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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may have noticed that we’ve changed our Pure Michigan Facebook,Twitter, Google+ and Instagram channels over to winter imagery. While the first official day of winter is still two months away, we’re gearing up for the cold weather with the launch of the official state winter travel guide!
The guide offers ideas for winter travel activities for visitors and residents alike. As in other issues of the guide, the winter travel guide features Michigan Moments – a collection of memorable moments to experience in the state. Feature stories include Best in Snow suggesting the wide variety of ways to experience winter in Michigan; Winter in the City, offering winter stops in Michigan’s urban centers; Trail Blazers featuring Michigan trails from snowmobiles to downhill skiing; and, Relaxing and Rich for those who prefer to spend the winter months indulging indoors.
Here’s a quick look at a few of the wonderful winter photographs featured in the guide.
North Breakwater Lighthouse, Ludington. Photo courtesy of John Robert Williams
As a good friend of mine observed last year before our annual western U.P. ski trip, when you mention you’re going skiing in the Western U.P., most people assume you’re heading to Big Powderhorn.
While Big Powderhorn may be the most well-known ski resort of the area, there are two others right nearby that deserve much more than an honorable mention. Namely, Indianhead and Blackjack. For this post we’ll take a look at Indianhead.
You Start Out On Top
One cool thing about Indianhead is that the lodge and parking area are at the top of the mountain, so your first trip of the day is down the mountain, not uphill on a ski lift. It’s a nice way to start things off!
As you might expect, the lodge at Indianhead is equipped with plenty of space for those who want to pack their own lunch, but it’s also got a pretty sweet restaurant / bar called “The Sky Bar Mountaintop Grill.” And the name is well deserved. The view from most tables in the place is fantastic. (They also make a great Bloody Mary.)
And it’s a Long Way Down
Indianhead’s 638 foot vertical drop is one of the largest in the Midwest, and whoever planned the hill did a great job carving out some nice long runs. My wife and I actually stuck to the same two runs all day long.
She’s a beginning skier and I’m an intermediate, but we both had a blast skiing Voyager’s Highway (a beginner run) and Chippewa (an intermediate run) repeatedly. Each run was easy enough for her to practice her skiing, but long enough (and with enough ups and downs) for me to really enjoy them too.
As a side note, I have skied every run at Indianhead and while these two are a couple of my favorites, every run is well worth exploring.
Then There’s the Tough Stuff
Of course, if double black diamonds and moguls are your thing, check out “Hiawatha” and “Crazy Horse” on the east side of the mountain. These steep runs are a challenge for even experienced skiers and snowboarders.
“Some Folks Just Make One Run Each Day… to the Red Dog”
And then, there’s “The Red Dog.”
My first time at Indianhead, I was talking to the elderly lady at the ticket counter as she chuckled “some people only make one run of the day… to the Red Dog.”
You see, in addition to the Sky Bar at the top of the hill, there’s a pretty substantial outpost called “The Red Dog Saloon” at the bottom of the mountain. Apparently some people like to ski, and then some people just like to ski their way to the bar.
My wife and stopped in the Red Dog for a Bloody Mary and a coffee late the first morning of our trip, and by Noon we were heading back to the hill and the place was packed, much more so than the Sky Bar. And it didn’t seem like any of the patrons planned to leave anytime soon.
All in all, everyone in our group of around fifteen people was pleasantly surprised by how much we all enjoyed Indianhead.
There were definitely plenty of families on the hill, but I got the impression that this hill tends to cater toward a slightly more adult crowd (compared to Powderhorn). That could also be because I wasn’t there on a family excursion, but suffice to say if you head to Indianhead with a group of friends you’re bound to have a great time, both on and off the hill.
A native Yooper, Jesse Land lives inIron Mountainand enjoys hiking, biking, skiing, and camping with his family. He runs the U.P. travel site “Things to do in the U.P.” (www.thingstodointheup.com).
There’s still plenty of time to partake in some fun winter activities here in Pure Michigan. Skiing, snowboarding and sledding are all well-known winter activities, but why not try something new like ice sailing?
A: I own a company called Action Sports Enterprises and I am the organizer for the Ice and Snow Sailing Festival/Winter Sailing Cup of North America.
Q: What is ice sailing and how did you get into the sport?
A: Ice sailing is essentially powering sports that you already enjoy either by the environment or by wind. That includes sailing, skating, skiing and snowboarding. You do those same events that you love, but now you are doing them either directly on ice or on ice that has snow on top.
I was introduced to wind sailing when I was selected as a Gate Judge for the Vancouver Winter Olympics and have had a passion for the sport ever since.
Q: Why do you love ice sailing?
A: I love ice sailing for many reasons. You can do it anywhere there is wind and snow or ice and it incorporates sports I already enjoy. The sport is also very green and a form of free power. The idea of powering sports that people already enjoy with wind is exciting! For those who have yet to try it, it is truly wind dancing.
Q: Who might like to try ice sailing?
A: I think anyone who enjoys the outdoors - especially kitesurfers, sailors, ice skaters, windsurfers , skiers and snowboarders should try the sport. It is really unlike anything else and great time especially if you already love outdoor sports.
Q: Do you have any advice for ice sailing beginners?
A: First of all, I recommend taking a lesson or demoing some equipment at one of our events. Adding wind power to activities like skiing and snowboarding requires a lot of balance.
Q: What equipment or skills do you need to start ice sailing?
A: There are four different kinds of devices used for ice sailing:
The wing – The wing is almost like 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. For the kite, you’ll need an instructor to harness you in.
The sled – If you’ve ever seen wind surfing, you know what the sled is like. You hold onto the sail and have either skis or blades on to navigate over the snow and ice.
The Sail- Sailing on the Ice with an Ice Boat
Q: In 2012, WISSA came to Michigan. Why is Michigan such a great place for ice sailing and what was the reaction from participants?
A: Michigan is a great state for the sport because it has so many frozen lakes. The Great Lakes are especially great with the unobstructed wind. Michigan also has a lot of open space with snow which can also be great places to snow sail.
We’ve had rave reviews from event participants from across the globe that Michigan is ideal for ice sailing and we have to agree. Next year, we are hoping to add a fourth class of “ice boaters” to the event and nearly 50 participants are already interested.
Q: Where are some great places in Michigan to go ice sailing? What is your favorite place?
A: One of the best places is St. Ignace right near the Mackinaw Bridge and it really a great setting, but any frozen lake is great place to go.
Q: What are some of your other favorite winter activities?
A: I also enjoy snow kiting, skiing, snowboarding and skating.
Q: What do you love about a Michigan winter?
A: You can be active and still stay cool while doing winter activities.
Q: What is your favorite thing to do or place to go after a long day ice sailing?
A: Going in the Traditional Sauna that we had built on the ice in St. Ignace. When you’re done sailing for the day it feel s great to warm up and we bring the traditional, all wood sauna right out on the ice. We also have ice bowling out there too and it’s a lot of fun too.
“The Gilmore Car Museum is so much more than just a tribute to a collection of historic automobiles” explains Keith Crain, Detroit publisher of AutoWeek Magazine. “With the museum’s newest construction projects, its onsite museum partners, incredible grounds, outstanding programming and world-class collections it is truly becoming the nation’s premier auto museum.”