Snowshoe Your Way Through a Pure Michigan Snow Day

Tahquamenon Falls State Park is an ideal destination to snowshoe, whether you are trying it for the first time or are looking for someplace new to explore. Theresa Neal with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, sells readers on why snowshoeing is a great way to get outside this winter season.

Winter can be a tough time for people to stay active. It’s cold outside, it gets dark early, and curling up in a blanket with a tablet or book sounds SO good! But if you are feeling a bit dreary, maybe gained a few pounds over the holidays, or find yourself in a routine that is getting a bit old, I would suggest giving snowshoeing a try. Many people are intimidated to strap giant paddles to their feet and try walking around, understandably so. I find that once people are outfitted correctly, and given a few pointers, the majority are amazed at how easy it is to snowshoe.

Photo Courtesy of D. Kenyon

Photo Courtesy of D. Kenyon

Snowshoeing Tips:

  1. If you can walk, you can snowshoe! You may need to adjust your stride slightly, and many people find poles helpful in the beginning.
  2. Aluminum snowshoes are best for icy or hard-packed snow conditions. The crampons (pokey-grips on the bottom) will give you traction, but can trip you up if you drag your feet.
  3. Traditional wooden snowshoes are great for deep, fluffy snow conditions. They are very quiet (no squeaky noises) compared to aluminum, and they leave beautiful tracks in the snow where you have walked!
  4. Used cross-country ski poles from a second-hand store or garage sale work great for snowshoeing.
  5. Expect to sweat! Avoid cotton base layers, as they soak up moisture and can make you cold. Fleece, polyester and wool are good options. Dress in thin layers so you can easily adjust your body temperature while snowshoeing.
Photo Courtesy of T. Neal

Photo Courtesy of T. Neal

Benefits of snowshoeing:

  1. You burn twice as many calories snowshoeing versus walking!
  2. You can be outside WITHOUT getting cold!
  3. After the initial investment of purchasing snowshoes, it’s free! Many state parks offer free snowshoe rental, including Tahquamenon Falls, Ludington, Hartwick Pines and Porcupine Mountains.
  4. You can explore places that are inaccessible during the summer. At Tahquamenon we hike ‘off-trail’, across marshes and through forests that are usually too wet or thick with vegetation to get through.
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Photo Courtesy of Michigan DNR

My favorite part of winter is snowshoeing at night. The cold, crisp air seems so clean and refreshing, forcing the fog from my head and waking up my senses. The light from my headlamp glistens off the snow, and I enjoy scanning the trail for animal tracks to see who has been out since my last hike. Red fox, coyote, snowshoe hare, ruffed grouse and deer mouse tracks are most common. The best nights are those without cloud cover, when the moon is shining and the sky is filled with stars, lighting my path without needing a headlamp.

With an average annual snowfall of over 15 feet, Tahquamenon Falls State Park is a great place to explore winter on snowshoes. The park is open year-round, with two main destinations for snowshoeing (Upper Falls and Lower Falls). Check our website to print winter maps and join us on Facebook or Twitter to stay up to date on current conditions and events.

Have you ever been snowshoeing? Comment on your experience below!

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Theresa has served as the park interpreter at Tahquamenon Falls since 2005. She began her career as a naturalist with the DNR at Holland State Park as an Adventure Ranger, delivering nature programs and leading hikes for park visitors. She was then hired as a naturalist for DeGraaf Nature Center in Holland, designing and presenting programs for children and school groups. During the summer of 2005, she again worked for the DNR Explorer Program as a mentor for the Explorer Guides in southeast Michigan. Theresa is a proud graduate of Michigan State University.

Plan the Perfect Pure Michigan Snow Day with these Deals

Last week, we hosted a Twitter chat with our fans, and many partners, to discuss the perfect Pure Michigan Snow Day. You all gave us amazing ideas for staycations, winter sports to try, and where to go for our next vacation! In addition to this, we received an abundance of  information on fantastic deals happening around Pure Michigan. Read below to find out where to get money-saving deals for your travel this winter!

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Boyne Mountain, Photo Courtesy of Instagrammer @emkotwick

Boyne Highlands/Boyne Mountain

Boyne Highlands is one of Michigan’s premiere all-season resorts with a variety of activities ranging from zip line adventures to golf ranges. During the winter, though, one of the most popular activities is skiing and they have great deals for everyone. From first-timers to seasoned veterans, you can find great deals at Boyne Highlands.

Boyne Mountain is another premiere resort that offers 60 downhill trails, 12 lifts, and ski-in/ski-out accommodations. They also have Zipline Adventures, snowshoeing and so much more! It is a great place to learn how to ski for your Pure Michigan Snow Day!

If you love skiing and will be going regularly this winter, you can buy a frequent skier/rider card for the season to save money on every purchase. Accepted at both Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain, the card has no blackout dates and there are even a couple of weeks where you can ski/ride free. Check out the savings here.

In addition to that deal, check out all the deals and packages each resort has going on right now. You can get a $20 gift card if you stay midweek and enjoy shorter lines! Seniors can also ski free midweek. For Boyne Highlands, if you are looking for a fun vacation President’s Day weekend, look no further than the ski and stay package! If you have young children age 8 or under and stay with Boyne Highlands, they can ski and stay for free!

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Photo Courtesy of Facebook fan Scott Maginnis

Holland

Holland, known for its Dutch history, is a fantastic place to visit on your Pure Michigan Snow Day! There are several fun activities such as concerts, theatrical performances and visiting the boutiques and galleries.

There are several discounts and promotions on lodging and travel to Holland. You can save 20% with Amtrak on the Pere Marquette, making it even easier and cheaper to take a trip. Many packages are available at Country Inn & Suites or CityFlats Hotel, including a Romance or Hanky Panky (ha!) package perfect for Valentine’s Day or even celebrating an anniversary!  Be sure to check out the other lodging options that will help you have the perfect trip.

shanty creek blog

Photo Courtesy of Shanty Creek

Shanty Creek

Shanty Creek is a four-season resort featuring 72 holes of championship golf on four different courses, 53 ski runs on two mountains, and 30 km of cross-country skiing. There is a ton of lodging choices that fit everyone’s budget. With Valentine’s Day coming up, they also have special romance ski packages!

Shanty Creek also has a bunch of great deals this season. For example, to support “Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month”, children ages 8 and under will receive a complimentary season pass after taking a lesson from their Ski School.  If you’re in college, Shanty Creek provides a discounted College Student Season pass as well as College Week Specials!

Be sure to speak to a Shanty Creek reservation specialist while booking your trip, so they can work with you to try and save even more money!

Ski Free with Shell Gas

Last, but not least, one of the best deals this season comes from something you probably already do: buying gas! If you buy 10 gallons of fuel from a participating Shell gas station, you will have the opportunity to purchase one full price adult lift ticket and receive one free. Be sure to check out the website and find a participating Shell station. There is an extensive list of Michigan locations as well as over 20 ski resort participants including Crystal Mountain, Mt. Zion, Treetops Resort and many more!

For more great deals and packages, check out the packages and deals page on Michigan.org 

Do you know of any other money-saving deals helpful planning for a Pure Michigan Snow Day? Comment and let us know!

Cold Weather Critters – Winter at Two Michigan Zoos

Have you ever wondered what happens at zoos around Pure Michigan when the temperatures drop and the snow starts to fall? Instead of hibernating, our furry, scaly and feathered friends receive excellent care around the clock, with a few of them hoping you’ll visit!

Read more on what Pure Michigan’s zoo animals do in the winter via guest bloggers Dan Malone of John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids and Jennie Miller of the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak.

Dan Malone – John Ball Zoo

While John Ball Zoo closes its gates to the public from November thru February, its business as usual for the animals and zookeepers. There’s still so much that goes on behind closed doors! Winter truly transforms the zoo into a wonderland for the animals. Most of Zoo’s 1,400-plus animal residents spend the cold, snowy season in toasty, warm indoor quarter’s right here in the Zoo.

Animals that can tolerate winter temperatures go in and out as usual over the colder months. The tigers, bears, otters, cougars and snow leopards, to name a few, simply love the snow and cold.  Many warm weather animals enjoy time outside during warmer winter days. The chimpanzees especially like to go on a winter “hike”, though they prefer to keep their feet dry. They carefully navigate their exhibit following in the footsteps of the Zookeepers or restricting themselves to sheltered, grassy areas. To be sure the animals stay comfortable, they have access to their indoor dens so they can warm up whenever they please.

Zookeepers especially enjoy finding clever ways to keep the animals busy and stimulated without the traffic of visitors.  This kind of animal care is called enrichment and is practiced all year on almost all animal species. Enrichment enhances the animals’ behavioral, physical, social and psychological well-being.  The practice encourages those natural behaviors like foraging, stalking, scent marking, climbing, scratching, etc.   The “art” of administering enrichment is to keep it consistently inconsistent.  This can be anything from having the penguins chase minnows around their tank to introducing a new scent to the ‘big cats’, namely the tigers and snow leopard.

Photo Courtesy of John Ball Zoo

Photo Courtesy of John Ball Zoo

So while John Ball Zoo is closed during the winter months, there’s still so much happening with your animal friends. See you for our spring opening on March 12!

Jennie Miller – Detroit Zoo

With fewer guests and more active animals, a winter visit to the Detroit Zoo for a healthy dose of “Vitamin Z” is the ultimate cool experience.

The Detroit Zoo is open 362 days a year, and winter is a magnificent time to see animals both indoors and out. Many animals are especially active in the colder winter months, including the gray wolves, wolverines, Japanese macaques, tigers, camels, polar bears, arctic foxes and red pandas.  The Detroit Zoo also has many indoor areas to explore, including the Edward Mardigian Sr. River Otter Habitat, the Matilda R. Wilson Free-Flight Aviary, the Butterfly Garden, the Holden Reptile Conservation Center, the National Amphibian Conservation Center, the Great Apes of Harambee and the Penguinarium. While it’s too cold for the giraffes and rhinos to be outside, there are indoor viewing areas for visitors to see these majestic animals year round.

Photo Courtesy of The Detroit Zoo

Photo Courtesy of The Detroit Zoo

The Detroit Zoo ensures the safety of animals all year round, so those that are sensitive to colder temperatures are provided with access to warm places and extra materials that help with insulation. Providing animals with the choice of where to spend their time is important regardless of temperatures, and the Zoo does this whenever possible. Some animals may change their behavior patterns in colder months, which can include how active they are or how much they eat. Many of the animals really enjoy the winter months and take full advantage of the colder temperatures and snow.

On select nights through December 31, visitors can enjoy Wild Lights, presented by Bank of America, and experience five million LED lights on trees, buildings and more than 100 animal sculptures along a path through the front half of the Detroit Zoo. USA Today has nominated Wild Lights as among the Best Zoo Lights in the nation. Vote in their readers’ poll before December 23rd! Other activities include photos with Santa (through December 23), the Polar Express 4-D Experience, arts and crafts, ice sculptures, and the 22-foot-tall, 150-foot-long Polar Plunge snow slide!

Photo Courtesy of The Detroit Zoo

Photo Courtesy of The Detroit Zoo

What is your favorite animal found at the Zoo? Share with us below!

Dan Malone

Dan Malone received his BS degree from Michigan State University, zoology major. He worked as a manager in a restaurant for 25 before he landing his zookeeper job at John Ball Zoo. Dan’s responsibilities as an animal care supervisor include supervising, interviewing and hiring the zookeepers.  He has had a lifelong interest in reptiles and amphibians, primarily snakes and has been involved with the care and breeding of a number of snake species for over 30 years. Follow John Ball Zoo on Facebook and Instagram.

Jennie Miller

Jennie Miller is the communications manager for the Detroit Zoological Society, which operates the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Zoo and was recently named the 2015 Best-Managed Nonprofit by Crain’s Detroit Business. Follow the Detroit Zoo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.