Hit the Michigan Slopes this Spring Break

 

Photo courtesy of Crystal Mountain Resort

With most school spring breaks coming early this year, the recent cool temperatures and lake-effect snowfall, it turns out that Michigan is the ideal place for a spring break ski vacation.

Mickey MacWillliams, executive director of the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association, fills us in on spring skiing in Pure Michigan.

Mother Nature was a little late this winter, but once she provided us with cold weather and snow, she just didn’t stop!  What makes this ideal is that spring break for most schools is early this year and that means families can take advantage of unprecedented snow conditions right now, right here in Michigan.

Plus, to entice folks to ski instead of fleeing to warmer climates, our ski areas are offering great discounts and special events.  I encourage skiers to check MSIA’s website at goskimichigan.com and click on the “News, Events, Specials & Discounts” button, which is updated almost daily. Here is a link to that page.   

Many Michigan ski areas are still open, but it’s always best to check before heading out to be sure. The following ski areas are either open now, or will be open on the weekends:

Upper Peninsula

  • Big Powderhorn, Bessemer
  • Blackjack, Bessemer
  • Indianhead Mountain, Wakefield
  • Marquette Mountain, Marquette
  • Mont Ripley, Houghton
  • Mt. Bohemia, Lac La Belle
  • Pine Mountain, Iron Mountain
  • Porcupine Mountain, Ontonagon
  • Ski Brule, Iron River

Lower Peninsula

  • Boyne Highlands, Harbor Springs (possibly April 6-7)
  • Boyne Mountain, Boyne Falls
  • Caberfae Peaks, Cadillac
  • Crystal Mountain, Thompsonville
  • Cross-Country Ski Headquarters, Roscommon
  • Nubs Nob, Harbor Springs
  • Pando Winter Sports Park, Rockford
  • Pine Knob, Clarkston
  • Shanty Creek, Bellaire

Will you be hitting the slopes this spring?

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.

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.