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. 

How to Experience Sled Dog Racing in the Upper Peninsula

Winter in Michigan is a great time for snow sports such as skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing, but if you’re looking for a different type of winter sports action, then you won’t want to miss the UP 200 and other sled dog races around the state. Today, featured blogger Jesse Land of Things to Do in the U.P. gives us the inside scoop on sled dog racing in the Upper Peninsula.

The UP 200

Photo courtesy of aaronpeterson.net

The UP 200 sled dog race is one of the premier sled dog races in the country. Mushers from all over travel to the Marquette, Michigan each winter to compete in this race. They love it not only for the beautiful and challenging terrain, but also for the warm welcome they receive from the huge crowd that assembles in Marquette to cheer them on.

The start of the race is truly something to see. The city of Marquette shuts down Washington Street, which runs through the heart of Marquette’s downtown district, and covers the street with snow. This is where thousands of people will gather onto the sidewalks on the evening of Friday, February 14th to watch the dog sled teams embark on the 240 mile course.

The mushers travel from Marquette toward Munising, through sections of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and then on to Grand Marais. Grand Marais is the layover point, where the teams will arrive sometime the morning of Saturday, February 15th. After spending a few hours in Grand Marais to rest and refuel, the teams will head back to Marquette sometime late Saturday afternoon and evening.

The Midnight Run

Photo courtesy of aaronpeterson.net

And then there’s the Midnight Run, an exciting ninety-mile race that takes place between the start and finish of the U.P. 200. Midnight run mushers leave Marquette from Washington Street shortly after the U.P. 200 mushers. However, their course is different.

In the past Midnight Run teams have finished in Grand Marais. New this year the teams will race to Chatam, then turn around and finish in Marquette’s Mattson Lower Harbor Park.

Where is the best place to see the dogs?

One of the most popular questions that gets asked by spectators is “where’s the best place to se the dogs?” Luckily, there are many great options.

Washington Street in Marquette is the most popular viewing area by far because the races start right there and it’s located in the heart of downtown. However, for those looking to avoid the crowds or take in a different stage of the race there are definitely other options.

Photo courtesy of aaronpeterson.net

Not far from downtown Marquette, the welcome center offers a great spot to view the teams as they head into the woods. Restrooms are available and food and drinks will be provided here at no cost.

The Prince of Peace Church in Harvey also offers a great viewing area. They’ll have a bonfire to help spectators stay warm. Restrooms are available inside the church, and food and drinks will be available for purchase.

The Lakenenland Sculpture Park offers another great viewing spot as the mushers race right by there.

The Downtown Showdown

And if you’re in Marquette for the UP 200 and Midnight Run, be sure to check out the Downtown Showdown rail jam competition on Saturday night. The snow from Washington Street gets moved to nearby Front Street where an awesome course of rails is set up on which snowboarders and skiers will test their skills. It’s a great time for skiers, snowboarders and spectators alike.

So plan a trip to Marquette, Michigan for the weekend of February 14th, 15th and 16th! It’ll be an action packed weekend full of great events!

If you can’t make it to the race, there are plenty of other ways to experience sled dog racing the Upper Peninsula. Visit michigan.org to see a full list of sled dog tours available near you. 

Have you been to a sled dog race in Michigan? Tell us about your experience. 

This post was written by Jesse Land of Things to do in the U.P. on behalf of Travel Marquette Michigan.