5 Extreme Winter Sports that Michigan Does Best

We’ve teamed up with Expedia Viewfinder to spotlight some of the most adventurous winter sports to try in the Great Lake State this season.

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Cold weather doesn’t bring life in Michigan to a halt. In fact, a whole new array of activities open up during the winter months. Strolling along the chilly beaches of Grand Haven or attending the Motown Winter Blast festival in Detroit can certainly be fun for visitors and locals alike. But those looking for something more rugged, more exhilarating, can push the envelope on adventure.

At Expedia Viewfinder, we love discovering adrenaline-pumping, thrill-inducing activities during our travels, so we joined forces with Pure Michigan to reveal some of the most extreme sports to try in Michigan this winter:

Ice Climbing

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When it’s too cold to scale a mountain, try a frozen waterfall instead. Ice climbing is one of Michigan’s more extreme winter activities, and it’s not for the faint of heart. With ice axes, a belay system, and pure grit, climbers methodically ascend these arctic pillars to reach spectacular snowy summits. Over the past few years, the sport has increased in popularity and Michigan is arguably the best location to ice climb in the U.S. In particular, Lake Superior in Munising is a climber’s utopia, with hundreds of frozen waterfalls ranging from 20 to 200+ feet in height.

Ice Luge

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On the shores of Lake Michigan, the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex offers ice luge for mere mortals who’d like to pretend to be Olympians. Not to be confused with the bobsled, the ice luge is flat with two steel runners; it’s built for riders to recline on their backs and steer with their legs and shoulders. One of only four luge tracks in the U.S., the Sport Complex’s track welcomes the general public and provides a rare opportunity to try this velocious sport. The experience is exhilarating as riders hurtle feet-first down the 850-foot track, reaching speeds up to 30 mph (Olympic athletes reach speeds of 80 to 90 mph).

Ice Diving

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One little-known fact about Michigan is that it offers some of the best shipwreck diving in the world. Thousands of sunken ships rest quietly at the bottom of the Great Lakes, some dating back to the 1600s. And it just so happens that the best time of year to view these wrecks is in winter, when the ice coating Lake Michigan acts a sealant against wind, boats, and people who stir up the lakebed. In other words, visibility is best in winter and that’s when you’ll see formidable ice divers chainsaw their way through the surface to sink into the watery world below. An advanced form of scuba diving, ice diving requires a special suit and equipment (and yes, a dive certification is mandatory). But the gear is well worth the experience of drifting through the water to view an elegant schooner or hulking freighter, eerily peaceful and frozen in time.

Ice Sailing

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Called “wind dancing” by some, ice sailing pairs a wing, kite, or sled with a snowboard, skis, or skates. This adds complexity and speed to some favorite winter sports and makes for an addicting challenge. Ice sailing can be done anywhere there is wind and snow or ice, but Michigan is a paradise due to its many frozen lakes—there’s lots of space to play. Ice sailors describe the feeling as energizing and sublime as they harness the wind’s power to glide across the ice.


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In the Great Lakes State, hiking boots are swapped out for snowmobiles during the winter. With over 6,500 groomed, interconnected trails, Michigan takes its motor-powered adventures seriously. One of only three states that offers such an extensive system of trails, snowmobilers can explore miles and miles of picturesque, exciting terrain. Ideal for an extreme winter group activity, visitors can speed over frozen lakes and through national forests to see sights that are often hidden in warmer months.

As the weather cools and the snow falls, Michigan turns into a magnificent playground for the outdoor adventurer. Plan a visit this season to try out (or watch) these extreme winter sports in beautiful Michigan.

Written by Expedia Staff Writer

5 thoughts on “5 Extreme Winter Sports that Michigan Does Best

  1. Hello Kathy,

    There are a number of places in Michigan offering winter activities such as Ice Climbing, Snowmobiling, Snowboarding, Skiing and Sledding. To weigh your options, we’ve included a link that will allow you to click on each area for more information.

    Tubing and sledding: http://www.michigan.org/tubing-sledding/

    Ice fishing: http://www.michigan.org/fishing/

    Ice climbing: http://www.michigan.org/property/peabody-ice-climbing/

    Ice luge: http://www.michigan.org/property/muskegon-winter-sports-complex-muskegon-luge/

    Snowmobiling: http://www.michigan.org/snowmobiling/

    Have fun, and don’t forget to take pictures; we’d love to see them!

  2. This is a great list of unique winter activities beyond just skiing and snowboarding. It definitely seems that if you like outdoor adventure – Michigan is a place to visit. Going to add ice diving in Michigan to our list of top heart pounding winter activities next year: http://www.blockislandorganics.com/Blog/post/2014/11/19/Outdoor-Life-6-Unique-Heart-Pumping-Winter-Activities.aspx. Thanks for letting us know that Michigan offers some of the best shipwreck diving in the world.

  3. Michigan is an ideal destination to enjoy winter sports. I have been there in last winter during my charleston to new york tour with my few friends. We want to enjoy the skiing activities in this region. It offers a wide range of adventures activities to enjoy with friends and fellows. Its most famous skiing destinations are; Boyne Mountain, Shanty Creek-Schuss Mountain, Big Powderhorn Mountain and Double JJ Ranch and Golf Resort.

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