Skiers and boarders can look forward to the coming season with plenty of places to enjoy Michigan’s snow-filled slopes and trails. With a combined total of 50 open ski areas, boasting over 240 lifts, about 1,000 runs, more than 80 terrain parks and hundreds of kilometers of groomed cross-country, fat bike and snowshoe trails, there is something for everyone.
According to the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association (MSIA), ski areas are always looking for ways to increase enjoyment for skiers and snowboarders. Through the years, slope maintenance and snowmaking capabilities have improved dramatically - so much so that even if there is no snow at home, the ski slopes can be covered when the weather turns cold. “You can be sure that if the temperature drops below 28 degrees, the snow guns are on across Michigan,” says Mickey MacWilliams, MSIA executive director. She adds that if that is difficult to believe, the Webcam page on goskimichigan.com will prove the point. Thumbnails of webcams at ski areas statewide are easily viewed in real time with one click. In addition to more and better snowmaking and grooming equipment, ski areas across the state have made major slope and facility improvements.
The following is a rundown of improvements and special offers for the 2016-2017 season. For more information, visit goskimichigan.com, which has quick links to Michigan ski area websites.
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula slopes are busy getting ready for winter. Voodoo Mountain, which opened on a limited basis last winter, is primed and ready for a season of snow cat skiing. Located just south of Copper Harbor Michigan, Voodoo Mountain has a vertical drop of close to 700 feet and about 100 acres of terrain, making it one of the largest in the Midwest. It features a combination of open runs and some tree runs. Voodoo Mountain was developed by Mount Bohemia and is the only commercial snow cat ski operation east of the Rockies. Skiers ride a snow cat (18 to a cab) to the top and then ski down the mountain to then get picked up again by the snow cat for a return to the top.
Down the road at Mount Bohemia, a new section of the area called Little Boho opens this year, with five gladed runs (tree skiing) where skiers hike to the terrain. The five-minute hike pays off though, featuring some of the steepest terrain at Mt. Bohemia, which is an expert-only ski area. Mt. Bohemia has also added four more units to it’s Aqua- Log Cabin resort, bringing its total to 12 units. The log cabins are right on the water and the cross-country trail, just a short shuttle bus ride to the ski area. Overlooking the lake, they sleep up to six and feature large red cedar logs. (231) 420-5405, mtbohemia.com
Ski Brule in Iron River has added 30 KM of Fat Bike Trails. Trail passes are $15 alone but are also included in the price of a daily lift ticket. Fat Tire Bike Rentals are also available for $30 half day and $50 full day. In addition, Ski Brule built a new facility to house their pump house, the heart of their snowmaking. This facility allows more snow to be made faster and more efficiently. Brule also purchased a new Prinoth X Bison snow groomer to help maintain all that new snow. 1-800-DO BRULE, skibrule.com
Heading into the Lower Peninsula, the crew at Nub’s Nob Ski Area of Harbor Springs were busy expanding their snowmaking system and making upgrades to their snow distribution infrastructure. To aid in grooming the snow is a new Pisten Bully groomer. Nubs also did some clearing in The Glades to create more lines for powder skiing through the trees. Also new this year is an entire new fleet of rental skis from Nordica. These specially designed skis utilize the latest ski technology to make the learning process fun and simple. (231) 526-2131 or 1-800-SKI-NUBS, nubsnob.com
In Gaylord, Treetops Resort has secured a $4.5 million USDA loan to aid resort renovations and improvements, with work in progress now. Renovations and improvements are on tap for both The Lodge and The Inn located on the main campus of the property. Public spaces will reflect the northern Michigan outdoors with subtle references to nature. The lobby areas as well as the entire collection of lodging rooms will be fully renovated with new flooring and furnishings. (855) 318-0678, treetops.com
Also in Gaylord, Otsego Club & Resort has a special Test Drive offer. Otsego is a private club but invites the public to experience the members-only ski privileges this winter for only $495. This offer allows families access to the entire club with no black-out dates, complimentary cross country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, ice skating and sauna use and complimentary lift tickets for the immediate family when lodging at the Otsego Club. 1-800-752-5510, Otsegoclub.com
The crew at Shanty Creek Resorts has been busy over the summer improving their snowmaking infrastructure with additional snow guns, pumps and plumbing. They also added a new beginner ski area at Summit Mountain and improved their Nordic ski trails throughout the resort. The popular Alpine Tubing Park at Summit Mountain also got a facelift in order to increase capacity. Also popular, their fat biking program returns this year with a Fat Race Weekend slated for the end of February. For kids 8 years and under, Shanty Creek offers a real deal - a free season pass to all who take a Learn-to-Ski lesson. (231) 533-8621 shantycreek.com.
Hickory Hills Ski Area, owned and operated by the City of Traverse City, began operations in the winter of 1950-51 on 12 city-owned acres. Over the years adjacent land was leased or used by friendly agreement. Today, the city owns approximately 125 acres for Hickory Hills. The lodge that was constructed in the mid 1950′s is still in use today with a fireplace and snack bar. The big news for this city-owned facility is that ski and snowboard rental equipment is now available. 231-947-8566, traversecitymichigan.gov/hickory_hills.
Bay Mountain at The Homestead in Glen Arbor is focused on fun and safety. Their "hill-hugger" lifts are low to the ground, and run at reduced speed to reduce accidents. They have set a limit on ticket sales far below the legal capacity of their property to avoid overcrowding and the folks at The Homestead stress that small is good! Their limited terrain means that it's easier for parents and ski patrol to keep an eye on the little ones. (231) 334-5000, thehomesteadresort.com
Skiers who remember Sugar Loaf Resort in the Leelanau Peninsula will be pleased to hear that the long-shuttered ski area has a new owner. Los Angeles resident Jeff Katofsky recently closed on the purchase of the resort but doesn’t plan to have renovations ready or the ski area open for at lease a few years.
An $11 million expansion that includes eight new downhill trails, a triple chairlift and nine new miles of fat bike trails began last winter at Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville. Crystal Mountain’s downhill trail count increased to 58 with the addition of new terrain and a triple chairlift in ‘The Backyard.’ The new ski and snowboard complex now features a mix of beginner (green), intermediate (blue) and glades runs that take advantage of the natural banks, rises and rollers. The resort also added six snowmaking machines and nearly one mile of pipe to its snowmaking system as part of this expansion. In addition to ‘The Backyard,’ construction is now complete on a LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), 31,200 square-foot expansion to the Inn at the Mountain. The expansion was completed just in time to begin Crystal’s 60th Anniversary Celebration. The transformative project, in the very center of Crystal’s village, will include 25 new hotel rooms and suites, an open-air, rooftop terrace and a lobby bar and specialty market. This will all be surrounded outdoors by a new Village Plaza. 1-800-968-7686 or (231) 378-2000, crystalmountain.com
The big news at Caberfae Peaks in Cadillac is the addition of a brand new Doppelmayr triple chairlift. The new chairlift has a top elevation of 1561 feet, which Caberfae says is the highest in Northern Michigan. It provides a panoramic, 360-degree view of the surrounding Manistee National Forest. The new chair is designed to better serve Caberfae’s North Peak complex of slopes with more uphill capacity therefore reducing lift lines. In addition, crews were busy over the summer reconfiguring the slopes to add an additional 15 vertical feet. Five new SMI fan snowmaking guns and towers and 500 feet of snowmaking pipe and electrical wire were put in place over the summer for more and better snow. Inside the MacKenzie Lodge, hotel rooms were spruced up with new windows, energy efficient PTAC units for heating and cooling, and wall-mounted flat screen TVs. The ski rental department also received 250 pairs of new Rossignol rental boots. 231-862-3000, Caberfaepeaks.com
Cross Country Ski Headquarters (XC Ski HQ) in Higgins Lake is amping up the fun with a host of special events that foster authentic, outdoor, winter experiences. On February 4 and March 5, they partner with Paddle Hard Brewing of Grayling to host “Ski the Beer Trail.” Tasting stations along the trail provide craft beer tastings to skiers and snow-shoers, and grill chef German Dave prepares a hearty barbeque lunch at Trapper’s Cabin. Skiers and snow-shoers can enjoy the magic of winter at nighttime, with torch lit trails, a bonfire, and free hot cocoa during Full Moon Night Skiing on December 16, January 13, and February 10. New this winter is the Women’s Wednesday Night Ski Tour. Starting on January 11 and continuing on subsequent Wednesdays from 5:00pm – 7:00pm, women are invited to gather, cross country ski, and receive coaching from a PSIA-certified ski instructor for just $5. All proceeds will go to the River House women’s shelter in Grayling. (989) 821-6661 crosscountryski.com
Snowsnake Mountain in Harrison makes skiing affordable on special days. Twelve Dollar Tuesdays mean lift tickets are just $12 and rental equipment is just $13 from 3 to 9 p.m. each Tuesday. On Wednesdays its Two-for-One Lift Ticket day, where you buy one and get one free. Thursday is Student's Day. Show a student I.D. and get $5 off a lift ticket. All programs begin in January. Phone and website
At Cannonsburg Ski Area 15 minutes northeast of Grand Rapids, the goal is to expand into a year-round outdoor destination. To that end, in 2015 Cannonsburg opened the first Zipline Adventure Tour in West Michigan. (616) 874-6711, cannonsburg.com
The folks at Timber Ridge in Goebles want everyone to learn to ski affordably. Every Sunday from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. and on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 5:00 to 10:00 p.m., beginners can get rental equipment, a lesson and lift ticket all for $40. (269) 694-9449, timberridgeski.com
Moving to Southeast Michigan, after a $10 million renovation of the lodge, ski school, chair lifts, terrain park and snowmaking system over the past couple of years, Mt. Brighton in Brighton and its Ski and Snowboard School are partnering with Burton Snowboards and Elan Skis to create a program called “Mt. Brighton Ski and Snowboard School Free Gear Instructional Program.” Open to anyone seven and older, this four-week beginner program includes a weekly, two-hour lesson, lift ticket and rental equipment. At the end of the program, guests get to take home the new Burton snowboard and bindings or Elan skis and bindings that they’re now familiar with. The cost of the program, including equipment is $349. (810) 229-9581, mtbrighton.com
The team at Mt. Holly in Holly Mt. Holly is excited at the prospect of this upcoming ski and snowboard season. Cold weather will be a welcome sight after this summer’s extreme heat. Featuring the only high-speed detachable quad chairlift in southeast Michigan, Mt. Holly has upgraded its snowmaking and grooming capabilities over the summer. (248) 634-8269, skimtholly.com
Alpine Valley in White Lake has expanded its snowmaking capabilities and also enlarged its terrain parks. To help maintain their expanded parks, they purchased a new park groomer. Alpine Valley has also added a brand new fleet of rental skis. (248) 887-2180, skialpinevalley.com