Five Unique Winter Sports to Try Out in Pure Michigan

Winter is a wonderful time of year to break out the skis and snowboards and hit the slopes in Pure Michigan. However, there are a number of other winter sports to try out around the state that aren’t quite as common. Some adventurous winter sports enthusiasts have put their own spin on outdoor recreation with these five unique activities to try out in Pure Michigan.

Ice Climbing

With miles of sandstone cliffs lined with hundreds of frozen waterfalls, Michigan is home to some of the best ice climbing spots in the country.  As one of winter’s emerging sports, ice climbing combines challenge and adventure. With ropes and harness, ice climbers ascend stunning natural ice structures such as icefalls, frozen waterfalls, cliffs and rock slabs. Ice climbing takes daring participants to breathtaking scenery that few experience.

If you’d like to try out ice climbing, Peabody Ice Climing in Fenton, MI  features two towers, 45 and 75 ft tall located on an old apple orchard. Ice climbing varies in difficulty; most beginners will start on a climb with a low incline until they are prepared for the challenge of vertical ice. Peabody’s is a great place for seasoned ice climbers to train and great introduction for people interested in the sport.

Check out the video to see some daring ice climbers traverse a frozen waterfall.

Ice Luge

For those who were inspired by the spectacular athletes going for the gold this winter, Muskegon Winter Sports Complex located on the shores of Lake Michigan in Muskegon State Park offers three luge tracks designed to introduce beginners to the sport of luge. Shorter in overall length than Olympic-style tracks, the Muskegon track provides an Olympic thrill with the safety of the participant in mind. There is also a naturbahn style track (all-natural) in Marquette, Michigan.

The 850’ track consists of six curves and two starting areas. Participants slide from the 3/4 mark at speeds up to 30 mph. The track is designed specifically for general public use and those who never have slid before! Equipment is provided.

See what it’s like to luge like a pro in the video below.

Snow Biking

Photo by Instagram user @ryanstephensphoto

Photo by Instagram user @ryanstephensphoto

Some cyclists across Michigan have put a new winter twist on their sport with snow biking! Snow biking is gaining popularity around the state, and particularly in the Upper Peninsula. The Range Mountain Bike Club of Negaunee/Ishpeming is planning to groom some of its system this season, making Marquette County a true hub for winter cycling.

Currently, Fatbikes (locally known as snow bikes) are a fast growing segment of the bike industry. They use an oversized tire with low pressure to increase flotation and traction in soft conditions, they work in all types of terrain but excel like no other bike when it comes to riding on snow. Snow bikes need a packed surface of some sort, like a ski trail, dedicated snow bike trail or anywhere a snowmobile of snowshoe traffic has compressed fluffy snow.

Experienced snow biker, Aaron Peterson says, “Riding on snow is surreal. For an experienced cyclist, the feeling is similar to mountain biking but different enough that it lets you feel an entirely new experience on a bike.”

See a full Q & A with Aaron here along with his video series on snow biking in Upper Peninsula.

Ice Sailing

Ice sailing combines elements of sports like sailing, skating, skiing and snowboarding. Michigan is an ideal location for ice sailing because there are so many frozen lakes. The Great Lakes are especially great for ice sailing with the unobstructed wind. Michigan also has a lot of open space with snow which can also be great places to snow sail.

There are four different kinds of devices used for ice sailing:

  • The wing: The wing is similar to 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. We recommend having an instructor to harness you in.
  • The sled: The sled allows you to hold onto the sail and have either skis or blades on to navigate over the snow and ice.
  • The sail: The sails allows you to sail across the ice with an ice boat

Watch ice sailing in action below.

Winter Surfing

Surfing in Michigan in the winter takes some dedication and planning. Due to extremely cold wind and water,  some research and planning is required to find the best waves for winter surfing. However, dealing with the cold and often brutal weather elements is well worth it when you are surfing winter waves with a handful of friends.

To surf in Michigan (or anywhere with a cold climate), you must have the proper wetsuit and wetsuit accessories (boots and gloves or mittens).  Many winter surfers use boards that are a little bigger (longer, wider, and/or thicker) than what might be used on an ocean coast. Here are a few Michigan surf shops to help you gear up:

For more inspiration, check out these brave winter surfers catching waves near Charlevoix earlier this winter here.

Which of these unique winter sports would you like to try out in Pure Michigan? 

Sledding and Snow Tubing in Pure Michigan

The first sign of winter weather means a variety of wintertime activities for kids and families to enjoy quality time outdoors.  One of the most popular and well-known wintertime activities is sledding and snow tubing. 

Similar to sledding, snow tubing has grown in popularity over the past few years, with some ski resorts offering slopes and hills specifically for the activity. Imagine yourself flying down a snowy hill, racing your friends or family members to the bottom, and taking in the scenic Michigan winter wonderland on your way back up to the top. 

With snow tubing being one of the many activities featured in A Pure Michigan Winter, we compiled a list of just a few places to go tubing in Pure Michigan. 

Do you have a favorite sledding or snow tubing hill that you want to share? Tell us in the comment section.

Timberlee Hills
Snow Tubing at Timberlee Hills is the perfect way to spend the day in Traverse City this winter. Tubing at Timberlee is all the fun of sledding – without hiking back up the hill! There’s no hassle, huffing or puffing. Snow Tubing is one of the fastest growing winter recreational activities in America – and Timberlee is Michigan’s largest snow tubing hill. For more information visit their website.

Mount Zion Recreational Complex
If you’re looking for affordable family tubing head to Mt. Zion in the Upper Peninsula! Mt. Zion is well known for very reasonable rates, their tubing park and learn to ski and snowboard programs. For more information visit their website here.

Gladstone Sports Park
Another tubing spot in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is the Gladstone Sports Park. Known for their intermediate downhill ski area Gladstone also boasts a tubing area that includes three runs and the only return lift in the Upper Peninsula. For more information on the park contact parks@gladstonewireless.com.

Treetops Resort
Treetops Resort in Gaylord offers all of the amenities of a full service resort including skiing, snowboarding, a spa, and extreme tubing! Treetop’s extreme tubing run is adjacent to their ski slopes and offers a fun and exhilarating ride down the hills of Northern Michigan. For more information to start planning a family tubing trip see the website here.

Hanson Hills Recreation Area
Snowtubing is a main attraction at the Hanson Hill Recreation Area. This 1000 acre winter/summer sports park features family recreation at reasonable rates including a terrain Park, 11 downhill skiing runs, 35 km cross-country skiing, snow tubing, biking, softball field, hiking & walking trails, and rental facilities. More information is available on their website here.

Boyne Highland and Boyne Mountain
Boyne has two resorts in Michigan that feature some of the best tubing parks around. Take a break from a day of skiing and snowboarding for the most fun you have on have sitting down riding the tubing lanes! For more information visit the Boyne website.

Learn more about snow tubing in Michigan in Tubing | A Pure Michigan Winter, from the Pure Michigan winter video series.