Traverse City has always been a bustling place in wintertime – just as long as there’s snow on the ground. The region’s two international ski races, the North American Vasa and the White Pine Stampede, have been in business for almost 40 years.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for even more winter happenings – and 2013 will see several exciting new events (both indoors and outdoors) as well as a couple that are making a welcome comeback.
On Feb. 3, for instance, the event that helped thousands of American women stop worrying about how they look in ski pants – the Women’s Winter Tour – is returning to Traverse City. A good-humored “celebration of women, winter and chocolate,” the tour will be held on the scenic Leelanau Trail, between Traverse City and Suttons Bay.
Unlike other athletic events, the Women’s Tour features no stopwatches or numbered bibs. Participants ski or snowshoe at their own pace along a sort of “linear progressive party,” stopping along the trail for locally crafted wines, gourmet cuisine, desserts and chocolates at trailside refueling stops – and the only men in sight will be there to help.
On Feb. 8-9 the Turtle Creek Casino and Hotel hosts the U.S. 27 Motorsports Snocross National, which is expected to bring 5,000 snowmobile riders and spectators to the area. The event is part of the AMSOIL Championship Snocross Series, which will be aired on the CBS Sports Network and is considered the world's premier snocross tour.
Snocross is a sport in which riders compete at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour on tracks featuring tight turns, banked corners, steep jumps (some as high as 30 feet) and obstacles. In an extra thrill for fans of high-performance snowmobiles, Traverse City will also be one of only two stops on the eight-city series to feature a first-ever “freestyle jam session” in which the machines and their drivers are pushed to their limits in a series of jumps, flips and other stunts.
Another long-awaited comeback is the Traverse City Winter Comedy Festival, which will be held Feb. 14-17. A joint effort by the Traverse City Film Festival and the National Cherry Festival, the newly-revived comedy fest will feature top nationally-known comedians in concert each night. (Mike Birbiglia will be returning to Traverse City with his film, “Sleepwalk With Me.”)
Other entertainment will include up-and-coming comics, an improve group or two, comedy films, family comedy and comedy filmmakers. Front Street, in downtown Traverse City, will be transformed into a free skating rink. Also look for a Ferris wheel, sledding hill, ice sculptures and outdoor laser light shows after dark.
Finally, on Feb. 16, the village of Suttons Bay is starting up its own brand-new winter festival, the YetiFest. The “monster” in this case a 1.2-mile bicycle hill climb that will take cyclists through the village streets and ascend a steep snowy hill above town – no matter how icy, sloppy or snowy the weather. There’ll also be a chili cook-off, microbrew tent, live music, an Abominable Snowman building contest, a snowmobile Concours d’Elegance, and a Yeti look-alike (best beard) contest.