Nordic Tracks in Pure Michigan

Aaron Peterson, a contributing photographer for Michigan Travel Ideas, shares one of his favorite Upper Peninsula cross-country ski spots, Noquemanon Trails, which raises his adrenaline and challenges his technique.

They may be hard to find, and difficult to pronounce (no-kay-mun-on), but once you locate the Noquemanon Trails and learn the local lingo (Noque, “no-kay,” for short) you’ll understand why Marquette is gaining a reputation as the Nordic skiing capital of the Midwest.

The core of the Noque trails can be found at the Forestville Trailhead just outside Marquette. Follow Wright Street to Forestville Road, a rough and tumble 3.5-mile drive into the pine-forested hills. Follow the blue arrowhead signs.

Once you get to the large parking area, grab your gear, change in the heated chalet and get ready for quite possibly the best Nordic skiing you’ve ever had. Yes, it’s so good it’s worth the bumpy drive.

At the Forestville trailhead, access 45K of looping trails that range from flat and kid-friendly to hang-on-for-dear-life thrill ride, my preference. When it comes to Nordic skiing, I like to challenge both my cardio and my technique, and the Noque trails are some of the few places that consistently do so.

One of my favorite runs is the 5K Bagwaji (it means “Into the Wild” in Ojibwe) that snakes and snarls through wooded hillsides. By the time I reach the woodstove in the lodge, my adrenaline masks the exhaustion.

There’s more to the Noque trails than just the Forestville Trailhead. Ask the staff at the chalet about the nearby Al Quaal, Saux Head Lake, Blueberry, Big Bay and Valley Spur trails, too. Is there such a thing as too much skiing?

More information: An $8 day pass is required. Passes, heated changing and eating area, rentals and restrooms are at the Forestville Trailhead. Be sure to check the website for detailed driving directions (906/235-6861; noquetrails.org).

Aaron Peterson is a travel photographer based near Lake Superior on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. His work has appeared in several publications, including Michigan Travel Ideas, Outside, National Geographic Adventure and Outdoor Life.

Pure Michigan’s Wonderful Winter Activities

Jesse Land, a native Yooper, runs the U.P. travel site “Things to do in the U.P.” (www.thingstodointheup.com). Today on our blog, he shares his favorite winter activities to enjoy in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Are you looking for things to do in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the winter? Well, look no further! Following are a few excellent winter activities that range from a mildly adventurous spectator sport to something even the most daring outdoorspeople will enjoy!

Experience the Pine Mountain Ski Jumps

The Pine Mountain Ski Jumps are truly an event to behold, and something I believe everyone should take in at least once in their lifetime. Each February, thousands of spectators cluster around the base of Iron Mountain’s Giant Pine Mountain ski jump to watch some of the best jumpers in the world compete in this Continental Cup tournament.

Charcoal grills and bonfires abound in what could be Michigan’s largest tail gating event, as the jumper’s soar several hundred feet through the air with each try. And with the newly completed Pine Mountain stairs, watching the jumpers whoosh by at over sixty miles an hour will be easier than ever.

The hillside stairs are open to the public during the event so it’s quite easy to get closer to the action that you may have thought possible. All in all, you’ll likely leave the event muttering something along the lines of “who knew we had something like this right here in Michigan?”

Ski or Snowshoe at Fumee Lake Natural Area

Michigan is full of wonderful opportunities for cross country skiing and snowshoeing, with many of them not far from our respective backyards. One such place is the Fumee Lake Natural Area.

Fumee Lake offers a variety of trails, but the most popular are the “Little Fumee Lake Loop” and the “Big Fumee Lake Loop.” As their names imply, both trails circle one of the area’s two lakes, with the little loop measuring 1.35 miles and the big loop coming in at about 5.2 miles.

Because the 1,808 acre natural area only allows silent sports, you can find peace and quiet there all winter long.  In fact, it’s not uncommon to spend a few hours on the Fumee Lake trail system and not see another soul.

Go Ice Climbing at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Did you know that some of the best ice climbing in the world is right here in the Upper Peninsula? Yes, that’s right, I said ice climbing! Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore may be a thriving destination for tourists in the summer months, with families packing the lakeside campgrounds and sunset boat cruises, but in the winter the area is certainly no less beautiful.

Giant walls of ice form along many of the area’s rock faces (as well as on Grand Island), and the much photographed waterfalls of Pictured Rocks freeze over, becoming some of the most excellent and easily accessible ice climbs in the Midwest.

And fortunately, the barriers to entry for this crazy cool sport may not be as difficult as you’d think! Just call Down Wind Sports’ Marquette location at (906) 226-7112 and book one of their “Ice Climbing 101” trips. The cost is $99 per person and includes instruction and gear rental.

Ski Big Powderhorn Mountain

Our friends at MISkiReport.com do an excellent job of describing each of Michigan’s wonderful ski locations, so I’m going to borrow their description of Big Powderhorn Mountain…

“Located in the western Upper Penninsula of Michigan, Big Powderhorn Mountain is ranked as one of the Top 5 Resorts in the Midwest.  Combine an average of 17 plus feet of natural snowfall, a good mix of well maintained terrain and you have an exceptional winter getaway.

Big Powderhorn offers a variety of terrain for skiers and snowboarders alike, with an excellent mix of trails for the novice to advanced.  With its Bavarian style village, Big Powderhorn boasts such features and amenities that are only found at larger western resorts.  Ticket and rental prices vary depending on the time of year.  However, check with the resort before planning your trip as promotions and great deals are offered throughout the year.”

In summary, as you can see, Michigan is host to a myriad of awesome winter activities. And these are just the tip of the iceberg! To learn more things to do in the Upper Peninsula, “like” my “Things to do in the U.P.” Facebook Page and plug into the action!

A native Yooper, Jesse Land lives in Iron Mountain and enjoys hiking, biking, boating, and camping with his family. He runs the U.P. travel site “Things to do in the U.P.” (www.thingstodointheup.com).

A Marquette Ski Junkie in Pure Michigan

Aaron Peterson, a contributing photographer for Michigan Travel Ideas, is always up for a challenge, especially if it involves the outdoors and equipment. Aaron shares one of his favorite ski hang outs, Marquette Mountain.

One of the things I love about living near Marquette is immediate access to outdoor opportunities. Marquette Mountain ski area sits within city limits, less than 10 minutes from downtown shopping such as the Masonic Square Mall on Washington Street. In fact, you can see the white ribbons of runs from there!

Marquette Mountain is on one of a string of rugged hills rimming the city and leading north into the Huron Mountain range. Its location near the shore of Lake Superior, and 600 feet of vertical rise, means that dense clouds of lake-effect snow dump around 200 inches of white stuff annually. Yep, that means we average 130 days of skiing, from Thanksgiving through April!

You’ll need more than one day to tackle the mountain, which offers something for everyone, with 25 runs and three terrain parks. Marquette Mountain is home to some talented freestyle skiers and snowboarders who take full advantage of the parks. It’s always a thrill to check out the new tricks being thrown down on Contour’s jumps and rails. Looking for something more intense? Try Chute with 35-  to 50-foot decks. Ridge caters to beginners.

When the snow is especially good and I’m feeling brave, I head for the backcountry and ski Renegade and Weasels Gulch. At the end of those runs, you cross a bridge over the fast-moving Carp River to catch chair three to the top.

Hint: You’ll want to get to the hill early to get good parking near the chalet. The lot fills up quickly, and parking in the overflow area means having to cross highway M-553 with an armload of equipment. The chalet is fairly small, so I dress for the hill ahead of time to avoid the crowds inside.

Aaron Peterson is a travel photographer based near Lake Superior on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. His work has appeared in several publications, including Michigan Travel Ideas, Outside, National Geographic Adventure and Outdoor Life.