An Introduction to Indianhead Mountain

Jesse Land of the travel site “Things to do in the U.P.” is a native Yooper who’s always willing to jump at the chance to explore Michigan’s great outdoors. Today, he fills us in on a recent ski trip he took to Indianhead Mountain Resort.  

No, it’s Not Powderhorn

As a good friend of mine observed last year before our annual western U.P. ski trip, when you mention you’re going skiing in the Western U.P., most people assume you’re heading to Big Powderhorn.

While Big Powderhorn may be the most well-known ski resort of the area, there are two others right nearby that deserve much more than an honorable mention. Namely, Indianhead and Blackjack. For this post we’ll take a look at Indianhead.

You Start Out On Top

One cool thing about Indianhead is that the lodge and parking area are at the top of the mountain, so your first trip of the day is down the mountain, not uphill on a ski lift. It’s a nice way to start things off!

As you might expect, the lodge at Indianhead is equipped with plenty of space for those who want to pack their own lunch, but it’s also got a pretty sweet restaurant / bar called “The Sky Bar Mountaintop Grill.” And the name is well deserved. The view from most tables in the place is fantastic. (They also make a great Bloody Mary.)

And it’s a Long Way Down

Indianhead’s 638 foot vertical drop is one of the largest in the Midwest, and whoever planned the hill did a great job carving out some nice long runs. My wife and I actually stuck to the same two runs all day long.

She’s a beginning skier and I’m an intermediate, but we both had a blast skiing Voyager’s Highway (a beginner run) and Chippewa (an intermediate run) repeatedly. Each run was easy enough for her to practice her skiing, but long enough (and with enough ups and downs) for me to really enjoy them too.

As a side note, I have skied every run at Indianhead and while these two are a couple of my favorites, every run is well worth exploring.

Then There’s the Tough Stuff

Of course, if double black diamonds and moguls are your thing, check out “Hiawatha” and “Crazy Horse” on the east side of the mountain. These steep runs are a challenge for even experienced skiers and snowboarders.

“Some Folks Just Make One Run Each Day… to the Red Dog”

And then, there’s “The Red Dog.”

My first time at Indianhead, I was talking to the elderly lady at the ticket counter as she chuckled “some people only make one run of the day… to the Red Dog.”

You see, in addition to the Sky Bar at the top of the hill, there’s a pretty substantial outpost called “The Red Dog Saloon” at the bottom of the mountain. Apparently some people like to ski, and then some people just like to ski their way to the bar.

My wife and stopped in the Red Dog for a Bloody Mary and a coffee late the first morning of our trip, and by Noon we were heading back to the hill and the place was packed, much more so than the Sky Bar. And it didn’t seem like any of the patrons planned to leave anytime soon.

In Closing…

All in all, everyone in our group of around fifteen people was pleasantly surprised by how much we all enjoyed Indianhead.

There were definitely plenty of families on the hill, but I got the impression that this hill tends to cater toward a slightly more adult crowd (compared to Powderhorn). That could also be because I wasn’t there on a family excursion, but suffice to say if you head to Indianhead with a group of friends you’re bound to have a great time, both on and off the hill.

A native Yooper, Jesse Land lives in Iron Mountain and enjoys hiking, biking, skiing, and camping with his family. He runs the U.P. travel site “Things to do in the U.P.” (www.thingstodointheup.com).

Soft Snow, Long Days and Great Discounts on Michigan’s Slopes

March means the start of warmer weather and longer days in Pure Michigan. It also means prime time for hitting the slopes! To learn about spring skiing in Michigan, we spoke with Mickey MacWillliams, executive director of the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association.

Q: We understand that there are some great deals for skiing and snowboarding in Michigan during March.  Can you tell us a little about this?

A: Shorter lift lines, low-season rates, carnivals and other fun activities plus some of the best snow conditions await skiers and snowboarders on Michigan ski slopes in March. Many ski areas remain open through the end of March, and some stay open well into April because of deep bases of natural and machine-made snow.  To entice folks to ski instead of fleeing to warmer climates, our ski areas have come up with some pretty creative ways to get us out on the slopes.

Q: Can you give us some examples?

A: Spring carnivals with ski races across man-made ponds, costume contests, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and other events abound. Just about every ski area in the state has some sort of spring carnival with special reduced lift tickets or lodging rates.  I encourage skiers to check MSIA’s website, goskimichigan.com and click on the “News, Events, Specials & Discounts” button, which is updated almost daily.  Here is a link to that page.   A Monster Energy Slush Cup race at Shanty Creek, Sausage Fest at Indianhead Mountain, Huck Finn Snowboard Series at Treetops Resort, Brew-Ski Festival at Boyne Highlands and a treasure hunt, moon bounce and petting zoo at Ski Brule are just a few of the events listed.  Easy links to Michigan ski area websites and snow conditions are also available from that Website.

Q: Besides wacky events and beer, what else does spring skiing offer?

A: Spring is my favorite time of the year to ski.  The days are longer, the sun is high in the sky, the snow is soft and ski areas offer discount rates to get people on the slopes one last time.  Efficient snowmaking has given Michigan ski areas the ability to provide consistently good snow conditions all winter long,. Most ski areas across the state are scheduled to be open for at least a few more weeks.  Those in the northern portion of the Lower Peninsula and those in the Upper Peninsula typically stay open at least into late March.  Although some Michigan ski areas stay open into April, I always advise skiers to check the website for snow conditions at the ski area they plan to visit before heading out. Links to ski conditions across Michigan are available on MSIA’s website, here.

Mickey MacWillliams is the executive director of the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association. To learn more about skiing in Michigan, visit goskimichigan.com or michigan.org.

Ice Sailing in Pure Michigan

There’s still plenty of time to partake in some fun winter activities here in Pure Michigan. Skiing, snowboarding and sledding are all well-known winter activities, but why not try something new like ice sailing?

Michigan is an ideal location for ice sailing – one of the activities featured the Pure Michigan winter video series. Below Dan Hill of Action Sports Enterprises tells us more about this unique sport.

Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

A: I own a company called Action Sports Enterprises and I am the organizer for the Ice and Snow Sailing Festival/Winter Sailing Cup of North America.

Q: What is ice sailing and how did you get into the sport? 

A: Ice sailing is essentially powering sports that you already enjoy either by the environment or by wind. That includes sailing, skating, skiing and snowboarding. You do those same events that you love, but now you are doing them either directly on ice or on ice that has snow on top. 

I was introduced to wind sailing when I was selected as a Gate Judge for the Vancouver Winter Olympics and have had a passion for the sport  ever since.

Q: Why do you love ice sailing?  

A: I love ice sailing for many reasons. You can do it anywhere there is wind and snow or ice and it incorporates sports I already enjoy.  The sport is also very green and a form of free power. The idea of powering sports that people already enjoy with wind is exciting!  For those who have yet to try it, it is truly wind dancing.

Q: Who might like to try ice sailing?

A: I think anyone who enjoys the outdoors - especially kitesurfers, sailors, ice skaters, windsurfers , skiers and snowboarders should try the sport. It is really unlike anything else and great time especially if you already love outdoor sports. 

Q: Do you have any advice for ice sailing beginners?

A: First of all, I recommend taking a lesson or demoing some equipment at one of our events. Adding wind power to activities like skiing and snowboarding requires a lot of balance. 

Q: What equipment or skills do you need to start ice sailing? 

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

The wing – The wing is almost like 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. For the kite, you’ll need an instructor to harness you in.

The sled – If you’ve ever seen wind surfing, you know what the sled is like. You hold onto the sail and have either skis or blades on to navigate over the snow and ice.

The Sail- Sailing on the Ice with an Ice Boat

Q: In 2012, WISSA came to Michigan. Why is Michigan such a great place for ice sailing and what was the reaction from participants? 

A: Michigan is a great state for the sport because it has so many frozen lakes. The Great Lakes are especially great with the unobstructed wind.  Michigan also has a lot of open space with snow which can also be great places to snow sail.

We’ve had rave reviews from event participants from across the globe that Michigan is ideal for ice sailing and we have to agree. Next year, we are hoping to add a fourth class of “ice boaters” to the event and nearly 50 participants are already interested.

Q: Where are some great places in Michigan to go ice sailing?  What is your favorite place? 

A: One of the best places is St. Ignace right near the Mackinaw Bridge and it really a great setting, but any frozen lake is great place to go.

Q: What are some of your other favorite winter activities?  

A: I also enjoy snow kiting, skiing, snowboarding and skating.

Q: What do you love about a Michigan winter?   

A: You can be active and still stay cool while doing winter activities.

Q: What is your favorite thing to do or place to go after a long day ice sailing?  

A: Going in the Traditional Sauna that we had built on the ice in St. Ignace. When you’re done sailing for the day it feel s great to warm up and we bring the traditional, all wood sauna right out on the ice. We also have ice bowling out there too and it’s a lot of fun too.

Learn more in Ice Sailing | A Pure Michigan Winter below, from the Pure Michigan winter video series.

Dan Hill is president of Action Sports Enterprises and is hopeful to make Michigan the next “World Cup” for wind sailing. Find out more about Ice Sailing and Dan at www.wintersailingcup.com  and www.iceandsnowsailingfestival.com for advice and equipment.