Comprehensive Guide to Ski Resorts in Michigan
Little known fact, Michigan comes in second for the most ski areas in the United States. Between the Upper Peninsula and Lower Peninsula, there are 37 ski areas that call the Great Lakes state home. Whether you’re a skier or snowboarder looking for a challenge, or a family of 4 looking for a nice weekend getaway, nearly every region in Michigan has something to offer.
Follow along for highlights from each region across the state. Get the inside scoop on where to go and tips that help you enjoy a day, or weekend, on the slopes.
When most people think of “heading up north,” they usually are looking toward Michigan’s northwest lower peninsula, and for good reason. This region is home to one of the best snowbelts in the state, thanks largely in part to classic lake effect snows we see rolling in off the big lake. If you’re lucky to catch a storm cycle, be prepared because when it’s good, it’s really good.
Skiing & Snowboarding in Northwest Michigan
Michigan 115 (M-115) is the start of ski areas in the northern lower. Just 90 minutes north of Grand Rapids and a quick jaunt west on M55 in Cadillac will bring you to Caberfae Peaks. Boasting a family-friendly atmosphere, what Caberfae might lack in frills and over-the-top resort amenities, they more than make up for it by getting back to the core of skiing and snowboarding. With 34 runs, Caberfae brings 485 vertical feet and a wide-open backcountry area that’s lift accessible, they possibly are one of the most affordable ski areas in Michigan as well. Day and night skiing is available at Caberfae, and for the best deals get your tickets online before you even leave home.
A full-service demo and rental shop is on-site for those who need equipment. The recently refreshed Mackenzie Lodge offers up ski in, ski out accommodations with a heated outdoor pool and hot tub for relaxing. Day visitors will find the Blackmer Lodge super inviting. Claim a table in the lower level, plug your crock pot in and get out to enjoy what matters most. The snow.
Head 31 miles northwest of Cadillac and you’ll reach Crystal Mountain. A favorite amongst many looking for a weekend getaway with a full-service resort atmosphere and ample on site lodging. If there is one theme that stands out the most at Crystal it’s family. With 58 runs of varied terrain and 375 vertical feet, this is a spot where everyone in your group will find a run they like.
Crystal Mountain has a full-service demo and rental fleet on hand if you don’t have your own equipment. Ski and snowboard lessons are available for all ages and abilities starting at 3 years old so there’s no excuse your entire family cannot get out and enjoy the slopes. For those looking for great off-hill experiences, rent a fat bike and go for a ride in the snow, or relax after a day on the slopes at Crystal’s award-winning spa.
On-site lodging is available for nearly every budget, and even the simple no frills hotel rooms found in the Hamlet still offer a near ski in, ski out experience. If you have a decent size group, or perhaps your family is looking to spread out a bit more, booking a condo can be the way to go. If you forgot something or need some snacks for your stay, check out the new Mountain Market for grocery items.
While Crystal offers up a couple of on-site restaurant options, if you’re staying for more than a couple of nights you might want to adventure out and experience some local flavor. Just 20 minutes away on the shores of Lake Michigan you’ll land in Frankfort. Swing into Stormcloud Brewing for a great dining experience and craft beer. I suggest ordering up The Stormavore flatbread pizza paired with a pint of Fun Guv’nr Black IPA. If Mexican food is more your style, then a stop to The Roadhouse Mexican Bar & Grill is mandatory. Fish tacos and margaritas on a Friday night are calling your name.
Situated midway between Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Mackinac Bridge sits the town of Bellaire in Antrim County and home to Shanty Creek Resorts. Antrim County by far is one of the snowiest counties in the lower peninsula and great snow awaits you at Shanty Creek.
Head Further North
Fifty-three runs can be found at Shanty Creek between Schuss Mountain and Summit Mountain. While both Schuss and Summit offer up a great variety of terrain, for a more family-focused resort feel and beginner to intermediate runs, check out Summit Mountain. If you’re after steeps, terrain parks and longe runs, get over to Schuss for some runs. Want to check out both? Shanty has you covered with a free shuttle that runs between the two, just park and ride.
A true destination resort, accommodations on-site at Shanty Creek are abundant. Whether you’re a couple looking for a quiet northern Michigan getaway, or an entire family looking for a great weekend up north, Shanty has you covered. Do yourself a favor and book a room at the Lakeview Hotel on the Summit side of Shanty Creek. Enjoy stunning views of Lake Bellaire from the restaurant on the main level which is great for brunch, dinner or a cocktail after a day on the slopes - highly recommended.
Even if skiing or snowboarding isn’t your thing, you can still enjoy a great winter getaway. Shanty Creek has one of the best tubing parks at Alpine Tubing, on Summit Mountain, that’s sure to bring smiles to everyone. Be sure to visit the quaint village of Bellaire, a downtown area that captures the essence of Pure Michigan in the winter. While there, make sure you stop into the infamous Short's Brewing Company to sample some great craft beer and stick around for live music on most weekends.
A quick hop off of I-75 east of Gaylord brings you to Otsego Club, a ski and golf resort that remained private for nearly 80 years. Otsego Club is a gem of a resort in northern Michigan and is a must see for even the most seasons skier or snowboarder. In 2010 Otsego Club played host to winter Olympians training for for the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games.
With around 400 vertical feet and 136 skiable acres, and 5 lifts spinning, Otsego Club has a great variety of terrain for all ages and skill levels. A full rental fleet is available for both skiers and snowboarders too. You owe it to yourself to stay overnight or for an entire weekend. Amenities are top notch including a great restaurant and plenty of on-site accommodations from hotel rooms to condos. Prices are on-par with other resorts in northern Michigan and its recommended you book early but keep an eye on last minute deals for a spur of the moment getaway.
Whether you’re a local of Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Holland or Grand Haven looking to sneak in some mid-week turns, or you’re heading up from Chicago or South Bend, you don’t have to travel far to enjoy some great snow. When the weather is right, the southwest lower peninsula benefits from famous lake effect snow coming in off Lake Michigan.
Skiing & Snowboarding in Southwest Michigan
Just northwest of Kalamazoo in Otsego, you will find Bittersweet Resort. Just off U.S. 131 and just 1 hour 40 minutes from South Bend makes Bittersweet an easy choice for many. With 20 runs and 350 vertical feet, the terrain at Bittersweet is far from flat. A great mix of terrain welcomes skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels. In fact, Bittersweet has one of the more competitive ski race leagues in the state.
If you do not have your own gear, no need to worry, Bittersweet has a full rental fleet with skis, snowboards and helmets. Ski families in the area take note of Bittersweet’s family season ski passes. Whether your a family of two or four, Bittersweet has some great season packages to make sure you get out and enjoy the slopes in an affordable manor.
Often overlooked by many in the state, you don’t have to go very far to enjoy some great skiing and snowboarding in the southeast portion of Michigan. Whether you’re a weekend warrior looking to get some mileage on your skis mid-week before heading north, or you’re in town looking for some winter adventure, a few ski areas are sure to deliver.
Skiing & Snowboarding in Southeast Michigan
Located off of M-59 just west of Waterford Township is Alpine Valley. Home hill of 2018 Team U.S.A. Snowboarder, Kyle Mack, Alpine Valley has some of the most scenic views in the area. With 25 runs and 4 terrain parks, Alpine Valley is one of the largest ski area in southern Michigan. Rentals are available for skiers and snowboarders, making Alpine a perfect spot for those in the area not looking to own a bunch of equipment. Lift ticket options range from full day passes to evening only, making this a perfect spot for after work.
Renovated by Vail Resorts for the 2013/2014 season, Mt. Brighton is a great choice for skiers and snowboarders in southeast Michigan. Vail Resorts are known for their skier services and positive experiences both on and off the slopes, and Mt. Brighton follows suit.
24 runs can be found of varied terrain at Mt. Brighton with a great split of beginner, intermediate and advanced options, there’s sure to be something for everyone. When you’re looking for a break or want to wind down at the end of the day, drop into the Ore Creek Mountain Grill for scratch made, locally sourced cuisine in a casual environment. If you make a trip or two out west every season, be sure to check out the Preferred Program Perks which gives you deep discounts on other Vail Resorts. Something to consider if you don’t want to jump into the full Epic Pass.
At some point, you owe it to yourself to plan a trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The U.P. is home to some of the biggest snowfalls in the country!
Skiing & Snowboarding in the Upper Peninsula
The Keweenaw Peninsula is home to the famed Mount Bohemia where the average snowfall is in the 270” range and 900 vertical feet. Located just 45 minutes north of Houghton in the Keweenaw, Bohemia is not for the faint of heart. 585 acres of skiable terrain is all backcountry-style, meaning no groomers here. 2 main lifts service the ski area, with a fleet of shuttle busses that get you back to either should you get too far away.
A destination of itself, if you’re looking to plan a trip, book your accommodations early as many weekends will sell out in advance. Yurts and the Midwest’s only hostel are prime options for staying on-site at Bohemia. If you’re looking for more creature comforts of a hotel, plan to stay down in Houghton. Home to Michigan Tech, this college town has a lot of great restaurants and micro-breweries for you to indulge in after a day at Bohemia. If you are really feeling adventurous, book a cat skiing trip at Voodoo Mountain. Mt. Bohemia’s sister ski area, Voodoo offers up a unique experience not found east of the Mississippi. lodging options noted on the Marquette Mountain website and make sure you mention “Skier Special Rate” when booking a local hotel.
If you’re planning a U.P. ski trip, make sure you take the time and go west to Bessemer. Just East of the Michigan/Wisconsin border you will find three great ski areas in the area; Blackjack Mountain, Indianhead Mountain and Big Powderhorn are all within a 20 minute drive of one another.
Blackjack Mountain- Big Snow Resort, and Indianhead Mountain are under the same management group which means one lift ticket gets you access to 56 runs between the two. If you’re looking for more mellow terrain for the beginner and intermediate, stick to Blackjack. For those looking for steeper longer runs, the frontside of Indianhead delivers. There is plenty of affordable on-site lodging from hotel rooms to condos and chalets to choose from. Plan ahead and book online for the best savings.
Ranked one of the top 5 Midwest ski resorts, a stop off at Big Powderhorn should be in order while visiting Bessemer. With 45 runs, multiple terrain parks and an average of 17 feet of snow each year, Powderhorn is a destination on its own in the western U.P. All ages and skill levels can appreciate the terrain at Powderhorn, with an even mix of beginner, intermediate and advanced. Bessemer is Big Snow Country and it certainly is worth the trek up to through the western U.P. to explore all there is.
Wherever you decide to go, keep in mind that planning ahead and booking early will save you money and the hassle once on-site. From the beginner to advanced skier or snowboarder seeking adventure, to a full on family getaway, Michigan’s ski areas offer up something for everyone. Get outside and enjoy all that Michigan has to offer in the winter months.
About the Author: Jason Dodge resides in Grand Rapids, Michigan and is the founder of BlackTruck Media + Marketing and editor-at-large of Michigan Ski Report, a website dedicated to highlighting the culture of skiing and snowboarding in Michigan.