Three Reasons to Ski and Snowboard in Pure Michigan this Spring

Today, Mickey MacWilliams of Michigan Snowsports Industries Association (MSIA) gives us some great reasons to hit the slopes in Pure Michigan before the snow melts and spring is in full bloom. 

Snowboarders_basin_stIt may be hard for some to believe, but there are many of us who love winter and hate to see it go.  Spring is my favorite time of the year to ski. Here are three reasons to take advantage of prime ski and snowboard conditions this spring:

Longer Days, Softer Snow. The days are longer, the lift lines short, the sun is high in the sky, and the snow is soft. Springtime makes for some ideal skiing and snowboarding conditions!

Great Discounts. Ski areas offer discount rates to get people on the slopes one last time.  Just about every ski area in the state has some sort of spring carnival with special reduced lift tickets or lodging rates.

ShantyCreek2011Winter0414Spring Carnivals and Silly Events. Spring carnivals with ski races across man-made ponds, costume contests, beer tents, silly slalom races and other events abound.

Spring is the time to “ski” Michigan, not “flee” Michigan! Due to Michigan’s record snowfall, cool temperatures and efficient snowmaking capabilities, many ski areas plan to remain open through the end of March, and some will stay open through April 13 or later, so that families can take advantage of Michigan’s ski slopes and trails during spring break.

BOYNEMT_5613If you want to know where to find the snow, check out our website, goskimichigan.com and click on the “Events & Discounts” button, which is updated frequently.  We provide a running list of special events, packages and discounts at ski areas all across Michigan.  Easy links to Michigan ski area websites and snow conditions are also available from that site.  Although some Michigan ski areas stay open into April, I recommend that skiers and riders visit our website or call the ski area they plan to visit prior to arrival, since some may have limited hours of operation.

Winter recreation accounts for nearly a third of the state’s $17.7 billion-a year Michigan travel industry. I believe that this is a testament to the many, many skiers and snowboarders who cherish Michigan’s winter and hate to see it melt away. (And just like the Ice Queen in Disney’s movie Frozen, “The cold never bothered me anyway!”)

Screen-Shot-2013-11-25-at-4.57.24-PM-150x150Mickey MacWilliams is the executive director of the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association, which represents the ski and snowboard industry in our state.  She is also the current president of TICOM, (Tourism Industry Coalition of Michigan) an avid downhill and cross-country skier and a very timid but enthusiastic snowboarder.  You can reach her at info@goskimichigan.com

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? 

10 Reasons to Celebrate 50 Years of Winter Fun at Boyne Highlands

Boyne Highlands will celebrate their 50th Anniversary January 31st – February 2nd with food, fresh powder and special events for the whole family. Today, guest blogger Erin Ernst from BOYNE gives us 10 reasons to celebrate 50 years of winter fun at Boyne Highlands! 

1.   Join Boyne Highlands Resort’s Anniversary Celebration Weekend, Jan. 31 – Feb. 2, for tons of live entertainment, dinner and dancing with the Up North Big Band, fireworks over the slopes and sky lantern release, and 50th Anniversary Party featuring The Sun Messengers, Detroit’s best dance band, in the Zoo Bar.

2.   Ski the highest vertical terrain and most skiable acreage in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Boyne Highlands offers 552’ vertical feet and 435 skiable acres with trails that are over a mile long.  From the top of the slopes, there are many spectacular views, two in particular are must-sees.  From the south-west side, take in the panoramic scene of Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay and on the north side, the sight of the Mackinac Bridge.

3.   Unique family adventures are abundant.  Fly high on a Zipline Adventure, enjoy the rush of a dog sled ride, slide on a tube, saunter by horseback through a winter wonderland, climb the slopes in a groomer ride, cruise along groomed trails with fat tire bikes, traverse with snowshoes, or glide over 35 km of cross country trails.

4.   Explore a part of history.  On December 26, 1963 when Boyne Highlands Resort opened, guests were greeted by not one, but two of the first triple chairlifts ever built.  In 1990, one of the triples was replaced and in its place now stands another first – Michigan’s first high-speed quad chairlift, the Heather Express.

5.   Learning a new winter sport has never been easier. Boyne Highlands SnowSports Academy has ski, snowboard, and cross country lessons for all levels and even guarantees beginner lessons or the next one is free.  Even the youngest of riders can get a jump on snowboarding with the resort’s Burton Riglet Park designed for ages 3-6.

6.   After a day on the slopes, cozy up indoors with a treatment at The Spa at Boyne Highlands, kick back by the toasty fireplace in the Slopeside Lounge, or experience the infamous après ski scene in the Zoo Bar.

7.   Sip on Boyne Highlands’ 50th Anniversary cocktail featuring Courvoisier Cognac, Cointreau, sour mix, and New Holland Freshwater Huron Rum, shaken over ice and served in a martini glass with sugar coated rim.

8.   Dine on top of a mountain with the Aonach Mor Moonlight Dinner.  The enchanting evening begins with a groomer cat sleigh ride up the slopes to the top of Boyne Highlands’ North Peak for a delicious dinner served family-style. Bubbling kettles of French onion soup, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, vegetable medley, roast beef tenderloin au poivre, and chocolate fondue, all are enjoyed while a live acoustic guitarist strums and sings favorite tunes.

9.   Loads of special events pack the calendar including the annual Brew-Ski Festival, Boarding for Breast Cancer, Krazy Daze, Chocolate Cake Downhill, and Ski League Championships, all happening in March.

10.  The home away from home experience. Boyne Highlands is well-known for offering a warm welcome and exceptional customer service.  Generations of families have made Boyne Highlands their choice for creating memories, spending time with loved ones, and returning season after season.

Erin Ernst is the Director of Communications for BOYNE, which owns and operates Boyne Highlands Resort, Boyne Mountain Resort, The Inn at Bay Harbor – A Renaissance Golf Resort, Boyne Country Sports, and Boyne Realty.  She is a Michigan native who has worked in the resort and tourism industry for over ten years.  She is also a board member with the Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau and West Michigan Tourist Association.