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? 

Get Ready to Hit the Slopes in Pure Michigan

Our Pure Michigan winter is just a few weeks away! If you’re looking forward to hitting the slopes this season, Mickey MacWilliams, Executive Director of the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association, has the scoop on how to take advantage of some great ski and snowboard deals in Michigan this winter! 

Photo courtesy of Crystal Mountain

The Farmers Almanac is forecasting a winter with below-average temperatures for the Great Lakes Region and skiers and boarders can look forward to a fun-filled winter with plenty of places to enjoy Michigan’s snow-filled slopes and trails.  With 50 ski areas, boasting over 260 lifts, about 1,000 runs, more than 90 terrain parks and hundreds of kilometers of groomed cross-country trails, there is something for everyone.

Ski areas are always looking for ways to increase enjoyment for skiers and snowboarders.  Through the years, slope maintenance and snowmaking capabilities have improved dramatically, so much so that even if there is no snow at home, the ski slopes can be covered when the weather turns cold.  In addition, this year there have been numerous capital investments in ski slopes, lodging facilities and snowmaking/grooming equipment.  Mt. Brighton in Brighton was purchased by Vail Resorts and underwent a $10 million facelift.  Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville invested $4 million in updates, including three new runs, Caberfae Peaks in Cadillac and Mt. Bohemia the Keweenaw Peninsula both opened up new backcountry terrain, and Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands have received over $3 million in upgrades, just to name a few.  A complete list of what’s new on Michigan’s slopes and trails is available at goskimichigan.com.

Photo Courtesy of Treetops Resort

This is important stuff for skiers and boarders, but for those who aren’t, 24 ski areas across the state have teamed up with Michigan McDonald’s restaurants to offer a popular and very affordable introduction to skiing and snowboarding, called Discover Michigan Skiing. The program includes: a beginner lesson, ski or snowboard rental equipment and a beginner-area ski lift pass or cross-country trail pass.  Twenty-four ski facilities are offering the package, which will be honored from January 2 through January 31, 2014.  The prices for the Discover Michigan Skiing program are: $20 for Discover Michigan Cross-Country Skiing; $30 for Discover Michigan Downhill Skiing; and $40 for Discover Michigan Snowboarding.  The program is open to everyone 7 years and older.

Photo Courtesy of Mt. Bohemia

To sign up, interested beginners must have a Discover Michigan Skiing Value Voucher.  They will be available in December at participating Michigan McDonald’s restaurants and MSIA retail ski stores while quantities last.  A printable voucher is also available online at goskimichigan.com. Participants choose the ski area they wish to visit and then must call to pre-register. Program times differ from ski area to ski area.

Photo courtesy of Crystal Mountain

Parents with children in fourth grade will be thrilled to learn that fourth-grade students ski free in Michigan with the Cold is Cool Ski & Ride Passport, which includes up to three “visas” for free skiing at each of the 21 participating ski areas, plus additional coupons and discounts on rental equipment, lessons and more.  Applications for the Cold is Cool Passport are available at participating MSIA ski shops and online at goskimichigan.com.  Although the skiing is free, MSIA charges a $15 printing and shipping fee for each passport ordered.

Check this link to see the opening dates of ski areas across the state.

Where do you like to hit the slopes in Michigan? 

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.

 

A Pure Michigan Winter

The Farmers’ Almanac is predicting that Michigan will be a snowy, winter wonderland this year, and we can’t wait to show everyone how much fun a Pure Michigan winter is. Michigan is home to more than 4,000 miles of snowmobile trails, 3,000 miles of cross country ski trails, beautiful terrain for snowshoeing and much more.  We are the birthplace of snowboarding and organized skiing, ranking second in the nation for number of ski areas. 

Today, we launched the Pure Michigan winter video series to showcase the variety of attractions and activities that make the winter months a great time to visit. From sweeping views of Michigan’s sparkling winter landscape to extreme sports in motion, the series will feature a total of 13 videos released over the course of the next two months.

Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast, a thrill seeker, looking for a family getaway or anywhere in between, check out the adventures a Michigan winter has to offer in our new Michigan winter adventure video series.

To help kick off our series, we asked Dave Lorenz, Manager of Public and Industry Relations for Travel Michigan and our go-to guy for Michigan destinations, to explain what he loves about the winter months in our state.

One of the great things about Michigan, as a travel destination and as a place to live, is that we get to enjoy four very distinctly different seasons. Sometimes it seems, all on the same day. Most people think of Michigan as the place to experience “America’s perfect summer”. For me, the best time to enjoy the splendor of this beautiful place is during the winter months.

When I admit this to others, most people start to cringe just a bit. But, it’s true. I’m that guy who can’t wait to pull out the snow shovel, stack the wood-pile high and unpack the ski gear. For me, winter in Michigan is a magical time, especially if you get out there and enjoy it.  Here’s a short list of some of my favorite winter-time activities. If you haven’t tried them before, give them a try. You’ll be glad you did.

Skiing, downhill and cross country

I was 25 years old when I learned to ski. I had always thought that skiing was for “real athletes” so it was a real surprise to learn that skiing is just controlled falling, so to speak. Friends taught me to ski but if you want expert advice, several of our ski operators throughout the state offer lessons for people of all ages.

Snowmobiling

There are so many fantastic places to snowmobile in Michigan. We have hundreds of miles of groomed trails and several sled rental operators and guides. My favorite experience was when a guide showed me how to cross a section of Lake Superior ice to get to Grand Island, in Munising. I was joined by a travel writer from the south who had never even seen snow before. He later told me it was one of the best experiences of his life.

Ice climbing

The UP is one of the best places in the world to ice climb. It’s the home of Michigan Ice Fest, a national ice climbing festival, and for good reason. There are several waterfalls in the Pictured Rocks region for example that freeze up and build walls of ice that are perfect for climbing. The folks at Downwind Sports in Marquette showed me that climbing ice is like climbing a ladder, although it proved to be about a thousand times more difficult. After you figure out the basic balance issues, most people will love this.

Some of my other favorite winter activities include snowshoeing, dog sledding and hiking our snow covered trails.  But, one of the best things about it all, is that at the end of your winter adventure you can come back to a cozy cottage, world-class resort or great restaurant and take in the beautiful scenery from the indoors.  A Michigan winter truly offers something for everyone to enjoy.

Cross your fingers for plenty of snow and we can’t wait to hear about your Michigan winter adventures.

Check out the kickoff video for the new Michigan winter adventure series below, and let us know what you’re looking forward to this winter in Michigan!

David Lorenz is the Manager of Public and Industry Relations for Travel Michigan. He oversees Travel Michigan’s public relations activities.  He also manages Travel Michigan’s efforts in the areas of international marketing, packaged travel, conventions and meetings, industry relations, golf and sports-event promotion. 

Prior to coming to Travel Michigan in October 2002, Mr. Lorenz was the Manager, Partnerships and Promotions, for Meijer, Inc. where he was responsible for the facilitation of collaborative marketing programs with key consumer goods manufacturers. 

David Lorenz attended Western Michigan University.  He lives in Norton Shores with his wife, Roberta, and son, Tyler.