Five Reasons to Bundle Up for a Round of Golf on Top of Frozen Lake Huron

Grab your flannel, fleece and golf clubs… Yes, you read it right! You don’t have to leave the Midwest this winter to enjoy a mind-blowing round of golf. St. Ignace Visitors Bureau shares five reasons you can’t miss the one-of-a-kind U.P. Ice Golf Scramble.

Photo Courtesy of The St. Ignace News

Dying to get back on the links for a round of golf? Want to keep your swing in shape but don’t have the budget to search for warm weather? The U.P. Ice Golf Scramble, Feb. 27-28, will reunite you with your favorite pastime – complete with five St. Ignace twists.

1. The Next Best Thing to Fireflies
Remember the fun of chasing fireflies on a summer night? Combine that memory teeing off after sunset and you’ve got the Glow Ball Challenge. Participants will spend Friday evening trying to land their glow-in-the-dark ball closest to the pin for special bragging rights and the chance to win an exclusive tour of the Mackinac Bridge towers. They’ll also enjoy beer tasting and live music. Definitely more fun than fireflies.

2. Our Greens are White
Forget about those pesky sand traps. Let St. Ignace introduce you to a new course and a new twist on your favorite pastime. Anyone can say they shot the back nine, but how many of your friends can say they played on 12 plus inches of Great Lakes ice?

Ice Golf Scramble 13. A Fun and Level Playing Field
Literally and figuratively – this outing offers a level playing field. Literally – because the lake surface is as level as Mother Nature can make it. Figuratively, because we’ve constructed an event that places the emphasis on fun. Saturday’s outing is a two-person, best-ball scramble, which is our way of saying that even if you’ve never golfed in your life, partner up and take a swing at a winter adventure. No handicaps. No pros. Just fun.

Ice Golf Scramble 4. Go to the Extreme
Golf is traditionally a quiet, relaxed sport. But in this age of amped-up activities, bucket lists, and thrill-seeking, what could be more extreme than playing through atop 20 fathoms of icy cold waters? St. Ignace has a long history of using the frozen Great Lakes as a playground – from snowmobiling to pond hockey championships – but if you haven’t golfed Huron, you haven’t taken full advantage of the state’s winter wonderland,

5. Fashion turns to Flannel and Fleece
Ice golfers can forget about the preppy polo shirt or the golf knickers. Pack your thermal underwear, your fleece and anything else that can provide layers of warmth. Make sure you have a touk (a knitted winter hat) or a Stormy Kromer (a stylish wool cap made in the Upper Peninsula) and remember your sun glasses because St. Ignace is known for beautiful winter sunshine!

What could be more thrilling! Are you brave enough to golf on a frozen Great Lake? Learn more and register for the U.P. Ice Golf Scramble at www.stignace.com or call (800) 338-6660.

Six Unbelievable Close-Up Snowflakes That Reveal the Magic of Winter

When the first flakes start to fall, we look forward to hitting the slopes, making snow angels and revving the engines of our snowmobiles. Fresh snow gives us the chance to head outside and take in the magic of winter. 

So, the next time you’re out enjoying a snow day, grab your camera and get up-close with what makes Pure Michigan a winter wonderland – snowflakes! Photographer Joshua Nowicki shares his tips for photographing these one-of-a-kind beauties. 

dsc_2412 snowflake photo by Joshua Nowicki

As the snow accumulates over the winter months, it is easy to lose appreciation for the beauty of winter.  As the snow builds layer after layer, I find it therapeutic to take a closer look and enjoy the wonders of a single snowflake.

A little over a year ago, I received gift of a +1, +2, +4 set of close-up macro filters to use on a lens for my camera.  It was snowing that day, and almost immediately, I was outside trying to take photos of snowflakes.  I searched for snowflakes lying on leaves, pine needles, windshields anywhere I could find them isolated or on a dark background.  I was spending a lot of time searching for individual snowflakes and not much time taking photos.  So, I decided that I needed to find a better way to capture my subject.  I tried a variety of different materials to catch snowflakes on, and found that I had the best luck using an old blue stocking cap.  The snowflakes land at angles propped up by the frayed fibers of the stocking cap, and this provides a little separation from the rest of the material.

The macro filters gave me a closer view of the snow than I had ever seen before; but I wanted to get closer.  I was using the macro filters on an 18-55mm lens, and then, I switched to trying them on a 55-200mm lens.  This worked reasonably well, but I felt like I was getting too much distortion in the images that I took.  So, I kept searching for another way.  I could not justify the cost of a macro lens, therefore I kept experimenting.  I finally decided upon using electrical tape to attach one lens backward in front of another lens.  My favorite combination is currently a 55-200mm lens with a 50mm lens.  For lighting the snowflakes, I use an external camera flash and flashlight.  It is not a beautiful set up, but it is an effective one.

The level of magnification that this has allowed me has been astounding.  Details that I never thought I would be able to see in person, I could now photograph.  I have been amazed by the variety of shapes of snowflakes and dazzled by the intricate and delicate detail of each individual snowflake.  As the weather and temperature change, the shapes and sizes of the snowflakes also change.  Two of my favorite snowflake shapes are sectored plates and stellar dendrites.

Every time it snows, I find myself running outside to see what the snowflakes look like. Frequently, I have had to explain to neighbors and people passing by why I am sitting in the snow taking close up photos of my stocking cap.  Many of them chuckled until I showed them the photos I was taking. The next time it snows, before you grab your shovel, take a moment to sit in the snow with a camera or magnifying glass and enjoy one of the true marvels of winter. See their beauty below.

dsc_3080 snowflake photo by Joshua Nowicki

dsc_3063 snowflake photo by Joshua Nowicki

dsc_2820 snowflake photo by Joshua Nowicki

dsc_2270 snowflake photo by Joshua Nowicki

dsc_0291 snowflake photo by Joshua Nowicki

What’s your favorite way to spend a snow day? Share your photos enjoying the snow using #PureMichiganSnowDay on Twitter and Instagram or visit michigan.org/snowday.

Joshua_NowickiJoshua Nowicki is a St. Joseph, Michigan based photographer specializing in landscape, nature, architecture, and food photography.  His photos can be viewed online on Facebook or his website

Ten Facts You Might Not Have Known About Michigan Ice Wine

Connoisseurs might describe Ice Wine as liquid-gold. Several Michigan wineries produce this high-risk, highly prized delight, but only in years when conditions are just right.

Photo courtesy of David L. Fox - Black Star Farms

Photo courtesy of David L. Fox – Black Star Farms

Not familiar with this particular variety? Impress your wine-wise friends with these ten fun facts about Michigan Ice Wine from guest blogger Karel Bush of the Michigan Wine and Grape Industry Council.

1. Ice Wine is sweet and delicious. But you probably already knew that.

2. Michigan is ideally suited for Ice Wine production. Most other U.S. states cannot produce this decadent libation – it just doesn’t get cold enough.

3. There are strict rules governing the harvesting, handling and labeling of Ice Wine, not just in Michigan, but internationally.

4. Ice Wine is made from grapes that have been partially frozen on the vine. There are “ice-style” wines that are made from grapes that are harvested then frozen. These cannot be labeled as “Ice Wine.”

Photo courtesy of David L. Fox - Black Star Farms

Photo courtesy of David L. Fox – Black Star Farms

5. Leaving grapes on the vine for Ice Wine is risky. The longer the grapes hang on the vine, the more the sugar is concentrated. More sugar means more tasty morsels for birds, raccoons and other critters. Growers often cover the vines with netting to help reduce the damage.

6. The grapes can also be lost to other elements of nature – hail, wind and even a sudden warm spell can jeopardize an Ice Wine crop.

7. Harvesting grapes for Ice Wine must be done when the temperature drops to about 18 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point, the water in the grapes freezes, but the sugar does not.

8. If the temperature dips too low, for too long, the grapes can actually freeze too hard and the grapes are like marbles. No juice can be extracted, so the grapes are unusable.

9. The grapes can’t be allowed to thaw, so harvest must happen quickly, often with very short notice. It’s not uncommon to harvest grapes for Ice Wine in the middle of the night. And it’s done by hand. The grapes must be pressed while still frozen, yielding mere drops of concentrated ultra-sweet elixir.

Photo courtesy of David L. Fox - Black Star Farms

Photo courtesy of David L. Fox – Black Star Farms

10. Ice Wine is irresistible on its own and luscious with desserts like crème brulée or pecan pie; but it’s also fun to pair with strong cheeses or a creamy paté.

These Michigan wineries have received awards for their Ice Wine in local and national wine competitions: Black Star Farms, Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery, Burgdorf’s Winery, Chateau Aeronautique, Chateau Chantal, Cody Kresta Vineyard and Winery, Fenn Valley Vineyards, Lemon Creek Winery and Mackinaw Trail Winery.

Have you ever sampled Ice Wine from a Michigan winery? What did you think? Visit www.michiganwines.com for information about these and all the other award-winning wineries in the state. 

Karel Bush is promotion specialist for the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council, a program within the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.