Know Before You Go: Seven Important Lessons from Skiers and Snowboarders

For some, winter means staying indoors and watching the snow fall softly with a cup of hot cocoa, but for many Michiganders and winter visitors, the snowy season means plenty of powder and plenty of opportunity to shred the slopes

Layer up with gear from the Pure Michigan store!

If you’re a seasoned ski or snowboard fanatic, you may have already learned some of these lessons the hard way (and now have a funny tale to tell), but if you’re a winter warrior ready to strap on some skis and give it a try, keep these do’s and don’ts for a successful ski or snowboard experience in mind – no matter how obvious they seem!  

DO: Layer up. Suiting up with the right clothing is very important before strapping on a pair of skis or buckling up your snowboard boots. There’s no need for expensive ski clothes your first-time out. Consider some long underwear, a turtleneck, fleece and some kind of insulating leg wear to wear under a winter jacket and waterproof snow pants. A pair of waterproof winter gloves is a good idea, too.  When you know you’re hooked on skiing or snowboarding, you can upgrade your wardrobe with some new winter weather gear from the Pure Michigan Store. Wearing comfortable and warm clothes will allow you to stay out on the slopes longer. So, unless you’re heading to the ski resort spa, you can leave the shorts and tanks at home!

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Proper equipment is a must! – Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

DON’T: Let your friends be your ski instructors. Even if your friends or family members ski and want to teach you, investing in a ski lesson is a better bet to ensure your success on the slopes. You’ll get started with a quality base of ski knowledge, and the individual attention will help you progress faster. Ski resorts often offer specials on lessons for first-timers. Ski Snowboard Michigan can help you find the right one for you. 

DO: Use proper equipment. Ski goggles are a must for both beginners and experts. Goggles reduce the sun’s glare during the day, and can protect your eyes from a fall or an unforeseen tree! Also, consider renting equipment instead of buying new or borrowing a friend or family members’ old pair of dated skis or boots. Buying new ski or snowboard equipment can be expensive, but learning to ski on a modern pair of skis is not only safer than skiing on old skis, but, it will help you progress faster. For beginners just starting out, renting is the way to go.

Photo via @Boyne.Mountain on Instagram

Mind the ski lift and have fun! – Photo via @Boyne.Mountain on Instagram

DON’T: Forget to pay attention to the chairlift. Every year, countless skiers and snowboarders get wrapped up in the excitement of a completed run or the beauty of the scenery and aimlessly get bumped or fall off the chairlift. You never want to be “that person” that holds up the line. Always stay alert and aware of your surroundings!

DO: Know your limits. There’s no shame in taking a few falls while getting used to the sport on a smaller hill. Ask any expert snow sports enthusiast – it all comes with practice. Too slow and too fast are often times right next to each other for beginners. Go at your own pace and stick with it!

photo-credit-Joey-Wallis-2-permission-requested

Know your limits and work your way up! – Photo by Joey Wallis, Mount Bohemia

DON’T: Head down a black diamond your first time on the hills. Besides losing most of your gear after you inevitably wipe out, you’re risking serious injury. Build up to harder slopes as you gain more experience. It is important to choose a ski resort with a good beginner’s area. You want wide, not very steep slopes. And more than just one “bunny hill”, so you can work your way up gradually.

DO: Head to Michigan.org to find  the best places to carve up the slopes this winter. Doing your research will not only save you time when booking a hotel, but you might find discounts on lift tickets or rentals through your search as well! Before you go, set the mood for your ski trip by watching videos of skiers having a blast, as they float through powder and weave through trees.

Have you learned any of these lessons the hard way? What else would you recommend to beginning skiers and snowboarders? 

For more information on planning a Pure Michigan ski or snowboard trip, visit michigan.org/snowday.

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. 

Slopes and Trails Abound in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

With all the winter weather we’ve had lately, it’s the perfect time to plan a ski trip in Pure Michigan! Mickey MacWilliams from the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association gives us an overview of some spectacular Upper Peninsula ski slopes to check out this season. 

Powder glade skiing, uncrowded lift lines, ski jumping, scenic trails and terrain parks for every skier ability level, comfortable accommodations, ski jumping and lift ticket rates that are at least half the price of those in the Rockies.  If this sounds too good to be true, then you haven’t skied Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Although the U.P. might not immediately come to mind when thinking about skiing, the area actually has a long and colorful ski history.  At the latter part of the 19th century and early 20th century, ski jumping was the primary form of competitive skiing in the country and the Upper Peninsula was a key center, hosting one of the most popular ski jumping tournaments at that time.

Touring the Upper Peninsula’s ski areas is a fun and relatively inexpensive way to take a ski vacation.  For this article, our trip begins in Marquette and heads west from there, stopping at nine ski areas along the way.

Taking a leap at Marquette Mountain

Home to Northern Michigan University, Marquette is a picturesque town along the shore of Lake Superior.  Marquette Mountain is just a few miles out of town and although the ski area doesn’t have on-site lodging, they partner with local hotels to provide packages for as little as $55 per night.  Marquette Mountain is a large Midwest ski area, with 169 skiable acres, 25 runs, a 600 foot vertical drop and trails up to 1 ¼ mile in length. The day lodge is comfortable and there are slopes for all ability levels. Marquette Mountain’s website has a “Special Rates” page that lists discounts that change as the season progresses.

Heading west from Marquette on US 41, a stop at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame is definitely worthwhile.  Located in Ishpeming, about 10 miles west of Marquette, the Hall of Fame is home to the world’s largest skiing museum.

The view from Mont Ripley, overlooking the cities of Houghton and Hancock

Next stop is Mont Ripley in Houghton.  The ski area picturesquely sits on the Portage Lake Canal, which separates the cities of Houghton and Hancock.  From the top of Mont Ripley, the view of the canal and the cities below is breathtaking.  A popular destination for Michigan Tech students, Mont Ripley features 25 runs of all ability levels.  NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center keeps track of annual snowfall and listed Hancock Michigan as the third snowiest city in the United States (behind Crested Butte, Colorado and Valdez, Alaska) with an annual average of 215.8 inches of snow. Like Marquette Mountain, there is no on-site lodging at Mont Ripley, but accommodations are available in Houghton and Hancock.

Heading north from the Houghton/Hancock area on US 41 takes one up the Keweenaw Peninsula, where the snow doesn’t ever seem to stop and the mountains get higher with each mile traveled.  Close to the tip of the peninsula is Mount Bohemia, an expert-only ski area.  MSN.com has called Mount Bohemia “one of the top ten undiscovered ski resorts in the world” for a reason.  The lift lines are short; there are over 500 acres of skiable terrain, a 900-foot vertical drop and powder skiing most of the winter. This hidden secret is a true treasure for backcountry skiers and riders. The average snowfall in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula is 273 inches. The lake effect snow is dry, similar to the conditions in the Rockies, and accumulates as powder which is untouched because Mount Bohemia’s slopes are never groomed.  Mount Bohemia offers on-site accommodations that include hostel beds for $25 per night, heated yurts that can sleep up to 10, trailside cabins and The Inn on Lac Labelle that includes breakfast and dinner.

The Yurts at the base of Mount Bohemia provide cozy shelter for the night.

Once you’ve had your fill of the steep and the deep, the western side of the U.P. offers a variety of recreational options that fit all ability levels and price ranges.  Taking in the beauty of the Upper Peninsula on snowshoes or cross-country skis is a must and Porcupine Mountains State Park near Ontonagon offers thousands of acres of snow-covered backcountry wilderness to explore. Four main and several smaller cross-country ski trails combine to form a 42 KM Nordic Trail System through the unspoiled beauty of the state park. The trails feature two warming shelters and are power-tilled and groomed daily. As a bonus, a trail pass includes use of the downhill ski chairlifts, giving skiers quick access to the heart of the Nordic Trail system, as well as the entire Alpine Ski area.

After a day of state-park beauty, it’s time to enjoy some comfortable accommodations in preparation for skiing in Big Snow Country.  The western border of the U.P. is called that for a reason.  The town of Bessemer, which is in the heart of this area, registers in at 210 inches of snow annually.

Lodging options abound at Big Powderhorn Mountain Resort in Bessemer.  Its location provides easy access not only to Big Powderhorn, but also to Black Jack Ski Area, Indianhead Mountain and Mt. Zion.  Sporting a new lodge built two years ago, Big Powderhorn provides accommodations from, modest to luxury, in chalets and condominiums at the base of the slopes.  Big Powderhorn Mountain offers 33 downhill trails with a 622 vertical drop.  There are 9 double chairlifts and a beginner hand tow to get you around the 253 acres of skiable terrain.  There is something here for every ski ability level, with 35% novice runs, 35% considered more difficult, and 30% expert.

A couple of miles away is Black Jack Resort with its family-friendly atmosphere.  Black Jack has 24 slopes on 126 skiable acres serviced by four double chairs, a rope tow and a handle tow.  Looking to make skiing affordable to families, kids 12 and under ski free with a paid adult lift ticket, plus discounts for military personnel and college students, and ski slopes and terrain parks for every level make Black Jack a fun and affordable place for all.

Mt. Zion, operated by Gogebic Community College, provides affordable winter recreation for everyone.  With 10 slopes and free cross-country ski trails, a snow tubing park, a 300’ vertical drop, free skiing for Gogebic Community College students and senior citizens 62 and over, the slopes are a popular place for the local community. Adult full-day lift tickets are priced at just $20, making Mt. Zion one of the least expensive areas to ski at in the state.

Also located in Big Snow Country is Indianhead Mountain.  Voted Visitor’s Choice Favorite Family Friendly in 2011 and Best Terrain in 2012 by OnTheSnow.com, Indianhead has been a favorite of many families for generations.  With a 638 vertical food drip and 30 runs over 230 acres serviced by 9 lifts and tows, there is plenty to explore.  Fifty percent of Indianhead’s runs are considered expert terrain, but there are also 10 intermediate runs and five for beginners.  Indianhead also has two terrain parks so there really is something for everyone.  Indianhead’s comfortable lodge is at the top of the mountain, and lodging is available in Mountain Top Hotel Rooms, Mountain Top Village Chalets and Trailside Condos.  Dining options range from cafeteria cuisine to The Lodge, which is considered one of the region’s quality restaurants.

Leaving Big Snow Country and heading south along the Michigan/Wisconsin border, brings one to Ski Brule in Iron River.  Ski Brule prides itself as being the first ski area in Michigan to open for the season and the last to close.  A favorite of many, for the sixth consecutive year Ski Brule was voted the Midwest’s Overall Favorite Ski & Snowboard Resort at OnTheSnow.com.  With 17 trails, 11 lifts (five chairlifts, two T-bars, three rope tows, one paddle tow), 150 acres of terrain, 500 vertical feet, three terrain parks, two terrain trails and cross-country ski trails that wind around the slopes and down to the Brule River, the whole family can easily find recreational options to suit their needs.   Affordable on-site lodging in chalets and condominiums is available and since Ski Brule is usually open for skiing six months out of the year, a return trip in April – or maybe even May – is always a possibility.

The final destination on our U.P. ski loop is Pine Mountain, which features 27 runs, serviced by three lifts and two surface tows.  Night skiing is available Wednesday through Saturday.   Pine Mountain offers three terrain parks including beginner, intermediate and advanced parks for all levels of skiers and riders to enjoy.  All terrain parks are accessible from the triple lift and all are hittable in one run. In addition to the downhill skiing options, Pine Mountain also has a ski jump! Every year The Kiwanis Ski Club hosts one of the most popular jumping tournament in the United States. Top jumpers from around the world make their way to Pine Mountain to partake in this historic annual event. With an attendance of over 20,000 spectators and tailgaters flocking to the resort for the competition, Jump Weekend is truly a unique experience.  This year Jump Weekend is scheduled for February 6 – 9. Pine Mountain offers a variety of room accommodations in their lodge at the base of the slopes, as well as slope-side condominium units to suit both short-term and long-term stays.

To experience all that Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has to offer, a weeklong trip is recommended.  However, if you don’t have time to do it all, that’s okay.  Fun can be had whenever you visit.  For more information on Michigan ski areas, go to goskimichigan.com and click on the Ski Areas & Conditions button.

Have you been skiing in the Upper Peninsula? Where did you go? 

Mickey MacWilliams is the executive director of the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association, which represents the ski and snowboard industry in our state.  She is an avid downhill and cross-country skier and a very timid but enthusiastic snowboarder.  You can reach her at info@goskimichigan.com.