January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard month, and throughout the Midwest ski areas are offering discounted lesson programs. Michigan offers the only statewide program, which is available at ski areas throughout the Wolverine State. None of the other Heartland state associations offer a statewide program for easy access, cost, and simplicity. The nice thing is that if you live near either one of Michigan's peninsulas you can cross the border and enroll in a ski area near you.
The Michigan Snowsports Industries Association (MSIA) and Minnesota Ski Areas Association offer passport programs that allow elementary-age kids to give skiing and snowboarding a try for free. In Michigan, it covers both fourth and fifth graders. Minnesota’s program covers just fourth graders. Surprisingly Wisconsin, the Heartland state just behind Michigan for a number of ski areas doesn't offer such a program.
It’s been a great winter across the Heartland. Lots of snow still on the slopes, longer days to enjoy them, and many areas celebrate the season with spring carnivals. SnoCountry takes a look.
The recent cold snap to hit the Heartland brought with it some great snow conditions for Midwest ski areas. The coldest weather that forced many to suspend operations for two or three days fortunately came midweek. The bookend weekends brought out good crowds with great slope conditions.
Michigan snowboarder David Zemens and friend Sabato Caputo have set a new North American record for snowboarding the most ski areas in a 24-hour period. They were able to hit 16 ski areas starting Friday evening, Jan. 11 in the northern half of the Lower Peninsula and ending Saturday evening on Jan. 12 near Detroit.
The Heartland is known for its family skiing and time together on the slopes, but, as often the case, family members take off in different directions. It’s not always easy to find slopes that can accommodate all members, but SnoCountry has found five resorts with runs that can keep all members interested and together.
January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month. Throughout the Midwest ski areas are offering discounted lesson programs. Michigan offers one of the best programs for cost and simplicity, and it’s available at ski areas throughout the Wolverine State.
“Wow, that’s inspiring but I don’t think my knees will last that long!” exclaimed a thirty-something dude on the chairlift.
I had shared that I had just photographed members of the 70+ Ski Club racing, including some in their eighties and nineties.
The 2018-19 winter is off to a great start all across the Midwest. Most ski areas across the upper tier of the Heartland and around the Great Lakes opened in November, and the rest across the Lower Midwest, Ohio, Indiana and Missouri, opened this past weekend or scheduled to open next weekend.
The Michigan Snowsports Industries Association (MSIA) is offering a White Gold Card that allows you to ski or snowboard a full day at 33 Michigan ski areas, and Skiing Wisconsin offers a coupon book allowing you a day at 17 participating Badger State ski areas. It keeps your lift ticket cost for the day to around $8.
The Michigan Snowsports Industries Association (MSIA) and Minnesota Ski Areas Association offer passport programs allowing elementary age kids the chance to try skiing and snowboarding for free. In Michigan it covers both fourth and fifth graders, and Minnesota’s program covers fourth graders.
Winter has arrived across the upper Midwest. Many ski areas and resorts are opening this weekend, and Thanksgiving Weekend also looks good if you want to get away for that first ski trip of the new season.
Nubs spring runs are silky smooth. (Nubs Nob/Facebook)
With snow in the forecast this week across the upper Midwest and plenty of snow still on the slopes the snowsports season is extending into April, and a couple may stay open into May.
Overlooking Nub's Nob slopes. (Nub's Nob)
Nub's Nob, known throughout the Midwest for meticulous grooming and snow conditions, is actually a pair of 427-foot peaks that encompasses 53 trails and numerous glades scattered over 248 skiable acres. It’s an array of imposing steep, western-like slopes in front, narrow intermediate runs with a New England feel on the southwest side, and open bowls on the north side. Pintail Peak with its stunning overlook of Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay is a separate outback experience. They routinely stay open through early April.
Lou Batori, the oldest known skier, takes a run down Crystal Mountain slopes last year at 106 years old. (Crystal Mountain)
Getting older carries with it some pretty special benefits if you’re a skier or snowboarder. There are 15 resorts scattered across the Midwest that allows seniors to ski or ride free at a certain age.
Crystal Mountain kids in lesson. (Crystal Mountain)
Many state and industry programs are offered throughout the west and east allowing elementary age kids the chance to give skiing and snowboarding a try throughout the winter. The Michigan Snowsports Industries Association (MSIA) offers one of the best in my opinion. It’s the only statewide program I could find being offered in the Midwest.
Great snow makes for happy snowboarders at Shanty Creek. (Shanty Creek/Facebook)
While results for the just finished Midwest snowsports season aren’t finalized yet at least northern Michigan resorts and ski areas are reporting they had a good season.
Families enjoy Giants Ridge and the giant views. (Jim Balfour)
Spring has come early to the Heartland this winter and most of the ski areas across the lower Midwest have closed. The best bets for some late season spring skiing into April are all centered across the northern Great Lakes, and the longer, warmer, sun filled days provide some of the best conditions of the winter.
Slush cups are part of spring fun in Michigan. (Shanty Creek)
Despite a record warm February across the Great Lakes that saw some ski areas across southern Michigan, Indiana and Ohio call it a season all ready, slopes in northern Michigan are still well covered. March’s longer, warmer days bring out the fun side of northern Michigan’s ski resorts.
Kid’s Festival Weekend takes place at Boyne Mountain, March 10-12, with all kinds of events planned for kids of every age. At Boyne Highlands the eighth annual Brew-Ski Festival happens March 10-11. Lodging packages are available for both events.
Krazy Daze events include slaloms, jump the pond competition, tailgate parties, face painting, and costume judging. On Saturday there are GS races, a Silly Slalom, and, of course, a pond skimming event.
Carnival Weekend brings out the beads, bands, and costume competitions. Check out the on-hill party at Victor Warming House on Saturday. There’s outside cookouts on the Stein Eriksen Patio and live music. The spectator friendly Slush Cup takes place on Sunday. Carnival weekend packages start from $160 per person, per night.
Nubs Nob hosts Mardi Gras March 18. A family oriented event with fun and games for all; the Soaker Cup, Costume contest, Crazy Couples, races and the Petoskey Steel Drum Band on the deck.
Crystal Mountain is celebrating sun and snow with March on the Mountain. The Spring Carnival, which includes the, cardboard classic and slush cup, takes place March 10-11. The following weekend, March 17-18, is Celts and Kayaks featuring an on slope downhill kayak race, another slush cup and Celtic dancing. Retro Weekend takes place March 24-25 with a mountain run, bike races and a free slopeside concert. Friday, March 10, is 6-for-$60. Grab six friends and head for Crystal. You can’t beat an all-mountain $10 lift ticket.
The resort is offering 25-percent off peak season lodging rates throughout the month of March in limited quantities.
Shanty Creek is hosting their Cardboard Classic March 11 and Blarney Stone Rail Jam March 18. Lift and lodging packages start from $97 per person, per night, and include breakfast. Children eight and under always sleep and ski free when staying with parents.
It’s that time of year to get out and enjoy the slopes before the season ends, and have some fun along the way.
Crystal Mountain skiers slicing through the trees. (Crystal Mountain)
Glade skiing and the backcountry, popular out West and in the East, doesn’t take a backseat in the Heartland. Ski areas located across the upper tier of the Midwest offer some fine tree runs, even a few cliff jumps.
When you think backcountry skiing, Upper Michigan’s Mt. Bohemia is legendary. All backcountry, it offers the only cat skiing east of the Rockies. In Powder Magazine's annual reader poll of the best backcountry powder in North America, Bohemia routinely comes out on top in the East and finished in the top four overall one year. There’s a 900-foot vertical drop spread out over 600 acres with cliffs, chutes, trees, steep drops, all natural snow and nothing groomed. The cat skiing is off 700-foot Voodoo Mountain where runs tumble down towards Lake Superior. Annual average lake effect snow is 270-inches. It’s the only Heartland area that is truly “backcountry.”
In addition there are six other ski resorts in Lower Michigan, two in Wisconsin, and one each in Minnesota and South Dakota that offer glade skiing. There’s no backcountry but alluring glades off to the side of groomed runs and some nice swaths in between runs.
The Mountain has three advanced glades and the Highlands four scattered across the ridge. Nubs has seven glades that stretch across the front side, south side and Pintail Peak. One of their upper glade slopes can be accessed only by hiking up; just like out West.
Caberfae Peaks has a 25-acre area off the backside of North Peak marked as backcountry terrain. It’s been gladed and is nice and wide offering plenty of lines.
Wisconsin’s Granite Peak offers several acres of glades in between widely spaced runs scattered across the mountain. Minnesota’s Lutsen Mountains has glade runs scattered across three of their mountains, many well away from the groomed runs offering seclusion like you would find out West.
It can be an exhilarating experience. Just be careful, always looking ahead, bring friend and helmets required.