Traverse City: Michigan’s Winter Sports Playground

Traverse CityNo matter what your favorite winter sport may be, the Traverse City area has plenty of thrills waiting for you.

Cross-country skiers and snowshoers will find literally hundreds of miles of trails awaiting them in the area’s picturesque forests and parks. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the Boardman Valley Natural Area, the Grand Traverse Commons and the Sand Lakes Quiet Areaare particularly good for both of these “silent sports,” while the Vasa Trail and the Muncie Lakes Pathway are dedicated almost entirely for Nordic skiers.

Shanty Creek ResortsWhen it comes to downhill skiing and snowboarding, the region’s premiere full-service winter destination is undoubtedly Shanty Creek Resorts, a 4,500-acre recreational complex in the beautiful Chain of Lakes region about 30 miles northeast of Traverse City. Ski Magazine rated Shanty Creek the Midwest’s Number One destination in value, dining, lodging, weather and après ski activities, and it’s easy to see why. Its three ski areas (Summit, Schuss Mountain and Cedar River) feature a 450-foot vertical with 51 runs for every ability level, plus five snowboarding terrain parks.

Some skiers have discovered the fun of staying closer to town and using Traverse City’s two day ski areas. Mt. Holiday is a community-run ski area just east of town with 16 runs, two chairlifts, a tubing run and terrain park, a pleasant day lodge, and awesome views of East Bay. Hickory Hills is a small municipal ski area just minutes from downtown with eight runs served by old-fashioned rope tows.

Snowmobile in Traverse CitySnowmobilers tend to head south and east of town, where more than 200 miles of the country’s finest and most diverse snowmobiling wait for them on the enchanted Boardman Valley Trail, just minutes from downtown, an 81-mile trail system in the Pere Marquette State Forest, where sightings of turkeys, eagles, deer and other wildlife are commonplace. The Jordan Valley Trail, about a half-hour to the northeast, is a network featuring over 130 miles of spectacular trails not far from Shanty Creek and the picturesque village of Bellaire.

Fat Tire CoupleEven bicyclists can enjoy their favorite sport in winter now, thanks to the advent of “fat bikes” -- specially-adapted mountain bikes with large tires that can handle snowy trails. Fat biking has become extremely popular in Traverse City, and the ingenious cycles can be rented at several local cycling outlets.

Snowshoeing Sleeping Bear DunesEver tried snow tubing? What other sport requires little more of you than the ability to sit down, hang on tight and hurtle downhill on a large inflated rubber tube? We have the largest tubing hill (700 feet) in Michigan at TimberLee Hills, a former ski resort in the hills just northwest of town, and on the east side is Mt. Holiday’s dedicated tubing park. Shanty Creek Resorts has a sophisticated multi-lane tubing facility just below their Summit Mountain lodge.