Five Unique Winter Sports to Try Out in Pure Michigan

Winter is a wonderful time of year to break out the skis and snowboards and hit the slopes in Pure Michigan. However, there are a number of other winter sports to try out around the state that aren’t quite as common. Some adventurous winter sports enthusiasts have put their own spin on outdoor recreation with these five unique activities to try out in Pure Michigan.

Ice Climbing

With miles of sandstone cliffs lined with hundreds of frozen waterfalls, Michigan is home to some of the best ice climbing spots in the country.  As one of winter’s emerging sports, ice climbing combines challenge and adventure. With ropes and harness, ice climbers ascend stunning natural ice structures such as icefalls, frozen waterfalls, cliffs and rock slabs. Ice climbing takes daring participants to breathtaking scenery that few experience.

If you’d like to try out ice climbing, Peabody Ice Climing in Fenton, MI  features two towers, 45 and 75 ft tall located on an old apple orchard. Ice climbing varies in difficulty; most beginners will start on a climb with a low incline until they are prepared for the challenge of vertical ice. Peabody’s is a great place for seasoned ice climbers to train and great introduction for people interested in the sport.

Check out the video to see some daring ice climbers traverse a frozen waterfall.

Ice Luge

For those who were inspired by the spectacular athletes going for the gold this winter, Muskegon Winter Sports Complex located on the shores of Lake Michigan in Muskegon State Park offers three luge tracks designed to introduce beginners to the sport of luge. Shorter in overall length than Olympic-style tracks, the Muskegon track provides an Olympic thrill with the safety of the participant in mind. There is also a naturbahn style track (all-natural) in Marquette, Michigan.

The 850’ track consists of six curves and two starting areas. Participants slide from the 3/4 mark at speeds up to 30 mph. The track is designed specifically for general public use and those who never have slid before! Equipment is provided.

See what it’s like to luge like a pro in the video below.

Snow Biking

Photo by Instagram user @ryanstephensphoto

Photo by Instagram user @ryanstephensphoto

Some cyclists across Michigan have put a new winter twist on their sport with snow biking! Snow biking is gaining popularity around the state, and particularly in the Upper Peninsula. The Range Mountain Bike Club of Negaunee/Ishpeming is planning to groom some of its system this season, making Marquette County a true hub for winter cycling.

Currently, Fatbikes (locally known as snow bikes) are a fast growing segment of the bike industry. They use an oversized tire with low pressure to increase flotation and traction in soft conditions, they work in all types of terrain but excel like no other bike when it comes to riding on snow. Snow bikes need a packed surface of some sort, like a ski trail, dedicated snow bike trail or anywhere a snowmobile of snowshoe traffic has compressed fluffy snow.

Experienced snow biker, Aaron Peterson says, “Riding on snow is surreal. For an experienced cyclist, the feeling is similar to mountain biking but different enough that it lets you feel an entirely new experience on a bike.”

See a full Q & A with Aaron here along with his video series on snow biking in Upper Peninsula.

Ice Sailing

Ice sailing combines elements of sports like sailing, skating, skiing and snowboarding. Michigan is an ideal location for ice sailing because there are so many frozen lakes. The Great Lakes are especially great for ice sailing with the unobstructed wind. Michigan also has a lot of open space with snow which can also be great places to snow sail.

There are four different kinds of devices used for ice sailing:

  • The wing: The wing is similar to a mini hang-glider. You’re not harnessed in and really feel the wind.
  • The kite: The kite is like a parachute that is attached to you. We recommend having an instructor to harness you in.
  • The sled: The sled allows you to hold onto the sail and have either skis or blades on to navigate over the snow and ice.
  • The sail: The sails allows you to sail across the ice with an ice boat

Watch ice sailing in action below.

Winter Surfing

Surfing in Michigan in the winter takes some dedication and planning. Due to extremely cold wind and water,  some research and planning is required to find the best waves for winter surfing. However, dealing with the cold and often brutal weather elements is well worth it when you are surfing winter waves with a handful of friends.

To surf in Michigan (or anywhere with a cold climate), you must have the proper wetsuit and wetsuit accessories (boots and gloves or mittens).  Many winter surfers use boards that are a little bigger (longer, wider, and/or thicker) than what might be used on an ocean coast. Here are a few Michigan surf shops to help you gear up:

For more inspiration, check out these brave winter surfers catching waves near Charlevoix earlier this winter here.

Which of these unique winter sports would you like to try out in Pure Michigan? 

Beat the Winter Blues with Some Indoor Family Fun

While the spring season is drawing near, there’s still plenty of time to enjoy some fun indoor activities in Pure Michigan. If your family seems to have come down with cabin fever this winter, these great family activities are sure to put a spring in their step heading into warmer days. Here is a roundup of just a few of the many awesome indoor activities to take advantage of during the winter months. For more indoor family fun, visit michigan.org

Indoor Waterparks

New and Improved! – Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark: Boyne Falls, MI

Photo courtesy of Boyne Mountain Resort

If you’re looking for a new thrill, you won’t want to miss Michigan’s first ProSlide SuperLOOP™, an extreme body slide with a 360 degree loop. This epic slide opened earlier this winter at Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark at Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls.  The Big Couloir experience begins in a launch capsule and features a trap door that drops away and propels riders into an enclosed tunnel traveling with G-force at speeds up to 38 feet per second.  The new half-million dollar attraction is a real adrenaline rush combining anticipation with a free fall sensation and speed!  For those not quite so daring, Avalanche Bay also has many other aquatic attractions.  As Michigan’s largest indoor waterpark at 88,000 square feet, the park boasts six amazing waterslides, a Rip Zone surfing wave, four-story mountain water-play structure, shallow children’s pool, activity pool, lazy river, relaxing hot tubs, mega-arcade, and pub with a full bar.  The park has received top honors being named a top ten indoor waterpark in the U.S. by Budget Travel and featured among America’s coolest indoor waterparks by Travel + Leisure.  Half- and full-day waterpark passes are available and discounts are provided to resort lodging guests. Boyne Mountain’s Ski & Splash Package includes lodging, lift ticket, waterpark admission, hot breakfast, and tubing from $112 per person, per night.

Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel & Waterpark: Frankenmuth, MI

Treat your family to an unforgettable weekend at Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel & Waterpark in Frankenmuth. Enjoy over 30,000 sq. ft. of aquatic fun with Splash landing play area, dumping bucket, giggling gorge and Perilous plunge. Relax in the whimsical whirl hot tub or just float along the lazy river. After splashing around, experience some of Frankenmuth’s many other offerings – including Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, located just next door to Zehnder’s and open 361 days a year!

Great Wolf Lodge: Traverse City, MI

The Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City features a 38,000 square-foot indoor water park with 8 waterslides, 5 pools, 2 whirlpools and a 4-story/12-level interactive Tree House Water Fort. The state-of-the-art facility utilizes nearly 200,000 gallons of water that is splashed, sprayed, waved and played in by both kids and parents alike.

Hands On Activities

The Henry Ford: Dearborn, MI

Photo courtesy of The Henry Ford

The Henry Ford boasts four one-of-a-kind attractions, 200 acres including Greenfield Village (closed during the winter season) and the Ford Rouge Factory Tour, that will bring you through the ages. Notable treasures such as John F. Kennedy’s Limousine, Rosa Parks bus, and Abraham Lincoln’s chair, plus experiences such as Model T Rides and an assembly plant walking tour make your visit to The Henry Ford truly unique. The Henry Ford offers a glimpse inside centuries of American life with hand-on activities for the kids throughout!

Michigan Science Center: Detroit, MI

The Michigan Science Center is a unique and dynamic hands-on museum, offering programs and activities that inspire families to discover, explore and appreciate science, technology and math in a fun environment. The museum takes an interactive approach to science with engaging, hands-on shows and activities, including Michigan’s only Chrysler IMAX Dome Theater and exhibits covering topics such as space, motion, health and nutrition, engineering and more!  Check out the website for hours, show times, special events and traveling exhibits.

Ann Arbor Hands On Museum: Ann Arbor, MI

Discover the scientist within you at the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum. This interactive museum features more than 250 hands-on exhibits, including some visitor favorites such as whisper dishes, tornado, Building in a Building, Google Liquid Galaxy and the popular water table!  Perfect for kids and adults of all ages, you’ll have a blast witnessing science demonstrations and special events that bring chemistry, physics, geology, math, music and more to life! Visit the website for special events and programs.

Morley Candy and Sanders Factory Tour: Clinton Township, MI

Morley Candy Makers is the place where Sanders chocolate and desserts are created. Morley Candy Makers free factory tour is perfect the family and available Monday through Friday. The journey begins with the story of chocolate, how chocolate is made and how Sanders and Morley Candy Makers got their start in Detroit. Observe Michigan’s largest candy maker create delicious treats in the 100 foot observation walkway, enjoy a chocolate sample and visit the unique candy shop to put the finishing touch on your visit.

Jump, Bounce, and Play

AirTime Trampoline and Game Park: Troy, MI

AirTime Trampoline & Game Park is a high energy trampoline and music experience unlike any other. Imagine bouncing up and down on wall to wall trampolines with the speakers pumping out your favorite songs. With over 15,000 square feet of trampolines and foam pits, guests can flip, jump and bounce while enjoying time with family and friends. AirTime is an exciting activity and perfect outlet for energetic kids!

Jeepers: Auburn Hills, MI

Jeepers is an indoor animated theme park for families with children age 12 and under. The park provides a broad variety of entertainment activities including amusement park rides, soft play areas and skill games, plus comfortable family dining and birthday parties all in a climate controlled indoor setting. Visit the website for hours, prices and events!

Where is your favorite place in Michigan to enjoy some indoor fun? 

From the “World’s Funniest Cop”: Five Places to Have a Good Laugh in Pure Michigan

To gear up for LaughFest 2014 in Grand Rapids, we asked Dwayne Gill, former winner of the “Worlds Funniest Cop Competition,” to tell us about some great places to catch a comedy show in Michigan. Here are just five of his favorites:

Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle – Royal Oak, MI

Photo courtesy of Mark Ridley's Comedy Castle

The Comedy Castle has been a staple in Metro Detroit for many years. Mark Ridley has influenced the careers of many of the stars you see today. Tim Allen got his start at the Castle. I did my first open mic at the castle in 2002! The stage is legendary. Mark makes sure that only the best talent headlines his club. See comedians from all over the country on this mandatory comedy stop. Kathleen Madigan and Lewis Black, and the Amazing Jonathan come here at least once a year. If you wanna have a great time seeing some great comedy do your self a favor and check out the Castle.

Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase – Ann Arbor, MI

The Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase is another legendary club. Located right in the heart of Downtown Ann Arbor it has always been a best kept secret of Ann Arbor. Comedians like John Heffron winner of last comic standing got his start there. Always known for having top talent and mentoring the new generation Roger Finney the manager runs a great club. Have dinner downtown then come on down in the basement for a ton of laughs!

Dr. Grins in the BOB – Grand Rapids, MI

Dr. Grins located in the BOB (Big Old Building) in Grand Rapids is one of the nations top comedy stops for national touring headlining comedians. The club is large but has a smaltown unique feel when the show is in full swing. Every weekend is a packed house of young hip Grand Rapidians looking for some laughs. Stop in some weekend and see acts like Comedian Alonzo Bodden and my friend and mentor Ralph Harris. Always a great time at the show and after the show in the many bars and restaurants inside of the BOB.

Connxtions Comedy Club – Lansing, MI

Connxtions Comedy Club located in Lansing, MI has been around since 1985. In Seinfelds first episode, Jerry mentioned that he just got back from doing a weekend in Lansing. Guess where? Connxtions! Frank Stevens the owner knows a thing or two about comedy. He has seen acts like Seinfeld, Drew Carrey, and George Lopez has graced his stage. Connxtions to me is like a blue collar working comics club. Nestled in the shadow of the capitol city of Michigan connxtions is a good night out for some good local humor. It has a mix of national touring headlining comedians and those funny guys and gals who haven’t made it just yet. If you’re visiting the Capitol make sure you make a stop at Connxtions!

Joey’s Comedy Club located in the Kickers Complex – Livonia, MI

Joeys Comedy Club in Livonia, MI is a fantastic club in western Wayne county. It is a comedy stop for some of the best in the business. Every weekend, it is a full house of people from all over Metro Detroit. From auto workers to executives, everyone comes to laugh and have a great time comedian Bill Bushart the drill instructor of comedy runs a tight ship. He makes sure the shows run on time and are also drop dead funny! See great comedians like Tommy Johnigan, Dave Landau, and Godfrey. For a fun place and a fun time when on the westside of the D, stop in to Joey’s Comedy Club.

Where do you go to catch a comedy show in Michigan?

A Marine, a cop and a comic – Dwayne Gill is a triple threat! Feeling his job was way too serious for someone considered funny since birth, Dwayne found an outlet for his humor when he first stepped onto a comedy stage at the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase in 1993. After only two more performances, he joined the ranks of professional comedians with his first paid booking at Gadzooks Comedy Club.  A native of Detroit, Michigan, Dwayne has since been taking the comedy world by storm.

 Dwayne’s topics range from current events, men and women relationships to the crazy situations he’s encountered as a police officer. As an actor, Dwayne has appeared in the ABC crime drama Detroit 1-8-7, and will be making his big screen debut in the movie “Crave”  He has also been a guest on the nationally syndicated “Bob and Tom” Radio show.  Dwayne was voted “Best of the Fest” at the San Luis Obispo Comedy Festival 2013, was the Wildcard Winner in the Stand Up its Miller Time National Comedy Contest with Kevin Hart 2012 and Best of the Midwest in Gilda’s Laughfest 2011.