 20' deep. I knew from the map that it was approximately 2200' long. It would make a perfect slalom lake.
That winter, I found out who owned the property. During the summer of 1988, Monica and I approached the owner about selling the property. I was 23 years old and didn't have much money. None of that mattered because the owner wasn't interested in selling. I contacted him again in 1989 and got the same answer, no. The years went by, Monica and I got married and had two children. At least once a year, I would contact the owner. He was very friendly, but he always said no. In 1997, during my annual phone call, the owner indicated that he might sell if the price was right. While I had him on the phone, I asked him if we could put our boat in the water. He said, "Yes." Before the summer was over I had wakeboarded and slalomed on Everglass.
I continued to harass the owner and by the summer of 1999, we took possession of the property."
2000 was the first full ski season at Everglass and if it's any indication, there's going to be many personal bests set in southeast Kansas from now on.
When acquired, the lake needed very little work to make it ideal for skiing, but since taking possession we've sloped the north shoreline to reduce wave action using bulldozers.
Currently we're putting together a tire barrier for the south shore to accomplish the same goal. We converted an old pontoon boat into a starting dock that can be pulled out and stored for the winter. Spectators can line the north shore, easily accessed by the county road that runs parallel to it, where we've planted grass and spared the best trees to create a park-like environment. The sheer potential for "the perfect pass" offered by this property is hard to describe without sounding exaggerative. The position of the lake in the surrounding countryside would be hard to improve on even if it had been a planned lake. With the prevailing southerly winds in this region blocked by hills and trees that border the south shore of Everglass, the surface of the water is almost always…glass.
It's snowing outside right now here in southeast Kansas; but it won't be long
until the silence of the wheat fields and woodlands gives way to the deep sound
of a ski boat motor and the voice of a skier shouting "Hit it!"