Cure Your Cabin Fever! Five Reasons to Take a Vacation Day and Head Outside

According to the U.S. Travel Association, U.S. workers only use 77 percent of their paid time off, resulting in nearly 169 million forfeited vacation days and $52.4 billion in lost benefits! Luckily, PTO days can be used any time during the year, and a quick winter trip is sure to cure any cold-weather blues. Here are six reasons to use those vacation days and explore what a winter day in Pure Michigan has to offer.

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1. There’s plenty of fresh powder! 

With more than 51 ski areas, 260 chairlifts, 1,000 runs, 50 terrain parks and an annual snowfall of more than 100 inches, Michigan offers some of the best ski and snowboarding slopes you can find in the Midwest. In-state resorts like Boyne Mountain Resort and Crystal Mountain are perfect for weekend away to shred some fresh powder or even take your very first lesson. Many resorts offer tubing and sledding fun, too!

2. Wineries are less crowded in the winter.

Take a winter winery tour! Many think that all Michigan wineries hibernate during the winter season, but some stay open all year long  for you to enjoy! One popular winter activity among foodies is to warm up with a glass of wine/small bites from a trio of wineries along a 7.5-mile ski and snowshoe path on the Leelanau Peninsula. The only question is, do you prefer red or white?

3. Trying something new can be thrilling!

Dog Sledding
Dog sledding is a wild winter adventure. The hot breath of the huskie pack fogs the crisp winter air as they pull you with focused determination across the glistening landscape. Imagine you’re racing against another team, over the same frozen terrain that explorers did long ago! Dog sledding is a fun activity for the whole family and can create memories that last a lifetime.

Iceclimbing

Ice Climbing
One of winter’s newest silent sports, Ice climbing, combines challenge and adventure. With ropes and harnesses, ascend stunning icefalls, cliffs and rock slabs, all waiting to be conquered. Swing your axe into the ice, hold on tight and inch your way up the frozen ladder. Be one of the first people to know to say you climbed a frozen waterfall!

Ice Luge
Did you know that one of lonely three luge tracks in the United States can be found right here in Michigan? Located near the shores of Lake Michigan in the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex, you’ll be able to fly down the track just like the winter Olympians do.

4. There’s always time for quality time.

Photo courtesy of Zehnder's

Photo courtesy of Zehnder’s

Romantic Getaways
Sweep your sweetie away on a romantic getaway. You don’t have to go far to find a perfect weekend getaway with that special someone in your life. Some romantic packages include champagne dinners, in-room Jacuzzi’s and wine tastings while others let you relax with spa treatments or special in-room amenities. There’s no wrong choice when surprising a loved one with a romantic getaway in Michigan.

Family Fun
If you’re experiencing some cabin fever, we bet the kids are too! Family-friendly waterparks can be found all over the state, just waiting to wash away the norm. Whether you splash in the shallows with the little ones, or race each other for bragging rights down the twisting water slides, nothing brings families closer together than a Pure Michigan water park adventure. 

Ice Fishing5. The fish still bite during the winter. 

During the winter, Michigan’s four Great Lakes, more than 11,000 inland lakes and hundreds of rivers and streams provide anglers with the perfect location to ice fish for bluegill, perch, pike and walleye. Whether you’re a master angler or don’t quite know your way around a reel yet, fishing in Michigan is fun for everyone. Make sure to mark Free Fishing Weekend (Feb.14-15) on your calendar and check out our Winter Angler’s Ultimate Packing List before hitting the ice!

How would you spend a winter day off in Pure Michigan? Share your photos enjoying the snow using #PureMichiganSnowDay on Twitter and Instagram or visit michigan.org/snowday.

See What It’s Like to Paddleboard on Icy Lake Michigan

Today, filmmaker and videographer Seth Haley shares what it was like to film adventurous Lake Michigan paddle boarders amidst the serene frozen beauty of a Pure Michigan winter.

Photo courtesy of Seth Haley

Photo courtesy of Seth Haley

As Michiganders, we all know that famous saying which goes something along these lines, “If you don’t like the weather in Michigan, wait a day or two. It will change.” And as the weather changes, the mood changes too.

I moved back to Michigan early last year and took up residence in St Joseph. The lake had captured me long ago, before I ever moved away. But now, I live close enough to see it and experience it every day if I wanted. Everything about it was a kind of homing device–its waves, its calm; the way it looked on a warm, sunny day, as quiet and bright blue as the Caribbean; its grey, threatening anger; its dynamic nature—kind of like Michigan itself, a study in contrasts.

Photo courtesy of Seth Haley

Photo courtesy of Seth Haley

As a filmmaker of an adventurous sort, I make it my business to be out at the lake as often as I can. There is something immensely satisfying in experiencing the lake and capturing whatever mood it happens to offer and then showing it to as many people as care to look.

Shortly after the New Year rolled in on a Sunday afternoon, I was out at the lake with a friend, Karol (Carl) Garrisons. Karol is a reserve coast guard with many years of experience rescue swimming and dealing with cold water temperatures. Suited up in a 6/5 millimeter wetsuit, Karol was out with his surfboard, catching some of the huge waves that had developed over the course of the day. Not a particle of ice could be seen beside the icicles in his beard, but that was all about to change. A storm was brewing. Over the course of the week, the snow came down and the winds blew. Temperatures dropped into single digits. By Friday, the lake was covered with ice as far as the eye could see.

I walked out on our ice-covered pier the next day, careful of my footing. The ice over the water creaked around me. The temperatures were warming, and already the lake had begun to morph. The ice was beginning to breaking up. I looked out over the stark white ice as huge chunks almost imperceptibly swelled up and down, pulsing like a heartbeat, and an idea struck me. A lone figure out in the water juxtaposed against the freezing landscape—now that would be an image to capture.

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Photo courtesy of Seth Haley

On my way up the bluff from the lake, I texted Karol. “Do you know anyone crazy enough to go kayaking among glaciers?” (Never mind the faulty terminology. Chalk it up to my excitement!) Turns out, he did. As we planned, the kayaking idea changed to paddle boarding since paddle boarding isn’t something you see a lot of around here in the winter.  Better and better.

The next day, Karol and I headed out to the lake with Josh Nowicki, a local photographer. Josh spends a lot of time photographing the lake and has a massive portfolio of photographs and his own wetsuit to prove it. Intrigued by our plan, he came along to hang out and take pictures. But it wasn’t long before the lake’s pull got to him, too, and he ventured out into the icebergs right along with Karol. Even as we filmed, we could see the lake changing in front of our eyes. Icebergs floated past Karol’s board as the ice opened up and slid out of our bay.

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Photo courtesy of Seth Haley

Three hours later, we had some of the most incredible and exciting footage I have ever been privileged to shoot. I knew right then, that showing Michigan in all of its moods, all of its weather, and all of its seasons was something I had to do. Instead of hunkering down when the cold blasts in, I want to be out there in it. Instead of running for cover when thunderheads gather over the lake, I want to film them as they unfold and break over our heads. Instead of just sunbathing on the beach, I want to capture the waves breaking against the lighthouse and share them with anyone who wants to see what it is to experience Michigan.

Check out Seth’s unforgettable footage below!

Seth Haley is an outdoor adventure filmmaker, always on the hunt for new ways to fully experience and capture people enjoying Michigan’s changing landscape. Say hello on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or on www.SethHaley.com and maybe your adventure will be his next story.

Four Photos That Will Convince You To Strap on Some Snowshoes and Explore

Guest blogger and landscape photographer Aubrieta Hope shares her tips for a Sleeping Bear Dunes snowshoeing trek to remember.

Winter brings ever-changing dramatic vistas to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Ice sculptures form on the beaches, every tree in the forest sparkles, and the dunes become snow-swirled works of art.  In deep snow, hiking can be a struggle; but with snowshoes, those drifts are no longer obstacle courses!  Strap on a pair of snowshoes and meet your inner explorer.  Over the next hill or through the woods, snowshoes can take you where you want to go. Blaze your own trail!  Don’t worry about dropping breadcrumbs to find your way back – just retrace your tracks.

Photo by Aubrieta Hope - Michigan Scenery.

Photo by Aubrieta V. Hope – Michigan Scenery

You can begin your explorations anywhere.  Snow season is an especially lovely time to visit the overlooks at Sleeping Bear Dunes, particularly Pyramid Point and Empire Bluff.  The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive (though closed to vehicular traffic in winter) offers panoramic views to snowshoers and cross-country skiers.  With the absence of summer visitors and songbirds, these popular areas are quiet, but you won’t feel alone.  All season long, shy creatures venture out and stitch mysterious tracks in the snow, revealing the presence of wildlife that summer visitors rarely notice.  Another silent, but spectacular snowshoe destination is Sleeping Bear Point, accessed by the Dunes Trail just west of Glen Haven.  The Lake Michigan shoreline also offers amazing scenery, and snowshoes provide good traction for traversing icy beaches. Wander at will, but use caution.  Never venture onto the lake, even if it looks frozen.

Photo by Aubrieta V. Hope - Michigan Scenery

Photo by Aubrieta V. Hope – Michigan Scenery

If you don’t mind company, consider snowshoeing the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail.  This recently-constructed multi-use trail runs nine miles from Empire to Glen Arbor (with the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, the Dune Climb, and Glen Haven Historic Village along the route).

Photo by Aubrieta V. Hope - Michigan Scenery

Photo by Aubrieta V. Hope – Michigan Scenery

Snowshoes are remarkably stable and easy to use.  It’s tough to topple over on them unless you try going backwards without thinking (I’ve tried that).  Some people snowshoe without poles, but hills require less effort when you have poles.  When snowshoeing up a hill, lean forward and press your toes into the slope.  On the way down, lean back a bit and dig in your heels. Snowshoeing will make you warm, so dress in layers.  Be sure to wear waterproof, insulated boots and gloves (or mittens).  Stay safe by bringing a buddy or letting someone know where you are going.  Stuff a few high-energy snacks and maybe a hand warmer into your pocket, and you’re good to go!

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Photo by Aubrieta V. Hope – Michigan Scenery

You can rent snowshoes and poles from Crystal River Outfitters in Glen Arbor if you’d like to strike out on your own.  Or, if you’d prefer snowshoeing with a guide, sign up for a ranger-led snowshoe hike through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  These hikes are offered every Saturday afternoon during the winter months.  Call 231-326-4700 x 5010 to register (you can borrow a pair of snowshoes free of charge for the afternoon if needed).  Visit the website for details.

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.

Aubrieta V Hope Snow PortraitAubrieta V. Hope is a landscape photographer with a special interest in northern Michigan and a lifelong, incurable affection for winter!   To view more of her images, visit www.michiganscenery.com or stop by Great Goods in Suttons Bay, Michigan.