12 Nov Michigan Ski Area Pandemic Guide 2020-2021
Without a doubt, 2020 has been a year of change. Dealing with the safety of guests and staff during a pandemic has been a top priority of ski areas across Michigan as they prepare to open. Indoor capacity limits, face covering rules, new outdoor dining options, new lift queue configurations, and social distancing rules are all changes that ski areas are making as they prepare to open. This season, the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association (MSIA) is urging skiers and riders to “Know before you go,” by checking the website of the ski area you are planning to visit to familiarize yourself with their COVID-19 protocol.
“Some ski areas are going to contactless lift ticket sales, others are bringing in food trucks for outdoor dining, changing the rental department around to aid in social distancing and limiting class sizes for ski and snowboard lessons,” says Steve Kershner, MSIA chairman and director of snow sports at Shanty Creek Resort.
One rule that will be consistent across all Michigan ski areas is the requirement to wear CDC-recommended face coverings in all indoor spaces, except when seated to eat or drink, and outdoors when 6 feet of physical distance cannot be maintained – such as the base lodge staging area, shuttles, lift lines, while loading and riding a lift, or entering an indoor facility.
“The important thing to remember is that we are doing this for the wellbeing of our guests and our staff. We want everyone to be able to head out and enjoy the slopes safely,” Kershner adds.
“In collaboration with our friends at Agnarchy.com, we have compiled the list below of updates at ski areas across the state,” says MSIA Executive Director Mickey MacWilliams. “This is intended to give you an idea of what to expect this winter. However, things can change rather quickly in regard to the pandemic and we urge all skiers and riders to check websites frequently,” she adds.
The information below was compiled by Saboto Caputo of Agnarchy.com, with minor edits by MSIA. When available, the “Know before you go” bullet on the listings is linked to the COVID-19 policies of that particular ski area.
Southeast Michigan Ski Resort Updates
Alpine Valley, White Lake
300′ vertical drop, 25 runs, 100 skiable acres, 5 terrain parks. 34% Beginner, 36% Intermediate, 30% Advanced
Located in the northwestern suburbs, Alpine Valley is the local home ski area for many. Skiers and riders will find options for every ability. Alpine Valley also hosts multiple events throughout the season, so there is always something exciting to do on snow in metro Detroit.
- Know before you go: Supplementing the restricted indoor seating, Alpine Valley added fire pits and propane heaters around the base area to provide open-air gather spaces. The upstairs deck also saw work; resurfacing and new railings installed.
“Here’s how you can help us: plan ahead so that you know what to expect, wear your face covering, follow distancing protocols, arrive together and ride together, and stay home if you feel sick” – Alpine Valley
- Snow making enhancements: Alpine Valley reported that they improved snowmaking over the summer by replacing the existing water pump with a larger unit that increases snow output. The resort explained that they also have an existing project ongoing to replace waterlines with larger pipes, which allows for more snowmaking in shorter timeframes. Alpine Valley also continued refurbishing snow guns in their fleet.
- Terrain park updates: Existing rails received makeovers this summer, but Alpine Valley also built a few new kinked tube features for the upcoming season. Also, skiers and riders can expect to see four new lift tower tube rails this year.
- Terrain expansion updates: The boarder cross track is now located near Chair 2 and the big slope style park is next to the rope park near Chair 1. According to Alpine Valley, this update frees up additional room for a rail garden at the base that is accessible by the rope tow.
- Aesthetics: In addition to the work on the deck, Alpine Valley installed new carpeting in the main lodge.
Mt. Brighton, Brighton
230′ vertical drop, 24 runs, 130 skiable acres, 5 terrain parks. 30% Beginner, 40% Intermediate, 30% Advanced
Manmade in 1960, Mt. Brighton is conveniently located halfway between Detroit and Lansing, and less than 30 minutes from Ann Arbor. Vail has invested $10 million into improvements at Mt. Brighton since their purchase of the ski area in 2012. Those improvements have included snowmaking enhancements, conversion from rope tows to magic carpets in the beginner area, new chair lifts, and a complete renovation of the base area.
- Know before you go: Mt. Brighton requires reservations for 2020-2021, and passholders will get priority access. Lift tickets will go on sale Dec. 8 after pass holders reserve their priority days. Lift tickets will not be sold for the early season, and all transactions at Mt. Brighton will be cashless, so bring your credit or debit card. Click here for more information on the reservation system that Vail implemented for Mt. Brighton.
- Anticipated opening day: Weather allowing, Mt. Brighton has announced that they plan to open for the season on December 5, 2020
Mt. Holly, Holly
350′ vertical drop, 19 runs, 100 skiable acres, 3 terrain parks. 30% Beginner, 50% Intermediate, 20% Advanced
At 350 feet of vertical, Mt. Holly has the highest vertical drop of the southeastern Michigan ski resorts, with varied terrain that caters to skiers and riders of all skill levels.
- Know before you go: Mt. Holly expanded outdoor food service opportunities and plans to operate the patio barbecue as needed to supplement indoor capacity restrictions
- Multi-area season pass: New for this season is a multi-area season pass that provides unlimited access to Pine Knob, Bittersweet, Mt. Holly, Searchmont (in Ontario), and Alpine Valley (in Wisconsin, not in Michigan)
- Terrain park expansion: Holly revamped the terrain park in the offseason. Among the improvements, the towrope servicing Snowstream and Snowhite is twice as long, and the new park will roll through the Slalom run. Expect Mt. Holly to offer many more features in the expanded terrain park.
Pine Knob, Clarkston
300′ vertical drop, 17 runs, 80 skiable acres, 3 terrain parks. 20% Beginner, 20% Intermediate, 40% Advanced, 20% Expert
Located 30 minutes from Detroit, Pine Knob comes up frequently as the response for snowboarders looking for big park setups. Not content to sit on success, Pine Knob has had a busy off-season building out new jibs, planning a progression park, and even soliciting a jib bus on social media.
- Know before you go: Pine Knob is building an extension to their upper deck in order to provide overflow outdoor seating when indoor capacity is full
- Multi-area season pass: New for this season is a multi-area season pass that provides unlimited access to Pine Knob, Bittersweet, Mt. Holly, Searchmont (in Ontario), and Alpine Valley (in Wisconsin, not in Michigan)
- Lift modifications: Pine Knob continues to improve life for park riders this season by tearing down the Snowbird chair lift and replacing it with a 1000′ high-speed tow tope. This change now makes every terrain park at Pine Knob accessible by tow rope- so no lift lines, just hot laps.
- Run modifications: In addition to the installation of the high-speed tow, Pine Knob’s park crew intends to take advantage of the additional real estate by building a monster jump line for those that go big in the park.
Southwest Michigan Ski Resort Updates
Bittersweet Ski Resort, Otsego
350′ vertical drop, 20 runs, 100 skiable acres, 2 terrain parks. 30% Beginner, 40% Intermediate, 30% Advanced
At 350 vertical feet, Bittersweet offers the largest vertical drop of the southwestern resorts in Michigan. For those that are unaware, Bittersweet is a sister resort to Mt. Holly and Pine Knob in southeast Michigan, and now to Searchmont Resort in Ontario.
- Know before you go: Bittersweet will be requiring face coverings in all areas where social distancing cannot be attained. This includes lift lines, chairlift chairs and lessons. More outdoor seating has been made available this season. Hand sanitizer stations will be made available in all common areas. Bittersweet will not restrict ticket or pass sales.
- Multi-area season pass: New for this season is a multi-area season pass that provides unlimited access to Pine Knob, Bittersweet, Mt. Holly, Searchmont (in Ontario), and Alpine Valley (in Wisconsin, not in Michigan)
- Snowmaking enhancements: Bittersweet built ten additional snow guns this season; six tower guns and four portable surface guns.
- Looking ahead: Next summer Bittersweet will regrade the park side of Wild Rose. Once the landscaping is complete, the resort will install a new rope tow.
250′ vertical drop, 21 runs, 100 skiable acres, 5 terrain parks. 35% Beginner, 50% Intermediate, 15% Advanced
Cannonsburg Ski Area, established in 1965, offers outdoor activities and events all year round. Located just 15 minutes northeast of downtown Grand Rapids, Cannonsburg branched beyond snowsports to become a place for family fun, corporate events, weddings, and other recreational activities. In addition to skiing, snowboarding, multiple terrain parks, fat biking, Cannonsburg offers the largest tubing facility in the state. The tubing lanes utilize magic carpets that carry you up the hill and allow maximum trips down.
Mulligan’s Hollow Ski Bowl, Grand Haven
130′ vertical drop, 6 runs, 7 skiable acres, terrain parks. 25% Beginner, 25% Intermediate, 25% Advanced, 25% Expert
Serviced exclusivity by rope tows, Mulligan’s Hollow is a local non-profit ski hill in the sand dunes of Grand Haven. Mulligan’s Hollow might lack the vertical feet of the other resorts, but they make up for it with their goal to bring snowsports to everyone. As a non-profit, Mulligan’s Hollow relies on volunteers, donors, and fundraisers for improvements and infrastructure. This includes snowmaking, a snow cat, warming hut, terrain park, and a hillside sound system. Parents ski free at Mulligan’s Hollow!
“It has been the mission to make Mulligan’s Hollow an affordable area for anyone that wants to experience the excitement of skiing and snowboarding. Mulligan’s Hollow offers lift pass scholarships, ski and snowboard lessons, rental equipment in cooperation with Reliable Sports, school programs, freestyle clubs and exciting events throughout the season. -Mulligan’s Hollow Ski Bowl
- Know before you go: This year your car will be your locker the indoor lodge will not be open to the public. Bathrooms will be sanitized hourly by staff. Face coverings will be required in all lessons and leagues. Face covers will be required on the hill and at ticket/concessions window.
Swiss Valley, Jones
225′ vertical drop, 11 runs, 60 skiable acres, 2 terrain parks. 36% Beginner, 36% Intermediate, 27% Advanced
Swiss Valley, Michigan’s southernmost ski area, is the closest place to ski in Michigan if you are from Chicago or Indiana. Swiss Valley boasts night skiing on 100% of their terrain. Fun fact: agnarchy’s own Adam Foster got his start on the slopes of Swiss Valley before moving west to become an itinerant split boarder and snowboard instructor.
- Anticipated opening day: Weather allowing, Swiss Valley announced that they plan to open for the season on December 15, 2020
- Season pass updates: Swiss Valley joined the Indy Pass for 2019-2020. The Indy Pass, available at $199, provides 2 days of free riding at participating resorts and discounted prices on additional visits. Additional special offers are available from participating resorts for lodging, rentals, lessons, and more. Visit Indy Pass for more information. New this year, Swiss Valley passholders can add-on the Indy Pass for $129.
- Know before you go: Swiss Valley has you covered. They will be selling disposable face masks for a buck or you can purchase a Swiss Valley Buff for $4.00. They do not plan on restricting daily lift ticket purchases.
Timber Ridge, Gobles
250′ vertical drop, 16 runs, 50 skiable acres, 2 terrain parks. 44% Beginner, 38% Intermediate, 0% Advanced, 19% Expert
Located near Gobles, Michigan, the family-oriented ski area has eight ski lifts, two terrain parks, and a tubing park. The terrain difficulty ranges from beginner to advanced, but most of the trails are at the easy or intermediate level.
- Know before you go: New outdoor seating will provide additional open-air options in the wake of reduced indoor seating capacity.
- Snowmaking enhancements: Timber Ridge is thinking snow with the purchase of two TechnoAlpin TR8 snow guns. The mobility of the new snow gun allows Timber Ridge to target snowmaking as needed.
- Aesthetic updates: Timber Ridge performed landscaping around the lodge and rental area, trimming and removing trees as needed to clean up the exterior of the resort. Timber Ridge also replaced some lights with LED, increasing brightness while reducing cost. Lastly, Timber Ridge hosted a paint party in the ticketing area.
“Ticketing area looks brand new, but still has the charm”- Timber Ridge
Northern Michigan Ski Resort Updates
Boyne Highlands, Harbor Springs
552′ vertical drop, 55 runs, 435 skiable acres, 4 terrain parks. 35% Beginner, 29% Intermediate, 35% Advanced 2% Expert
Boyne Highlands (located directly across the street from Nubs Nob) offers more vertical and acreage than any other resort in the lower peninsula. Known for varied terrain and long runs, Boyne Highlands goes out of its way to promote a family friendly atmosphere. Boyne Highlands is also home to a 13′ halfpipe. Improvements made last summer allowed the halfpipe to open earlier last year than in previous seasons. As a destination resort, Boyne Highlands offers more than skiing. Visitors will find tubing, zip lining, outdoor pools, a spa, horseback riding, and more.
- Know before you go: To accommodate social distancing, some elements of the resort may be running at reduced capacity. Boyne Highlands strongly suggest that you purchase your lift tickets, activities, and lessons early and in advance to reserve your spot. The Highlands Happiness Card is a reloadable pre-purchase card that allows you to social distance by skipping the ticket window and head straight for the lift. Visit Highlands Happy for more information. Outside food and drinks will no longer be allowed in the day lodge, so be prepared to store and eat outside food in the car. Personal storage is also gone this year, with the exception of purchased lockers. Be prepared to boot up in the car and leave personal items behind when you come to Boyne Highlands. Highlands Kidscare is not available, nor will there be all-day kid’s group lessons. Expect two hour blocks now when signing up kids for a group lesson. For full details, visit Boyne Highlands | What to expect.
“You’ll notice that we’ve made changes around the resort with guidance from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and recommendations from the state and local health department. Our goal is to do our best in ensuring the safety of our guests, staff, and the community. -Boyne Highlands
- On the slopes updates: Boyne Highlands added 22 HKD Impulse tower guns, a major upgrade to snowmaking on the northern slopes of the resort that allows for snowmaking in marginal temperatures. Supporting this upgrade, Boyne installed a new well to supply water to the new guns, and built a new weather station at the summit. The new weather station improves forecasting so that Boyne Highlands is ready to take advantage of every snow making opportunity that they can.
- New terrain park management: Mike Gerstner takes over terrain parks at Boyne Highlands. Fresh from Sun Valley in Idaho, Mike also built terrain parks for Mammoth Mountain and Big Bear in California. Mike’s philosophy is a focus on the beginner to intermediate park rider. He explained that advanced riders would have fun in any park, but that it’s hard for beginners to enjoy extremely advanced parks. Expect to find a new large feature terrain park on Amy’s Run.
- Other updates: Boyne Highlands lit up 1.7 miles of snowshoe trail for what they described as a “magical and enchanting” experience. Depart from the Cross Country center and follow a wooded trail that leads to a warming hut with hot cocoa and other treats.
- Amenity updates: Boyne Highlands is in the middle of extensive transformation of their main lodge. When complete, 85 rooms and suites will transform into luxury accommodations. The renovation also includes a multi-level European-style spa facility, reimagined restaurants, modernized conference facilities, new swimming complex, and more. Phase 1 began this summer. During this phase, Boyne Highlands will renovate two model hotel rooms. Boyne Highlands emphasized that the hotel will remain open to the public during all construction phases, which will be limited to midweek daytime hours in order to minimize disruption for guests.
“The transformation to an upscale, luxury hotel is underway and when complete, the newly well-appointed rooms and suites will feature refined elegance through the use of textures, patterns, and metals in deep, earthy tones and wood focal points. -Boyne Resorts
- Looking ahead: Phase 2 of the transformation began in February 2020. During this phase, 85 guest rooms are undergoing renovation, with an expected completion of December 2020. Phase 3 will begin in March 2020 and will include the renovation of the main lodge’s Tower Lobby. Phase 4 of the project will begin in the spring of 2021. During Phase 3, the main lodge’s center wing will undergo a complete rebuild and renovation. Stay tuned to Highlands Future for updates on this project. Hotel lodging is available during all phases of construction at Boyne Highlands.
Boyne Mountain, Boyne Falls
500′ vertical drop, 60 runs, 415 skiable acres, 7 terrain parks. 29% Beginner, 41% Intermediate, 29% Advanced 1% Expert
Known for the full resort experience, Boyne Mountain is located about 40 minutes south of its sister resort. Boyne Mountain remains family-friendly, and is home to Avalanche Bay, their indoor water park. Look for Boyne Mountain to push the ski season as long as possible, it is not uncommon to get April laps when the weather cooperates and Boyne is often the last resort to end skiing for the season in the lower peninsula.
- Know before you go: We recommend purchasing lift tickets online in advance; Boyne Mountain indicated that lift ticket availability may be limited on peak days. No restrictions apply for passholders. Gear storage and changing is not permitted in base lodges for the 2020/2021 season. Plan to boot up in the parking lot. To supplement reduced indoor dining capacity, Boyne Mountain is increasing takeout options for all on-site restaurants. Lastly, shuttles will operate at 50% capacity. Visit BOYNE| What to expect for the most up-to-date information at Boyne Mountain.
“With 415 skiable acres and large base areas, we feel confident that we can spread out and welcome all that choose to come play outside with us! We continue to work each day towards initiatives and protocols to provide you with the safest possible vacation and recreational experiences.” -Boyne Mountain
- Snow making enhancements: Boyne Mountain added 21 new, top-of-the-line, energy efficient and high production HKD snow guns to its fleet of snowmakers. With their extreme efficiency, the snow guns use less air allowing the resort to run more snow guns concurrently. Meadows and McLouth have additional tower snow guns.
- Terrain updates: Boyne improved the route of the beginner trail “Easy Does It,” located near the top of Meadows.
- Infrastructure updates: Boyne Mountain added lighting to several areas for improved sight conditions during night skiing and riding
- Dining updates: Boyne Mountain launched online food ordering via the Boyne Mountain App, and resort website for takeout at select on-site restaurants. Five new dining igloos will provide seating for groups up to 10 people. The igloos are located in the Biergarten behind Forty Acres Tavern, and offers service of the restaurant’s full menu, plus beverages. You can also find light bites, beer, and a limited bar selection at two additional Alpen Hut locations this winter, including at the base of Meadows near the Top Notch Tube Park, and in the Biergarten.
- New pass option: New for 2020 is the Feel Free Pass. For a $99 buy-in you get access to unlimited riding from the first chair of the season until December 25. After the initial buy-in, you can build upon the pass as it works for you. Check here for more information on the Feel Free Pass.
- Renovations: Edelweiss Lodge is undergoing and extensive renovation, which began in January 2020. This transformation will bring a taste of luxury to the on-slope rooms and should be ready for use in Fall 2021.
Caberfae Peaks, Cadillac
485′ vertical drop, 34 runs, 200 skiable acres, 2 terrain parks. 35% Beginner, 35% Intermediate, 29% Advanced
Caberfae Peaks opened in January 1938, making it one of the oldest ski resorts in the country. Caberfae lies within Michigan’s lake-effect snow belt and receives nearly 12 feet of natural snowfall each season. In addition to lift-serviced terrain, Caberfae also provides ungroomed backcountry terrain for those numerous fresh powder days. Consisting of two peaks, Caberfae provides the highest elevation for lift-serviced terrain in the Lower Peninsula. The North Peak is home to beginner and intermediate terrain, and winding trails through the woods. The South Peak is where skiers and riders will find more steep and advanced terrain.
“Caberfae offers the highest lift-served peaks in Michigan and has consistently been considered one of the best values in the state. So come out and experience the Big Hills, with the Best Snow, in Your Backyard!” -Caberfae Peaks
- Know before you go: We recommend that you buy lift tickets in advance. Caberfae indicated that they may limit sales to non-passholders on high volume days. Passholders will not have to reserve days. In a major shift, picnic lunches are not allowed in the Blackmer Lodge during the 2020/2021 season. Instead, picnic tables are available outdoors for sack lunches and tailgaters. The cafeteria will operate at 50% seating capacity with reduced & simplified food options. Caberfae will allow picnic lunches in the old Skyview Lodge. Cubbies are being installed for guest storage. Lastly, Caberfae installed a new deck outside of R Dub’s Pub as part of their effort to increase outdoor seating to offset indoor capacity restrictions. Visit Caberfae| COVID-19 Policies for the most up-to-date information.
- Snowmaking enhancements: Caberfae continued their dedication to improving snow efficiency this summer by installing a new 300-horsepower vertical turbine snowmaking pump. This upgrade reportedly increases snowmaking capabilities by 33% at Caberfae Peaks for the upcoming season. In order to support the additional capacity, Caberfae dug an additional water well so that their reservoir and cooling ponds fill faster.
- Infrastructure improvements: Caberfae Peaks installed pavers around the resort to make it more pedestrian friendly in the winter. Pavers were placed outside the Rental/Snowsports entrance/exit, at the ticket office, and the main route to the ski hill from the parking lot.
Challenge Mountain is a non-profit, four-season adaptive recreation area dedicated to helping the physically impaired, mentally challenged and at-risk youth achieve their maximum potential through outdoor therapeutic recreation. In winter, the surrounding slopes provide skiing as well as adaptive snowboarding. The summer months offer hiking, overnight camping, sailing, and nature experiential opportunities.
Crystal Mountain, Thompsonville
375′ vertical drop, 58 runs, 103 skiable acres, 3 terrain parks. 22% Beginner, 48% Intermediate, 30% Advanced
Crystal Mountain is a family-owned resort and conference center 40 minutes from Traverse City and Cadillac. If you are looking for tree-skiing options in Michigan, Crystal Mountain is the place for you. There are 6 designated glade areas of varying difficulty. Beginners will learn to navigate the trees in EIO and Backyard #8 glades, while the more advanced will find Last Call, Glacier Valley, Gorge, and Buck glades more their speed. There are also plenty of trailside options to dip in and out of trees at Crystal Mountain.
- Know before you go: There are no on-hill restrictions for passholders, but Crystal Mountain may restrict day tickets on peak days, and recommends that visitors purchase day tickets in advance online. Like many resorts in Michigan, Crystal Mountain will expand outdoor seating, dining, and retail options for 2020-2021. The Clipper Cafe will transition to take-out only. Supporting this strategy, Crystal Mountain will host food trucks, additional to-go food options, and use the conference center for seating to supplement outdoor options. Look for arrows, as food and retail will require one-way traffic to help with social distancing. The resort recommends that visitors use their cars as base camp.
“While guests are inside, we have installed NASA-developed air scrubbing technology in our public buildings. We have also installed HEPA air purifiers, as well as opened the dampers to bring in 20% more fresh air. We have also installed clear dividers in our restaurants. This is all part of a multi-pronged approach to engineer fresh air solutions for the indoors.” -Sammie Lukaskiewicz, Director of Public Relations
- Lift ticket updates: Crystal Mountain is the first ski area in Michigan to move to radio frequency identification device (RFID) for chairlift access. Citing a focus on visitor safety, guests will be able to purchase lift tickets online and receive an RFID card that allows them to reload lift tickets or season passes onto that same card via their mobile phones or computers.
Hanson Hills, Grayling
225′ vertical drop, 11 runs, 1 terrain park, 125 skiable acres. 50% Beginner, 50% Intermediate
Hanson Hills, located in Grayling, is one of Michigan’s first ski areas. Snowboarders will find 3 surface lifts, a terrain park, tubing, and a snowsports school. Other options at Hanson Hills include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and fat tire biking.
- Two planker improvements: Hanson Hills purchased a Pisten Bully 100 to add to their cross-country trail grooming operation.
Hickory Hills Ski Area, Traverse City
8 runs with 1 beginner, 5 intermediate, and 2 advanced runs, 1 terrain park.
Owned and operated by Traverse City, Hickory Hills offers night skiing on 7 of the 8 existing runs. In addition to downhill activities, Hickory Hills offers cross-country skiing, fireplace, and snack bar.
- Looking Ahead: Hickory Hills intends to become a year-round destination in the Traverse area, with a city proposal that outlined possible uses such as an amphitheater with outside event entertainment, a challenge/ropes/adventure course, climbing wall, nature center, summer camp for kids, yoga retreat, zip line course, and an ice rink.
“We plan to host four seasonal events at Hickory Hills for the major activities onsite, including cross-country skiing, disc golf, running, and mountain biking [and] each event would use the lodge, as well as temporary facilities outdoors to support the event activities.” -Traverse City statement
Mt. Holiday, Traverse City
240′ vertical drop, 12 runs, 45 skiable acres. 30% Beginner, 40% Intermediate, 30% Advanced
Mt. Holiday is a non-profit ski area in Traverse City with affordable skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, zip lines (lift tickets are about $20 midweek or weekend evenings, or $34 for a full day weekend).
“The organization was founded to get kids outside, keep kids active and to do something other than sitting in front of the TV and playing video games.” – Mt. Holiday
- Know before you go: New concrete patio construction completed in October, providing additional open-air seating to offset restrictions on indoor seating.
- Infrastructure improvements: Modal Excavating donated time to expand the main parking area for the coming winter.
- Amenity improvements: Some ski areas are limiting indoor storage, but Mt. Holiday added 12 new lockers to the ski lodge for the upcoming season.
Mt. McSauba, Charlevoix
140′ vertical drop, 10 runs, 1 terrain park, 4 rope tow lifts
Mt. McSauba Ski Area is part of the Mt. McSauba Recreation Area operated by the City of Charlevoix Department of Parks and Recreation. More than just a ski slope, Mt. McSauba is a winter recreation playground. There is a skating rink with a warming cabin on the south side, a lighted sledding hill on the north side and behind the towering dune, a cross-country ski trail. Nubs Nob has taken Mt. McSauba under its wing by providing free engineering to help build its snowmaking system and for selling the City of Charlevoix new snowmakers at a reduced cost.
Nubs Nob, Harbor Springs
427′ vertical drop, 53 runs, 248 skiable acres, 3 terrain parks. 30% Beginner, 50% Intermediate, 20% Advanced
Nub’s Nob is a local favorite for skiers and snowboarders in northwest Michigan. Expect to find terrain that has the size and variety to keep things interesting, but without the trappings and glitz of a full-scale resort. Nubs Nob embraces this role, curating a reputation for excellent grooming, and some of the best glade runs in Michigan. Nubs Nob also brings a strong park game to northern Michigan, opening a 400′ long halfpipe in 2018-2019.
“Nub’s Nob is Nub’s Nob. We try to make it more so rather than bring in novelties that run counter to the vibe and traditions that people love here, that we love too. The terrain is unusually varied for the Midwest, and our two peaks offer slopes facing three different directions so that guests can chase the sun, hide from the wind and cover new ground over 53 runs. It’s a special place.” -Brian Boeckl, Nubs Nob
- Know before you go: Nubs does not plan to restrict ticket sales this season, nor do they plan to require online or advance purchase of lift tickets. As with all resorts, indoor seating is restricted, but Nubs plans to install plexiglass barriers to increase safety. Expect a stripped down menu at the cafeteria, and Nubs has also announced that brownbag lunches and crock-pots are not allowed in the lodge to start the season. To accommodate these restrictions, Nubs Nob added two new outdoor food service options. The first is expanded seating in the Winter Garden with a food-truck style venue that will have a limited rotating menu and draft beer options. The second is a slope side pickup window on the deck off the main lodge. This slope side pick-up window is for orders that have been placed on mobile devices and for purchasing beer or wine from the pub. Only locker holders are allowed access to the locker room this year. Plan to boot up in the car before making your way to the lifts or ticket window. For the most up-to-date information, visit Nubs Nob | Operating Plans.
- Infrastructure updates: All exterior buildings were repainted over the summer and the parking lot and entrance road were repaved.
- Amenity updates: As previously mentioned, Winter Garden is expanded for 2020-2021. Expect more seating, a fire pit, and a food truck-style venue.
- Terrain updates: Nubs Nob states that they improved the skiing on Valley by taking down the Blue Lift, removing trees, relocating snowmaking equipment and widened the slope with extensive earthwork.
Otsego Resort, Grayling
400′ vertical drop, 32 runs, 136 skiable acres, 3 terrain parks. 36% Beginner, 24% Intermediate, 38% Advanced
Otsego Resort is a four-season resort located just a mile east of downtown Gaylord. Formerly a private club, Otsego is now open to the public. New ownership has been heavily involved in operations, and has invested in extensive updates. Arguably one of the easiest of the ‘up north’ resorts to access from much of lower Michigan, Otsego offers on-site lodging, restaurants, short lift lines, terrain for all skill levels, and well-maintained terrain parks. Read Agnarchy’s full review here.
- Know before you go: Otsego Resort created outdoor dining options at the River Cabin to help mitigate indoor capacity restrictions. Expect to find tents and heaters available.
- Infrastructure updates: LED lighting installed outdoors; increased brightness at a lower cost.
- Lift ticket pricing specials: Lift tickets on Wednesday and Thursday are only $10!
Shanty Creek Resort, Bellaire
450′ vertical drop, 41 runs, 70 skiable acres, 4 terrain parks. 24% Beginner, 24% Intermediate, 51% Advanced
Conveniently located in Bellaire, just northeast of Traverse City, Shanty Creek Resort is home to a variety of winter experiences for the entire family. The three distinct villages within the resort – Summit, Schuss, and Cedar River – offer everything from downhill to cross country skiing, terrain parks and tubing to please every skill level and thrill seeker.
- Know before you go: Shanty Creek’s safety precautions for this season include an emphasis on touchless transactions. Online forms and payment options will allow visitors to rent equipment ahead of time. Guests staying in select on-site properties may elect to have equipment delivered directly to their room. Seasonal rental is also available; get the equipment early in the season and turn it in at the end of the season. All waivers are now online to reduce touch points. Grab and go food options are available to offset indoor seating restrictions.
- Food option updates: Expect to find a food truck option available near the base of the yellow or pink lift this season. Ivan’s has a new to-go window and heated outdoor seating for dining. The River Bistro and The Lakeview now have online ordering and curbside pickup. Lastly, the new CoffeeBAR has options for breakfast and lunch.
Snow Snake, Harrison
210′ vertical drop, 12 runs, 40 skiable acres, 2 terrain parks. 30% Beginner, 50% Intermediate, 20% Advanced
Besides skiing and snowboarding, Snow Snake offers tubing lanes and winter fat bike trails during winter. Snow Snake also offers zip lines, golf, and off-roading in the warmer months. The only remaining downhill ski area in the middle of the state, Snow Snake operates afternoon sessions on weeknights and all day on weekends for about $30.
- Know before you go: Snow Snake does not plan on restricting lift ticket sales. Face coverings are required and social distancing is in effect. Several fire pits with seating as well as picnic tables have been added.
The Homestead, Glen Arbor
320′ vertical drop, 15 runs, 16 skiable acres, 1 terrain park. 27% Beginner, 47% Intermediate, 27% Advanced
The Homestead is a four seasons, beachfront resort offering a wide range of unique lodging choices. Winter activities include downhill skiing and snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. The Homestead also offers spa and salon services, dining, shopping, and facilities for weddings and special events.
- Snowmaking updates: This fall the Homestead took delivery of three additional mobile snow guns. With this acquisition, the Homestead can target snowmaking to specific areas as needed.
- Know before you go: Masks and social distancing will be required.
Treetops Resort, Gaylord
225′ vertical drop, 24 runs, 80 skiable acres, 4 terrain parks. 17% Beginner, 49% Intermediate, 39% Advanced
Treetops Resort, located just west of Gaylord, prides itself in being one of the most family friendly options in northern Michigan.
“Thousands have learned to ski at Treetops over the years, as our terrain is conducive to learning. However, the expert skier will certainly find some challenge here as well. We are the perfect ski hill for the family that desires to turn their kids loose while mom and dad ski on their own or enjoy the confines of one of our restaurants. All three ski lifts converge at the same location. Thus, if you need to find your children, all you need to do is stand at the top of the slopes for 10 minutes and the kids are bound to be coming up one of those lifts.” – Kevin McKinley
- Know before you go: Treetops encourages visitors to purchase lift tickets and equipment rental in advance online. This recommendation supports Treetop’s goal to have most equipment pre-set and waiting for guest arrival to minimize line ups. Lines for lift tickets, rental, and ski school are to be staged outdoors for 2020-2021.
- Surface lift upgrades: Treetops Resort replaced the rope tow that serviced Sitzmark and Birch Run with a Magic Carpet lift.
- New Run: Treetops added a 24th run to their terrain in the offseason. The Glades is a double black diamond tree-lined run located between Hemlock Hollow and Kathryn’s Way.
Upper Peninsula Ski Resort Updates
Big Powderhorn Mountain, Bessemer
600′ vertical drop, 45 runs, 253 skiable acres, 2 terrain parks. 27% Beginner, 40% Intermediate, 31% Advanced, 2% Expert
Voted the #1 “Mom & Pop” ski resort in the country by Men’s Journal, Big Powderhorn Mountain has two full-service restaurants, a dedicated beginner lift, a charming Bavarian-style village with complimentary shuttle service, and 17 feet of annual natural snowfall.
- Maintenance updates: Big Powderhorn replaced cable lines for Lift #5 this August. The resort also added new security cameras over the summer for added security.
Big Snow Resort: Indianhead, Wakefield and Blackjack, Bessemer
Blackjack: 465′ vertical drop, 25 runs, 170 skiable acres, 1 terrain park. 16% Beginner, 32% Intermediate, 44% Advanced 8% Expert
Indianhead: 637′ vertical drop, 32 runs, 240 skiable acres, 1 terrain park. 19% Beginner, 31% Intermediate, 41% Advanced 9% Expert
Big Snow Resort offers skiers and snowboarders two mountains for the price of one lift ticket, and even provides shuttle service to take riders from one hill to the other. Besides snowboarding, Yeti forts, snowmobile rentals, and snowshoeing will provide you with plenty of things to do with the 17 feet of natural snow the resort enjoys every season. Big Snow also has lodging, restaurants, and swimming pools available for the overnighters.
- Know before you go: From reduced indoor capacity to limited shuttle seating, check out all the COVID-19 changes here.
Marquette Mountain, Marquette
600′ vertical drop, 35 runs, 169 skiable acres, 4 terrain parks. 15% Beginner, 50% Intermediate, 35% Advanced
Marquette Mountain resides on the southern side of Marquette, within view of Lake Superior. Like many of the Upper Peninsula resorts, snowboarders can expect plenty of lake effect fresh and a persistent snow base for excellent skiing throughout winter and spring. A unique feature at Marquette Mountain is a lift-accessed backcountry area with challenging drops and steep terrain. The new management at Marquette recently hosted a community forum event, and made some changes based on the feedback.
“We have a whole zone that is dedicated to backcountry. The ‘East Side’ is served by our Supreme Chairlift and consists of steep runs, glades, cliffs and drops. Our ‘ice monster’ is always a huge hit. It’s a 20’ cliff on the side of Sudden Drop with a snowmaking hydrant on top.” – Marquette Mountain
- Know before you go: To comply with indoor seating restrictions, Marquette Mountain expanded outdoor seating for the Tbar and will have warming tents available. Warming tents are subject to capacity restrictions. Equipment rental will also be moved outdoors as possible to limit the number of people in the chalet.
- Infrastructure improvements: The Marquette Mountain team has been hard at work this off-season, with improvements in the Chalet, the Snowfield chairlift, and on-hill electrical systems. Chalet improvements include renovated bathrooms and lighting, new photos on the wall, and refinished tables for an overall facelift to the facilities.
- New runs: Marquette Mountain expanded glade skiing on the west side of the during the off-season, increasing skiable acreage and improving the diversity of terrain at the resort. Marquette Mountain believes that this work in their ungroomed “back country”, combined with existing cliffs, steeps, and lake effect snow, will make the resort feel more like the Rocky Mountains than ever before.
- Snowmaking enhancements: The east side of Marquette Mountain will see snowmaking restored this season. Upgrades to pipes, pumps, and snowmaking electrical systems also occurred during the off-season; allowing the resort to run all 20 snow guns at the same time.
- Season pass updates: For the 2020-2021 season, all passholders will receive a 10% discount for food, rentals, and sports shop purchases. Children 5 and under and seniors 80 and over ski for free. Military active EMS/Fire/Police receive 10% off standard season and day passes.
Mont Ripley, Hancock
440′ vertical drop, 22 runs, 112 skiable acres, 2 terrain parks. 21% Beginner, 29% Intermediate, 42% Advanced, 8% Expert
Mont Ripley, located in Hancock on the Keweenaw Peninsula, opened in 1934, making it the oldest ski area in Michigan. Mont Ripley is owned and operated by Michigan Technical University. Students at Michigan Tech ski free as part of their tuition, but Mont Ripley is open to the public as well. Night skiing is available Monday-Saturday from January to March.
Mont Ripley boasted 368 inches of snow last season, and its location in the Keweenaw sets it up for lake effect dumps on a regular basis. In fact, the city of Hancock leads the state of Michigan for snowfall, and the Weather Channel ranks them #3 in the country for snowfall.
“Mont Ripley is a very challenging hill, with many runs that we leave ungroomed because they’re too steep for any groomer. We leave those runs for powder, which we get a lot of…the quality of the skiers and snowboarders at Mont Ripley is extremely high because of our difficulty.” – Nick Sirdenis, General Manager
- Know before you go: Season passes, day tickets, and equipment rentals are now available online. Online purchases may be picked up at the new outside ticket window, soon to be located on the east side of the chalet on the upper deck. Rental pick up will also be outdoors for 2020-2021, located just outside of the rental door. Mont Ripley also added additional covered outdoor seating and warming areas in addition to the main chalet and race room. These areas will be designated for ticket holders wishing to warm up. Lastly, due to the limited capacity inside the chalet and Huski Cafe area, there are changes for the Saturday morning kid’s program. You may now choose the morning or the afternoon session, or both for your little skiers and snowboarders ages 5-8. The 6-week program begins January 9th. Visit Mont Ripley | Ski Well Be Well for full details.
Mount Bohemia and Voodoo Mountain, Lac Labelle
Bohemia: 900′ vertical drop, 102 runs, 585 skiable acres. 0% Beginner, 1% Intermediate, 88% Advanced 11% Expert
Voodoo Mountain: 700′ vertical drop, 26 runs, 200 skiable acres. 0% Beginner, 0% Intermediate, 50% Advanced, 50% Expert
The slogan “No beginners allowed” isn’t just a marketing gimmick. Mount Bohemia is the beast of the Midwest, and has the highest vertical in the state; known for ungroomed, wild, and steep tree runs with cliff drops and deep snow. The word has gotten out on Bohemia, and it is often included on “best of” lists with Rocky Mountain resorts, but the remoteness and limited accommodation options has kept it from becoming completely overrun- for now. Mount Bohemia is lift and shuttle-serviced, while Voodoo Mountain is their cat skiing operation. Accommodations include on-site hostel, yurts, and cabins.
- Know before you go: Day pass limitations are planned, and tickets must be purchased online. At this time there is no reservation system in place. Due to the fluidity of this policy, we recommend contacting Mount Bohemia for updates as the season progresses. Food and drinks are carryout only, no one will be allowed indoors during the day except for bathroom use. Mount Bohemia stated that lodging is available in cabins and yurts, but the hostel will not be available this season. However, Mount Bohemia converted a common building into a trailside cabin, explaining that it will house up to ten people. For visitors camping in the lot, Mount Bohemia will provide a portable toilet in the lot and a water spigot, and hope to keep the yurt bathroom available. Consider all events in the base yurts canceled through January.
“The best days to ski/ride Bohemia are Monday through Thursday. A powder day during midweek literally means fresh tracks all day long. This year to make it even better we plan on running both chairlifts every day,” -Mount Bohemia
- Food ordering changes: As mentioned, all food and drinks are takeout-only. To help minimize contact during the pandemic, all orders for tickets, food, beer, and merchandise purchases will be through mobile app. While many resorts are stripping down the menu, Mount Bohemia is adding crepes to the menu for 2020-2021.
- Uphill lift changes: Due to capacity restrictions on the bus, Mount Bohemia plans to run the double chair daily.
- Showshoes: Mount Bohemia launched a new snowshoe resort for the upcoming season. The yet-to-be-named resort has 18 miles of snowshoe trails.
- Looking ahead: Mount Bohemia plans to expand lodging by building on Little Boho Ridge overlooking Lac la Belle. The resort is fielding customer feedback on the style of lodging. Visit them on Instagram and share your thoughts!
Mt. Zion, Ironwood
300′ vertical drop, 10 runs, 20 skiable acres. 25% Beginner, 50% Intermediate, 25% Advanced
Located on the campus of Gogebic Community College, Mt. Zion is the oldest winter recreation complex in “Big Snow Country.” Owned and operated by GCC, Mt. Zion is open to the public. This complex also serves as a laboratory for the college’s nationally recognized Ski Area Management Program. Known for very reasonable rates, Mt. Zion has numerous “Learn to Ski and Snowboard Programs” for children, and a snow-tubing park.
Pine Mountain Resort, Iron Mountain
500′ vertical drop, 27 runs, 160 skiable acres, 3 terrain park. 20% Beginner, 55% Intermediate, 25% Advanced
Fun fact: Pine Mountain is home to something you won’t normally see at a ski resort; one of the highest artificially created ski jumps in the world. Follow Pine Mountain on Facebook for ski jumping events this winter. New owners purchased Pine Mountain Resort, located in Iron Mountain, in 2017. Since then, significant investment into capital improvements took place for lodging and on-hill experience.
“Pine Mountain Resort offers the only ski-in/ski-out resort in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and the most family friendly resort in the area. We have skiing and lodging to entertain your entire family. All newly remodeled!” -Pine Mountain Resort
- Looking ahead: Pending financing and opportunity, Pine Mountain would like to increase chairlift capacity. Look for these improvements in future seasons.
600′ vertical drop, 15 runs
The Porcupine Mountains Ski Area, located just inside the entrance of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, offers a breathtaking view of Lake Superior to skiers and snowboarders. The ski hill offers 15 groomed trails, as well as four glade trails. Cross-country ski trails are also accessible from the ski area, as well as ski and snowshoe rentals. With views this special, there’s no rush to get to the bottom of the hill. The ski area is also home to the Snowburst Winter Carnival in February and the Porcupine Mountains Music Festival every August. In fall, the hill also hosts fall color rides on the ski lift.
- Know before you go: Masks and social distancing will be required. Porcupine Mountain will be following the guidelines provided by the State of Michigan.
Ski Brule Resort, Iron River
500′ vertical drop, 17 runs, 150 skiable acres, 3 terrain parks. 35% Beginner, 35% Intermediate, 24% Advanced, 6% Expert
Ski Brule in Iron River, is a family-centered resort that has made a commitment to be the first to open (sometimes as early as October) in Michigan because of its location and snowmaking capabilities. The Rapids and Snowshoe Terrain Parks make it a favorite of snowboarders and there’s a Learn To Ride program that’s free for first-timers, age 10 and up. The Homestead Lodge is popular and has the built-in coziness of a family homestead dating to 1891. Expect to find a tubing park on the Whitewater Trail.
- Know before you go: Ski Brule usually wins the race for the first resort to open in Michigan, but due to uncertainty with COVID-19, the resort will not make snow this year, and instead will rely on natural snow pack for ski operations. The resort does not anticipate opening in November, and cannot set an opening date due to the uncertainty of reliance on natural snow. Once open, terrain will be limited due to snow cover and conditions, the resort does not expect to build terrain parks this season. Hours are greatly reduced, with operations limited to Friday-Sunday and holidays. Expect a limited food and drink menu for the season. Ski Brule may limit day ticket sales. In the event of limits, lodging guests and season passholders will receive priority for lift tickets. Childcare and Skiwee facilities will not be in operation in 2020-2021. For a full list of what to expect, visit Ski Brule | Operational Changes.
- Cancellations: Ski Brule will not have lessons, sleigh rides, tubing, or shuttle bus service this winter. Ski Brule will not host race camps or race events this winter.