5 Can’t-Miss Winter Sports to Experience This Season

To love Michigan is to love living in a four-season state.Whether you’re a full-time resident or just visiting the Great Lakes state, coming to Michigan means that for a few months out of the year, you’ll experience the beauty of winter and all of the activities and events that come along with it.

When temperatures falls, so does the snow, giving all a chance to participate in some of their favorite winter activities. From a friendly snowball fight in your backyard to cross-country skiing adventure in the back woods, Michigan offers some great ways to make memories during the winter season.

So, grab your favorite hot drink and take a look at five ways to celebrate the winter season in Michigan:

1. Skiing

Michigan offers many ways for people to enjoy skiing, from the rush of going downhill to witnessing the beauty around them by leisurely traversing a wooded trail.

With some of the best downhill skiing in the Midwest, Michigan’s pitch and vertical drops are are some of the most thrilling in the nation. The state is home to 51 ski destinations, ranking it second in the country in number of ski areas. For a slightly slower, but no less of a fun time, consider cross country skiing.  Enthusiasts and newcomers to the sport can enjoy the tranquility of more than 3,000 miles of snow-covered trails with beautiful winter landscapes serving as the backdrop. And don’t forget the snowboarding!

Photo Courtesy of Treetops Resort

Photo Courtesy of Treetops Resort

2. Sledding

Probably one of the easiest and the most fun you can have on a Michigan winter day is spending time just being a kid. Want some thrills and know of a big hill in the area? Grab your sled and go have some fun. Another great way to have fun that is also growing in popularity is snow tubing. Check out one of Michigan’s state or your local county parks for facilities set up especially for sledding and snow tubing, where you can feel the sting of the cold air on your face as your sled careens down a hill.

3. Snowmobiling

Feel the rev of an engine as you race through snow-covered trails and frozen lakes on a snowmobile during a Michigan winter. With more than 6,500 groomed snowmobiling trails, Michigan has one of the most extensive systems of interconnected trails in the nation. From state and national forests, to 11,000 frozen lakes, snowmobilers can experience a great adventure each time they head out for a ride.

Photo Courtesy of Instagrammer @AndyPeninger

Photo Courtesy of Instagrammer @AndyPeninger

4. Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing in Michigan is a great way to see the tranquil beauty of the winter season.Not all of Michigan’s wildlife scurries off for warmer climates or hibernation as you might get a chance to see rabbits, deer and fox as you trek along the state’s thousands of miles of trails. Snowshoe through the woods, breathing air filled with smells of the forest, hearing nothing but the sound of your own footsteps. Snowshoeing in Michigan offers outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers a respite among picturesque trails and terrains.

5. Pond Hockey

Michigan has a strong tradition when it comes to hockey, and winter weather provides the perfect chance to lace up your skates and have a blast. With more than 11,000 frozen inland lakes, there’s an opportunity to drop the puck anywhere you turn. Whether you’re just learning how to skate or are dreaming of one day playing at Joe Louis Area, all you need is some thick ice, skates, a hockey stick and some friends, and you’re ready to spend an afternoon enjoying the outdoors. Be sure to check out the Labatt Blue U.P. Pond Hockey Championship in St. Ignace this February!


What are your favorite winter activities? Share with us below!

Walking With Nature: Destination Traverse City

The spectacular landscape that embraces the Traverse City area is an ever-changing masterpiece created over centuries by the earth-moving power of ice, wind and water. No matter what the season, nature lovers will find trails and natural areas to fuel their passions. Read more on the beauty of TC, as shared by guest blogger Jonathan Schechter.

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”  — John Muir

Spring is the gateway to wildflowers and migratory birds at places like the Grass River Natural Area. Summer allows explorers to roam the Manitou Islands in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Autumn is perfect for a paddling trip down the Platte River, and in the stillness of winter, the multitude of cross-country ski pathways and snowshoe trails is proof that the outdoor lure of Traverse City is strong and growing.

Look Out

Why wait? Today is the perfect day to walk with nature.

The Grass River Natural Area is a hidden treasure of Antrim County encompassing 1,433 acres. Spring is the perfect season to view the moss-covered hummocks of land along the clear waters of Finch Creek. Sit silently on a bench under the sweetly scented cedars; nature will share her secrets. During my last visit I watched a mink bound over the boardwalk, heard a hidden grouse drumming from behind lush vegetation and found fresh bobcat tracks – all in a matter of five minutes.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore with its 70 miles of shoreline, magnificent sand dunes and trails for every taste, lures millions of outdoor enthusiasts.  Two of its beautiful treasures are the Manitou Islands – and a visit to these isolated spots makes a rewarding summer adventure.


South Manitou Island is a perfect destination for a day hiker with its lighthouse – a stark reminder of the stormy seas and shipwrecks of the Manitou Passage – and the wreck of the Francisco Morazan, a favorite haunt for cormorants. For a more rugged adventure, North Manitou offers opportunities for backpacking treks – just remember that your visit might be extended an extra day or two if the waters are too rough for the ferry to return.

The crystal-clear Platte River is well known among anglers for steelhead, salmon and trout, but it can get busy on summer days as kayakers and canoeists paddle downstream. A much better option is to go in the autumn, when the wildlife returns and the fall foliage puts on a brilliant show. Bring your own craft or rent at Riverside Canoe Trips. Seekers of solitude and wildlife may want to paddle during the morning mist; dawn is an unforgettable moment to embrace this landscape, which defines the essence of Pure Michigan.


In winter Traverse City has miles and miles of woodland trails for skiers and snowshoers to explore. In the Brown Bridge Quiet Area you can even witness the rebirth of Traverse City’s Boardman River, whose system of dams is being removed, returning this beautiful stream to a time when she was wild and free.  You can get a close-up look at this process at Brown Bridge, a 1300-acre nature preserve just south of town. This broad river meadow, surrounded by high hills, was once the site of a wide forest pond, but today you can hike along its former shoreline and see how nature (with lots of human help) has been healing and renewing the valley.

On my last visit it was winter, and I made my way through deep snow, warmed by the sweet scent of cedar and balsam fir and invigorated by the bounding tracks of a river otter.  It’s a wonderful wild place in the shadows of Traverse City!

bioJonathan Schechter is a Nature Education Writer for Oakland County Parks, a member of the Wilderness Medical Society and an avid hiker and trail-explorer at Sleeping Bear Dunes.  JonathanSchechter@Frontier.com


Relax in Pure Michigan this Winter

With the holidays coming to an end, it’s the perfect time of year to take a break and find ways to relax in Pure Michigan. We asked Shann Vander Leek, an internationally recognized life coach, about ways she finds relaxation and happiness in Michigan.

What’s your favorite way to relax? If it’s by spending a day being pampered, be sure to check out Spa | A Pure Michigan Winter in our winter video series.

Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am an internationally recognized life coach, certified by the Coach Training Alliance. I partner with clients all over the world. I study Hatha yoga and am a Union Yoga, certified Yoga instructor.

I have a lifetime of professional experience as a successful broadcast media consultant, sales coach, leader, entrepreneur, business owner, marketing specialist, volunteer, voice over announcer, and life-skills trainer. I am a prolific reader, blogger and a published best selling author.

I love to engage individuals in compelling conversations that inspire them to play much bigger, and live fuller, more meaningful, and happier lives. I know engaged, fully expressed people leading purposeful lives have a big impact on the world. Life Coaching is one of the most powerful agents of positive human change.

I am happily married 20 years, with 1 amazing daughter, 1 mouthy Siamese cat, 1 spaz-face bunny, and a life full of people and places I am grateful for.  I live with my family in the Village of Suttons Bay, where we spend our free time exploring Leelanau County. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is our weekend playground.

Q: The holidays are a stressful time for many people – what advice do you have to help people relax, unwind and rebalance after this hectic time?

The best advice I can share is to listen to your body and pay attention to how you feel. If you are stressed and exhausted, you deserve to rest and take care of yourself. When you ignore the signals from your body, you will get sick. Don’t wait until you are completely maxed-out to care for yourself. I suggest clearing the calendar of as many extra-curricular activities as possible in the month of January. Lighten your schedule and focus on self-care activities that you find relaxing.

We forget that we can give the most when we are well rested and living the lives we love. We can be the best partners, parents, business owners or colleagues when we are feeling nurtured, fulfilled, inspired and self-expressed.  We can have the biggest impact on social and community changes when we are in balance.

Q: Are there any specific places that you like to enjoy relaxing activities?

I am a big fan of Pavlova European Salon and Spa in Traverse City. After the holidays I plan to enjoy a delightful European facial from Bonnie (my favorite Aesthetician). I practice Pilates at BE Pilates and Massage Studio, and schedule regular body work and massage therapy at Sacred Ways Healing Arts. 

Q: What are some things that people can do to keep themselves balanced all year long?

1. Discover Joy Spotting! 

Make a luscious list of 5-10 things that bring you joy every day. At the end of the day, take a few minutes to journal your discoveries. My family and I often share our top five lists over dinner.

Here’s a few items from my luscious list for today:

The way my husband says “Good Morning Beautiful,” the sunrise over the bay, the twinkle of lights on our Christmas tree, listening to Phillip Phillip’s new album, being kind to a friend, delicious food, a (saved from our summer garden) Geranium with hot pink flowers, and finding the perfect present for my daughter.

2. Schedule time each day to be quiet.

As little as 5 minutes of quiet time can make a difference in your life. Simply close your eyes and breathe deeply several times to relax your mind. Find peace while listening to a guided relaxation like Transition to Calm that can be found on iTunes or Anxiety Slayer. If you work in a high-stress job, lunchtime can be a great time to escape from your responsibilities at work and claim some peace. Consider driving to the nearest body of water and enjoy your lunch break while watching the waves ebb and flow.

3. Move your body every day.

To stay in balance all year long you have to move your body. Walk your dog, go to the gym, take a yoga class, run, stretch, dance, play! Move your body in some way each day and you will sleep better, stay healthier, and free lower your level of stress.

4. Treat yourself to a special extravagance at least once a month.

This could be dinner and a movie, a massage, a weekend getaway, a chance to sleep in. Anything goes. You deserve something to look forward to at least once a month. 

5. Make quality time for your family.

Create family traditions, eat dinner together, take time to really listen and learn more about the people you love the most in the world. Is there anything more important than bonding with your loved ones?

Three pitfalls to avoid at all costs…

1. Learn to say No.

We all tend to take on more responsibility than we should, which can create stress and take us away from living in the moment. Getting caught up in a cycle of ‘I have to’ vs. ‘I want to’ can be destructive. It is Okay to say no thank you.

2. Learn to set healthy boundaries with people.

Do what you can to stop yourself from getting tangled up in the daily drama of another person’s life. Caring doesn’t mean diving in to solve someone’s problems. Being a good listener and a fantastic hugger, is a much better use of your time and energy.

3. Identify and limit your time spent with “Energy Vampires.”

People who regularly rant, rave and complain about life, politics and work can tap out all of your positive energy. Steer clear of these folks whenever possible. Life if too short to spend time with negative people. If you must spend time with Energy Vampires, do your best to find some humor in their antics.

Implement these ideas and enjoy a balanced and fulfilling life after the holidays. 

Q: Many people tend to get the winter blues or hibernate inside during the winter months – what are your recommendations to help with this?�

I used to suffer from the winter blues which are sometimes referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder. I made a few simple changes that have greatly improved my state of mind during the darkness of winter.  

1. Get outside for at least 15 minutes on sunny days to treat your body to a healthy dose of Vitamin D. Add a D3 supplement and/or foods rich with Vitamin D3 to your diet. Vitamin D3 can be found in fortified milk, salmon, sardines, egg yolks etc. Vitamin D3 is a vitamin and a hormone that our bodies need to remain mentally balanced. Think about how good you feel when you soak up the sunshine.  Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the health benefits of Vitamin D3.

2. Purchase a full spectrum light for your desk. The winter blues can be averted with full spectrum light therapy.  These lamps are often on sale this time of year.

3. Relax and surrender to the slower pace of winter.  

Q: What are some of your favorite winter activities?

I enjoy snowshoeing in the woods, hiking, and capturing images of the snowy shores of Lake Michigan. My husband enjoys snowboarding at Crystal Mountain with our daughter.

Q: What do you love about the Michigan in the winter?

Michigan winters are incredible. I love the snow covered landscapes and the quiet of the village after a fresh snowfall. I love knowing we can go sledding at Bahle Park and walk home to hot cocoa and roaring fire in the fireplace. We can choose to participate in the Friday night “live” events in Traverse City along with a full line up of winter concerts and festivals. The beautiful thing about Michigan in the winter is that you have loads of activities to choose from all season long.

Q: To you, what is “Pure Michigan”?

Pure Michigan based is the crushing beauty of my surroundings. The majesty of the forest. The gentle rolling farm land. The beauty, and bounty of the great lakes. The gorgeous seasonal landscapes. I could go on and on… I am blessed to live in northern Michigan, one of the most beautiful places on Earth.  

If you’re looking for relaxation this season in Michigan, why not visit one of our state’s many spas? Learn more in Spa | A Pure Michigan Winter, from the Pure Michigan winter video series.

Shann Vander Leek  is a transformational life coach, Yogini, and author of Life on Your Terms. She is the founder of True Balance International, co-founder of Anxiety Slayer, and creator of the Transformation Goddess Experience. Unconventional and delightfully curious; she coaches professional women in transition to live life on their terms and create more balance in their lives through life coaching, self-care and creative expression.  Visit Shann’s website at www.ShannVanderLeek.com for her free special report, Navigating Through Transition.