Iconic Winter Sportsman Passes Away at 89

Northern Michigan has lost a winter sports icon, with the passing of Vojin Baic.  For those who know him best, Baic is synonymous with cross-country skiing in the Grand Traverse region.

Friend and former neighbor John Russell says he was -at first- intimidated by Baic and his thick accent. But that wore off quickly. “His presence immediately indicated to me he was a special person.”

Baic gets credit for bringing Nordic skis to Traverse City when ski shops didn’t sell them yet. That’s how Bob DeKorne met Baic when DeKorne worked at a downtown ski shop.

Baic is also one of three men credited with creating cross-country ski trails in the area, and starting the legendary North American VASA ski race.  DeKorne and Russell both remember Baic cheering for the racers.

Russell says “he’d be down the hill a little ways cheering the kids on, “double pull, double pull!” It didn’t matter if it was one of his kids, his sons or daughters, it was everybody.”

An Olympic athlete, Vojin skied for Yugolavia in the 1948 winter games. He’s also being remembered as a world-class coach and ski instructor.

DeKorne says “he was just as happy teaching a bunch of beginners or a bunch of kids. He’s an Olympic level athlete and he was in his glory just spreading the gospel about Nordic skiing to all these kids.”

The group “Preserve Hickory” says his contributions to youth recreation are unmatched. Hundreds of athletes were trained by Vojin over the course of more than 40 years.

Ted Lockwood was one of those young athletes, learning from Baic in the early 1970s. “That’ll be his legacy. The number of people he impacted and it didn’t matter what your ability level was. He worked with you like you were an Olympian.” And DeKorne says youth ski programs and high school ski teams are a direct reflection of Baic’s influence. “I can think of eight to ten coaches who are direct descendants of the Vojin Baic legacy.”

Vojin was also a Traverse City Parks and Rec Director, and founded the city’s first Nordic Ski program. The new Nordic cross-country loop at Hickory Hills is named “It’s a Baic” (pronounced bye-ch) in his honor.