10 Reasons to Celebrate 50 Years of Winter Fun at Boyne Highlands

Boyne Highlands will celebrate their 50th Anniversary January 31st – February 2nd with food, fresh powder and special events for the whole family. Today, guest blogger Erin Ernst from BOYNE gives us 10 reasons to celebrate 50 years of winter fun at Boyne Highlands! 

1.   Join Boyne Highlands Resort’s Anniversary Celebration Weekend, Jan. 31 – Feb. 2, for tons of live entertainment, dinner and dancing with the Up North Big Band, fireworks over the slopes and sky lantern release, and 50th Anniversary Party featuring The Sun Messengers, Detroit’s best dance band, in the Zoo Bar.

2.   Ski the highest vertical terrain and most skiable acreage in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Boyne Highlands offers 552’ vertical feet and 435 skiable acres with trails that are over a mile long.  From the top of the slopes, there are many spectacular views, two in particular are must-sees.  From the south-west side, take in the panoramic scene of Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay and on the north side, the sight of the Mackinac Bridge.

3.   Unique family adventures are abundant.  Fly high on a Zipline Adventure, enjoy the rush of a dog sled ride, slide on a tube, saunter by horseback through a winter wonderland, climb the slopes in a groomer ride, cruise along groomed trails with fat tire bikes, traverse with snowshoes, or glide over 35 km of cross country trails.

4.   Explore a part of history.  On December 26, 1963 when Boyne Highlands Resort opened, guests were greeted by not one, but two of the first triple chairlifts ever built.  In 1990, one of the triples was replaced and in its place now stands another first – Michigan’s first high-speed quad chairlift, the Heather Express.

5.   Learning a new winter sport has never been easier. Boyne Highlands SnowSports Academy has ski, snowboard, and cross country lessons for all levels and even guarantees beginner lessons or the next one is free.  Even the youngest of riders can get a jump on snowboarding with the resort’s Burton Riglet Park designed for ages 3-6.

6.   After a day on the slopes, cozy up indoors with a treatment at The Spa at Boyne Highlands, kick back by the toasty fireplace in the Slopeside Lounge, or experience the infamous après ski scene in the Zoo Bar.

7.   Sip on Boyne Highlands’ 50th Anniversary cocktail featuring Courvoisier Cognac, Cointreau, sour mix, and New Holland Freshwater Huron Rum, shaken over ice and served in a martini glass with sugar coated rim.

8.   Dine on top of a mountain with the Aonach Mor Moonlight Dinner.  The enchanting evening begins with a groomer cat sleigh ride up the slopes to the top of Boyne Highlands’ North Peak for a delicious dinner served family-style. Bubbling kettles of French onion soup, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, vegetable medley, roast beef tenderloin au poivre, and chocolate fondue, all are enjoyed while a live acoustic guitarist strums and sings favorite tunes.

9.   Loads of special events pack the calendar including the annual Brew-Ski Festival, Boarding for Breast Cancer, Krazy Daze, Chocolate Cake Downhill, and Ski League Championships, all happening in March.

10.  The home away from home experience. Boyne Highlands is well-known for offering a warm welcome and exceptional customer service.  Generations of families have made Boyne Highlands their choice for creating memories, spending time with loved ones, and returning season after season.

Erin Ernst is the Director of Communications for BOYNE, which owns and operates Boyne Highlands Resort, Boyne Mountain Resort, The Inn at Bay Harbor – A Renaissance Golf Resort, Boyne Country Sports, and Boyne Realty.  She is a Michigan native who has worked in the resort and tourism industry for over ten years.  She is also a board member with the Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau and West Michigan Tourist Association. 

Q&A with Michigan Native Olympian Nick Baumgartner

Today, native Michigander and Olympic snowboarder Nick Baumgartner answers our questions about snowboarding in Michigan and training for the Olympics! 

Q: How did you get started in snowboarding?

A: Growing up in Iron River in the Upper Peninsula, it would get super cold in the winter months.  I was taught to find fun activities to do no matter how cold it was, plus I was always trying to keep up with my older brothers who I looked up to immensely.  I had to do whatever they were doing and hyperactivity kept us going all day.  Before we started snowboarding, my brothers, sister, and I spent most of our time in the winters at the sledding hill behind my parents house.   For Christmas of 1990, my brothers, Josh and Beau, and I asked Santa for snowboards.  Josh was the first to open his board on Christmas morning and what an awesome sight it was!  It was a Black Snow “The Edge” with metal edges and worthy to shred on real ski hills.  Beau and I received hot pink, plastic “Mogul Monster” snowboards that were only allowed on the sledding hill out back.  I made it a mission of mine from that day on to prove to Santa that I was worthy of metal edges.  I now ride one of the fastest boards in the world, a Carbon Fiber Oxess Snowboard, but it all started that Christmas morning on a sledding hill basically using a glorified sled with bindings.  Huge thanks to my brother Josh for being one of the pioneers of snowboarding in the UP and pushing me to become the Olympic snowboarder that I am today.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your career in snowboarding.

A: My snowboard has taken me on one heck of a journey.  At the beginning I had to fight tooth and nail to earn each and every opportunity.  I didn’t know any pro snowboarders or anyone that could help direct me on the correct path so I took it on myself to create my own opportunities and make the most of them.

I have been a member of the US Snowboarding A Team since 2007.  Being on the A Team has allowed me to continue chasing my dream, because as a single father, finding funding for my season is always crucial.  When I started pursuing this dream, my goal was to receive an invite to the Winter X Games.  The X Games was the biggest venue snowboarding had to offer.  Once I accomplished that goal in 2005, I immediately made a new goal to win the X Games.  This journey to X Games Gold would span 6 years, take me to nearly 20 counties, 2 national championships, 1 Olympic Games, 2 World Cup Titles, a World Championship Bronze, 15 screws and a titanium plate just 12 days before winning and holding my 6 year old son Landon over my head in front of the whole world!  Seeing all my hard work and determination pay off made all the sacrifices I made so worth it.

Q: Have you done any of your training in Michigan? If so, where?

A: I choose to do most of my training here in Michigan.  Most of my team moves out to Park City, Utah and trains at the Center of Excellence which is home to both the US Ski & Snowboard Teams.  This facility is one of the best training gyms in the world, but it’s not home.  Training to me isn’t just about weights and cardio, you also have to have your head right.  In order for me to be able to compete at my peak level I need to be physically fit just as much as I need to be mentally fit.  Being home with my family, my son Landon, our dog, and using the beautiful backdrop that is Pure Michigan as my training facility is the perfect combination.  In the summer, training consists of many miles of running, swimming with my dog Oakley, kayaking with Landon, exploring the U.P. and enjoying life to the fullest.   When it comes to traditional conditioning–sprints, running stairs, hitting the weights and making sure I am in the best shape I can be– I head back to my old high school and train with some of the local kids from the West Iron County High School Football team.  This is awesome, not only for me, but for them as well.  They look up to me and by trying to keep up they can push themselves to be the best they can be.  This gives me an opportunity to help these kids reach their full potential.  I know they get a lot of inspiration from me and I love that- it fuels me.  One thing I can’t stress enough is that they give me the inspiration I need in return.  Regardless of whether or not I am standing on top of that Olympic podium in February, the football boys that conditioned with me will have played a huge roll in my preparation.  Training in Michigan is the best way for me to be fully prepared physically and mentally.

Q: Where is your favorite place to hit the slopes in Michigan?

A: When I am home in the U.P. I love hitting up Ski Brule right here in my home town of Iron River.  Ski Brule is where I first rode a snowboard with metal edges and it’s only 7 miles from my house.  Without growing up next to such a great place like Brule I would never have gotten where I am today and for that I am so fortunate.  In the lower Peninsula, I would have to say Boyne Mountain because there are so many things to do on and off the slopes.  I may meet the age requirement of an adult but I’m just a giant kid and being able to Snowboard, zip line, ride a standing wave, hit the water slides and so much more all in one day is pretty sweet.

Q: What do you love about winter in Michigan?

A: I love just about everything in Michigan all the time.  Hunting, ice fishing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, sledding…the list could go on forever.  Michigan is a winter paradise–there’s so much to do as long as you aren’t afraid of a little snow and a little cold.  I love the people here- even when it’s below zero people will give you the shirts off their backs and I couldn’t imagine a better place to raise my son.

Q: What was your favorite thing about growing up in the UP?

A: Being able to grow up in the outdoors was so awesome.  Everyday for us was an adventure, whether we were hunting for food, hunting for treasures, building forts in the woods, riding bikes in the neighborhood, or playing Kick the Can at night, my friends and I always had something to do.  I think we got to do a lot more than most kids in the world since Iron River is a safe place and the people in the community are so kind.  The U.P. gives you so many more options than other places when it comes to doing something active and fun.  If you love the outdoors you will never be bored.  It is definitely a small community up here, but whether something good or bad happens, everyone rallies together to provide as much support as possible.

Q: What is the most exciting part about being an Olympic athlete?

A: For me the coolest part about being an Olympic athlete is that it gives me an opportunity to use my story to help inspire others.  Kids are our future, and I know that with my personal experiences I can show kids to DREAM BIG, because with some hard work anything is possible and no goal is too lofty.  I also love sharing my journey with as many people as I can; I know I am very fortunate and want to give back the best ways that I can.  Being able to travel is also pretty sweet.  I love being able to see how people all over the world live- it definitely gives me a different perspective on life.  With all the travel however, the best part of every trip will always be coming home to the U.P. and to my boy.

Q: What advice would you give to any beginning snowboarders out there?

A: Anyone that is new to snowboarding should know that the first few days can be tough, but with a little hard work you will learn very fast.  Snowboarding has a steep learning curve, so within 3 days you can go from a complete beginner to an intermediate snowboarder who can keep up with your friends.  I have been snowboarding for 17 years and some days I wish I could go back and have that first day all over again.  I love watching people learning to snowboard because even when they are having a rough time they are having so much fun.  Whatever you decide to do, I urge you to eat healthy, be active, and dream big.  If we take care of our bodies and stay active, we give ourselves the best chance to stay healthy and fully enjoy life.  Life can be so much fun; try to smile yourself and try to make someone else smile everyday.  It’s amazing how a nice gesture can help someone, because you never know what that person may be going through.

Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Vine and like me on Facebook. I want to share my experiences with as many people as I can.  When I check my social media and see all the support and kind words, it really motivates me- I read every single comment.  When things aren’t going perfect, everyone’s kind words help to lift me up and keep me charging forward.  I have some of the best supporters in the world, and more support would never be a bad thing.  I will do everything I can to bring an Olympic Gold back to Michigan, but I promise to represent the USA, Michigan, the UP, my family and all my fans the best that I can. My Name is Nick Baumgartner and I am PURE MICHIGAN!

Wishing Nick the best of luck as he competes in the Winter Olympics in Sochi this February! Will you tune in to the 2014 Winter Olympics?

Slopes and Trails Abound in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

With all the winter weather we’ve had lately, it’s the perfect time to plan a ski trip in Pure Michigan! Mickey MacWilliams from the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association gives us an overview of some spectacular Upper Peninsula ski slopes to check out this season. 

Powder glade skiing, uncrowded lift lines, ski jumping, scenic trails and terrain parks for every skier ability level, comfortable accommodations, ski jumping and lift ticket rates that are at least half the price of those in the Rockies.  If this sounds too good to be true, then you haven’t skied Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Although the U.P. might not immediately come to mind when thinking about skiing, the area actually has a long and colorful ski history.  At the latter part of the 19th century and early 20th century, ski jumping was the primary form of competitive skiing in the country and the Upper Peninsula was a key center, hosting one of the most popular ski jumping tournaments at that time.

Touring the Upper Peninsula’s ski areas is a fun and relatively inexpensive way to take a ski vacation.  For this article, our trip begins in Marquette and heads west from there, stopping at nine ski areas along the way.

Taking a leap at Marquette Mountain

Home to Northern Michigan University, Marquette is a picturesque town along the shore of Lake Superior.  Marquette Mountain is just a few miles out of town and although the ski area doesn’t have on-site lodging, they partner with local hotels to provide packages for as little as $55 per night.  Marquette Mountain is a large Midwest ski area, with 169 skiable acres, 25 runs, a 600 foot vertical drop and trails up to 1 ¼ mile in length. The day lodge is comfortable and there are slopes for all ability levels. Marquette Mountain’s website has a “Special Rates” page that lists discounts that change as the season progresses.

Heading west from Marquette on US 41, a stop at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame is definitely worthwhile.  Located in Ishpeming, about 10 miles west of Marquette, the Hall of Fame is home to the world’s largest skiing museum.

The view from Mont Ripley, overlooking the cities of Houghton and Hancock

Next stop is Mont Ripley in Houghton.  The ski area picturesquely sits on the Portage Lake Canal, which separates the cities of Houghton and Hancock.  From the top of Mont Ripley, the view of the canal and the cities below is breathtaking.  A popular destination for Michigan Tech students, Mont Ripley features 25 runs of all ability levels.  NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center keeps track of annual snowfall and listed Hancock Michigan as the third snowiest city in the United States (behind Crested Butte, Colorado and Valdez, Alaska) with an annual average of 215.8 inches of snow. Like Marquette Mountain, there is no on-site lodging at Mont Ripley, but accommodations are available in Houghton and Hancock.

Heading north from the Houghton/Hancock area on US 41 takes one up the Keweenaw Peninsula, where the snow doesn’t ever seem to stop and the mountains get higher with each mile traveled.  Close to the tip of the peninsula is Mount Bohemia, an expert-only ski area.  MSN.com has called Mount Bohemia “one of the top ten undiscovered ski resorts in the world” for a reason.  The lift lines are short; there are over 500 acres of skiable terrain, a 900-foot vertical drop and powder skiing most of the winter. This hidden secret is a true treasure for backcountry skiers and riders. The average snowfall in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula is 273 inches. The lake effect snow is dry, similar to the conditions in the Rockies, and accumulates as powder which is untouched because Mount Bohemia’s slopes are never groomed.  Mount Bohemia offers on-site accommodations that include hostel beds for $25 per night, heated yurts that can sleep up to 10, trailside cabins and The Inn on Lac Labelle that includes breakfast and dinner.

The Yurts at the base of Mount Bohemia provide cozy shelter for the night.

Once you’ve had your fill of the steep and the deep, the western side of the U.P. offers a variety of recreational options that fit all ability levels and price ranges.  Taking in the beauty of the Upper Peninsula on snowshoes or cross-country skis is a must and Porcupine Mountains State Park near Ontonagon offers thousands of acres of snow-covered backcountry wilderness to explore. Four main and several smaller cross-country ski trails combine to form a 42 KM Nordic Trail System through the unspoiled beauty of the state park. The trails feature two warming shelters and are power-tilled and groomed daily. As a bonus, a trail pass includes use of the downhill ski chairlifts, giving skiers quick access to the heart of the Nordic Trail system, as well as the entire Alpine Ski area.

After a day of state-park beauty, it’s time to enjoy some comfortable accommodations in preparation for skiing in Big Snow Country.  The western border of the U.P. is called that for a reason.  The town of Bessemer, which is in the heart of this area, registers in at 210 inches of snow annually.

Lodging options abound at Big Powderhorn Mountain Resort in Bessemer.  Its location provides easy access not only to Big Powderhorn, but also to Black Jack Ski Area, Indianhead Mountain and Mt. Zion.  Sporting a new lodge built two years ago, Big Powderhorn provides accommodations from, modest to luxury, in chalets and condominiums at the base of the slopes.  Big Powderhorn Mountain offers 33 downhill trails with a 622 vertical drop.  There are 9 double chairlifts and a beginner hand tow to get you around the 253 acres of skiable terrain.  There is something here for every ski ability level, with 35% novice runs, 35% considered more difficult, and 30% expert.

A couple of miles away is Black Jack Resort with its family-friendly atmosphere.  Black Jack has 24 slopes on 126 skiable acres serviced by four double chairs, a rope tow and a handle tow.  Looking to make skiing affordable to families, kids 12 and under ski free with a paid adult lift ticket, plus discounts for military personnel and college students, and ski slopes and terrain parks for every level make Black Jack a fun and affordable place for all.

Mt. Zion, operated by Gogebic Community College, provides affordable winter recreation for everyone.  With 10 slopes and free cross-country ski trails, a snow tubing park, a 300’ vertical drop, free skiing for Gogebic Community College students and senior citizens 62 and over, the slopes are a popular place for the local community. Adult full-day lift tickets are priced at just $20, making Mt. Zion one of the least expensive areas to ski at in the state.

Also located in Big Snow Country is Indianhead Mountain.  Voted Visitor’s Choice Favorite Family Friendly in 2011 and Best Terrain in 2012 by OnTheSnow.com, Indianhead has been a favorite of many families for generations.  With a 638 vertical food drip and 30 runs over 230 acres serviced by 9 lifts and tows, there is plenty to explore.  Fifty percent of Indianhead’s runs are considered expert terrain, but there are also 10 intermediate runs and five for beginners.  Indianhead also has two terrain parks so there really is something for everyone.  Indianhead’s comfortable lodge is at the top of the mountain, and lodging is available in Mountain Top Hotel Rooms, Mountain Top Village Chalets and Trailside Condos.  Dining options range from cafeteria cuisine to The Lodge, which is considered one of the region’s quality restaurants.

Leaving Big Snow Country and heading south along the Michigan/Wisconsin border, brings one to Ski Brule in Iron River.  Ski Brule prides itself as being the first ski area in Michigan to open for the season and the last to close.  A favorite of many, for the sixth consecutive year Ski Brule was voted the Midwest’s Overall Favorite Ski & Snowboard Resort at OnTheSnow.com.  With 17 trails, 11 lifts (five chairlifts, two T-bars, three rope tows, one paddle tow), 150 acres of terrain, 500 vertical feet, three terrain parks, two terrain trails and cross-country ski trails that wind around the slopes and down to the Brule River, the whole family can easily find recreational options to suit their needs.   Affordable on-site lodging in chalets and condominiums is available and since Ski Brule is usually open for skiing six months out of the year, a return trip in April – or maybe even May – is always a possibility.

The final destination on our U.P. ski loop is Pine Mountain, which features 27 runs, serviced by three lifts and two surface tows.  Night skiing is available Wednesday through Saturday.   Pine Mountain offers three terrain parks including beginner, intermediate and advanced parks for all levels of skiers and riders to enjoy.  All terrain parks are accessible from the triple lift and all are hittable in one run. In addition to the downhill skiing options, Pine Mountain also has a ski jump! Every year The Kiwanis Ski Club hosts one of the most popular jumping tournament in the United States. Top jumpers from around the world make their way to Pine Mountain to partake in this historic annual event. With an attendance of over 20,000 spectators and tailgaters flocking to the resort for the competition, Jump Weekend is truly a unique experience.  This year Jump Weekend is scheduled for February 6 – 9. Pine Mountain offers a variety of room accommodations in their lodge at the base of the slopes, as well as slope-side condominium units to suit both short-term and long-term stays.

To experience all that Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has to offer, a weeklong trip is recommended.  However, if you don’t have time to do it all, that’s okay.  Fun can be had whenever you visit.  For more information on Michigan ski areas, go to goskimichigan.com and click on the Ski Areas & Conditions button.

Have you been skiing in the Upper Peninsula? Where did you go? 

Mickey MacWilliams is the executive director of the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association, which represents the ski and snowboard industry in our state.  She is an avid downhill and cross-country skier and a very timid but enthusiastic snowboarder.  You can reach her at info@goskimichigan.com.