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  and for advice and equipment.

Ice Climbing in Pure Michigan

By now, you probably know about a number of activities that can be done in Michigan during the wintertime – skiing, snowboarding, tubing, etc. Another lesser known activity to add to the list is ice climbing. With ice climbing being one of the activities featured in the Pure Michigan winter video series, we spoke with adventurer Lisa Nowak on what ice climbing in Michigan is all about.

Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got into ice climbing?
A: During my freshman year at Michigan State University I joined the Outdoors Club and it changed my life. Not only did the organization help me discover a passion for outdoor adventure, it’s where I made lasting friendships and met my husband. To afford gear, lodging, and gas for the many trips I took in college I flyered campus weekly and rounded up as many beginners as I could find to join me for the weekend adventures. Twelve years later, ice climbing ranks at the top of my list of favorite sports.

Q: What are some of your favorite winter activities?
A: I enjoy downhill skiing, but if I can get away for a weekend, I’m usually going ice climbing. Sometimes this means I get to enjoy snowshoeing and/or winter camping as part of the ice climbing adventure. It’s been awhile, but I also have fond memories of sledding, skating, and ice fishing.

Q: What do you love about the Michigan outdoors in the winter?
A: I love the variety of activities that are available to us in Michigan. Fresh air and the scent of pine is invigorating. Picking out animal tracks in the snow is fun. It’s easy to enjoy the outdoors when you’re dressed for the weather.

Q: For those who don’t know, what is ice climbing and who might like this sport?
A: Ice climbing is similar to rock climbing. Climbers wear the same harness and use the same rope skills for setting anchors and belaying their partners. Instead of climbing rock, ice climbers ascend frozen waterfalls with specialized equipment. If you seek adventure and like winter, you will love ice climbing.

Q: Where in Michigan can you ice climb? Do you have some favorite places to ice climb?
A: The Upper Peninsula has fantastic ice. Some climbs are located a couple hundred feet from where you parked the car. Others are nestled miles into the backcountry. Personally, I love climbing in the Munising area. The waterfalls tourists hike to in the spring become our playground in the winter. If I don’t have a weekend to commit to a trip up north, I head over to Peabody Ice Climbing Club in Fenton where there is a 45ft and a72ft tower of ice that offers many interesting climbs within an hour from my house in Lansing.

Q: What advice do you have for someone who may be interested in trying ice climbing for the first time?
A: Attend the Michigan Ice Festival (takes place the first weekend in February each year) in Munising. This three day festival is beginner friendly with tons of demo gear available to rent. They have beginner climbs safely rigged with the necessary ropes and staffed with belayers so you can walk up and climb. World class ice climbers teach dozens of clinics for those looking to develop technique.

If you can’t make it to the festival, hands on guidance can also be found at Peabody Ice Climbing Club in Fenton, MI where they offer rental and ice climbing instruction.

For experienced rock climbers looking to get into ice climbing, Downwind Sports is the go-to gear store in the U.P. They rent axes, boots, and crampons and sell an ice guide book to help you locate the climbs.

Q: What equipment is needed to start ice climbing?
A: For starters, you need proper winter attire. The technical gear (ice axes, ice climbing boots, crampons, helmet, climbing harness, and sometimes snowshoes) can all be rented, but if you are cold and wet, you will be miserable. This means NO COTTON. Bulky gloves are not ideal for holding onto the axes so bring a second pair and swap back and forth. If the temperature is above freezing, a rain jacket is ideal. For cold weather, a down jacket is indispensable when you are waiting for your turn to climb.

Q: The sport looks like it could require some strength; do you recommend anyone try the sport?
If you have the endurance to jog a ½ mile and do 20 pushups, you are probably physically fit enough to try ice climbing. Ice climbs vary in difficulty; most beginners will start on a climb with a low incline until they are prepared for the challenge of vertical ice. Picture yourself swinging the axes into the ice and using the handles to hold onto for balance. They are not pull up bars. You use your feet to kick little steps into the ice and inch your way up like climbing a ladder.

Q: What is your favorite thing about ice climbing?
A: I love the challenge. Each time I rope up for a climb, I am laser focused on the present. I have to carefully push my limits to grow and improve, and know when to back off to stay safe. There is no room for mindless chatter to creep into my thoughts like upcoming deadlines or wondering if I said the right things at my last work presentation. Ice climbing also takes me to breathtaking scenery that few people see.

Q: Does one particular ice climbing adventure stand out to you? Why?
A: Two words: Agawa Canyon. While this place isn’t in Michigan, us Michiganders should be boasting about how close we are to this natural wonderland. In Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, fifteen friends and I hopped on a train heading north. Two hours past civilization, the train made a stop at a trestle nestled 600 ft deep inside a wide canyon lined with dozens of enormous ice climbs. Traveling by train means you can practically bring the kitchen sink. We were camping in sub-zero temps, but we filled our bellies with gourmet dinners, laughed while we sang songs around the campfire, and smiled thinking about the epic ice routes we had climbed. It was an incredible four days.

Q: What is your favorite thing to do after going ice climbing?
A: Hanging out with friends around a hot fire with a bowl of chili in one hand and a microbrew in the other, makes the perfect ending to a day of ice climbing.

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

Lisa and Chris are Michigan natives who love to travel and play outdoors. Their passion for sports like ice climbing, rock climbing, kayaking, and backpacking has taken them all the way around the world, but they always find their way back home to Michigan. In their days of organizing trips for the Outdoors Club at MSU, Lisa estimates they have introduced more than 200 people to these adventure sports that are such an important part of their life.

Cross Country Skiing in Pure Michigan

The start of a new year means new goals and for many of us, getting in shape is on the list.

A Michigan winter provides the perfect terrain and scenery to get in shape outdoors while enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. One activity that is great for families, beginners and experienced athletes alike is cross country skiing. You can burn up to 500 calories per hour while enjoying the peaceful Michigan winter landscape far away from the crowds at the gym.

Michigan cross country skiing trails stretch over 3,000 miles and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources grooms various state forest pathways to provide trails across the northern Lower and Upper Peninsulas. It is also a great way to observe wildlife – from tracks in the snow to seeing birds and animals up close, it’s an experience that you can only get outdoors.

With cross country skiing being one of the many activities featured in A Pure Michigan Winter, we compiled a list of just a few trails to check out this winter. For a complete list of cross country skiing trails in Michigan, visit Cross Country Ski Trails in Michigan State Parks and Recreation Areas.

Cadillac Pathway has 11.3 miles of groomed trail with varying terrain that allow users to determine the length of trail and degree of difficulty they desire. Trailhead parking lots are located five miles northeast of Cadillac on 13th Street and on Seeley Road, north of Boon Road.

Bring your skis, snowshoes or just your hiking boots to Van Riper State Park for enchanted evenings of fun in the snow from 6-9 p.m. on Saturdays, Jan. 19 and Feb. 16. Experience the beautiful lit trail at Van Riper with your family and friends or make it a romantic date night.  The trail will be lit from 6-9 p.m. For details, call the park, 906-339-4461. The park is located at 851 County Road AKE in Champion, Mich. 49814 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Enjoy an evening ski or snowshoe along a lantern-lit trail through the snow covered forests of the Upper Falls at Tahquamenon State Park during one of their Lantern-Lit Cross-country ski and strolls. Events take place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Saturdays, Feb. 2, 9, 16 and 23. Warm up by the bonfire with refreshments along the 1-mile loop. A limited number of snowshoes are available to borrow at no charge. Participants must provide their own cross country ski equipment. A headlamp is recommended during overcast evenings. Meet at the Upper Falls Fact Shack.  The park is located at 41382 W. M 123 in Paradise, Mich., 49768 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. For details, call 906-492-3415.

Pine Baron Pathway, southwest of Gaylord, provides beginners and intermediate skiers with nearly 9 miles of well-groomed trail that meanders through beautiful woods. The trailhead parking lot is located on Lone Pine Road. Three of the four loops are fairly level, and the remaining loop has several good downhill runs that will interest the intermediate skier.

Join other cross-country skiers for a magical winter evening from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 9 when the snow-covered forest at  Hartwick Pines State Park is warmed by the glow of lantern light. Skiers can traverse the 1.25-mile, groomed cross-country trail, guided by more than 75 lanterns along the way. Meet at the Hartwick Pines Logging Museum. It is recommended that skiers be of intermediate skill to participate in this event.

Wildwood Hills Pathway, a three-looped trail covering approximately 9 miles of beautiful rolling hills in Indian River near Petoskey, offers a more challenging course for the intermediate skier.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, located on the south shore of Lake Superior near Silver City in Ontonagon County, is offering cross-country skiing and snowshoeing by lantern light in late December, and on Saturday evenings in January and February. Nearly 80 old-fashioned kerosene lanterns will illuminate a 1-mile trail for a unique and memorable experience. Stop halfway around the loop at the warming shelter and join the park naturalist for a campfire and refreshments.

Blueberry Ridge, just south of Marquette, has the bumps for advanced skiers, the flats for beginners and is very well maintained. There are 12 miles of groomed trails. The three north loops have side-by-side diagonal-groomed tracks so people can ski next to each other. The 1.7-mile lighted central loop is groomed for both diagonal-stride and ski-skating, as are the south two loops.

Algonquin Pathway, located south of Sault Ste Marie on 16th Avenue West. This pathway has 15 km (9 miles) of groomed trail that is laid out in three loops. The 1.6 mile lighted trail is the first loop off the trailhead parking lot. This pathway straddles old beach ridges and passes through mixed-age aspen intermixed with pine and hardwood.

Learn more in Cross Country Skiing | A Pure Michigan winter, from the Pure Michigan winter video series.

Do you have a favorite cross country skiing trail in Michigan? Share with us below!