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.
A scenic view of Nubs Nob slopes overlooking Little Traverse Bay valley. (Nubs Nob)
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. It’s the perfect time to consider a romantic getaway with a little skiing and riding. It falls midweek this year, which means lower package prices. Here are some of the best choices around the Great Lakes.
Twin City residents have Lutsen Resort, one of the “grand old resorts” along Lake Superior’s North Shore, and it’s located just across the road from Lutsen Mountains, the Heartland’s largest snowsports resort. Minnesota Monthly Magazine calls it “most romantic resort in the state.” They offer a Romance Package, two nights lodging, breakfast daily, one dinner and champagne in your room, from $386 midweek. They offer guests roundtrip free shuttle service to the ski hill, just minutes away. Buy your Lutsen Mountains lift tickets online and save $20 per adult on two-day lift tickets.
Wisconsin’s Granite Peak and Wausau make a nice romantic combo for Milwaukee and Chicago couples. The city is draped around the base of Rib Mountain. At night the ski area illuminates the mountain rising above the city. The Jefferson Street Inn, located on the town square, offers a Romantic Getaway that includes a two-night stay in a two-room suite with in-room whirlpool and fireplace, lift tickets for two days and a couple’s message. The package starts from around $700.
Detroit couples look northward for a couple of romantic getaways. Many Chicagoland skiers also head to northern Michigan for getaways.
Stafford’s Bay View Inn, located in Petoskey often called the “Nantucket of the Midwest,” offers a Hit The Slopes package that starts from $299 midweek, two guests per room. It includes two nights lodging, a country breakfast each morning, and two vouchers for a day’s lift ticket at either Boyne Highlands or Nubs Nub, both nearby. Superb dining, charm and hospitality make this a memorable Valentine’s stay.
The Homestead Resort, nestled in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore overlooking Lake Michigan, offers a Winter Stay & Dine package that includes two night’s lodging, hot breakfast each morning and dinner at Nonna’s their signature restaurant one evening. Rates start from $89 per person, per night, and all day lift tickets can be added for around $30 per person, per day. It’s only open weekends for skiing and riding.
Join Boyne Highlands for a beginner lesson and some smiles. (Boyne Mountain)
If you’ve wanted to give winter sports a try there’s no better time if you’re a Michigan resident or living just across the border in Indiana or Wisconsin.
Michigan Snowsports Industries Association (MSIA) and McDonald’s Restaurants have teamed up to offer an affordable lesson program for both adults and children. It covers downhill skiing, snowboarding and cross country skiing.
The Discover Michigan Ski program includes a beginner lesson, ski or snowboard rental, and a beginner area lift pass or cross country trail pass at 27 of the state’s top ski areas. The program is available throughout the month of January. The cost for the program, which is open to everyone from 7 on up, is $20 for a cross country skiing lesson and $35 for a downhill skiing or snowboarding lesson.
Signing up is easy. The Discover Michigan Ski vouchers are available at participating Michigan McDonald Restaurants and selected ski shops while quantities last. A printable version is also available by visiting the MSIA website. The voucher lists participating ski areas. You must pre-register with the area.
“It’s been very popular program in past years,” Mickey McWilliams, longtime MSIA executive director, told SnoCountry. “It offers an affordable way to give snow sports a try, and many keep up with it after that initial lesson. We’ve been offering this program in January for several years now, and in that time a few thousand people, both young and old, have come out to give winter sports a try.”
A sampling of participating areas includes some of the larger resorts in the state; Boyne Mountain, Boyne Highlands, Nubs Nob, Shanty Creek, Treetops in northern Lower Michigan, and Bittersweet, Timber Ridge and Apple Mountain in the southern part of the Lower Peninsula. Big Powderhorn, Ski Brule and Marquette Mountain in the UP are just a few of the participating ski areas.