Look at Otsego Ski Club, near Gaylord, Mich., if you want to ride with the big dogs in the Midwest.
They have one of only a handful of Olympic-sized halfpipes scattered across the country and the only one in the Heartland. Otsego Club is hosting the U.S. National Snowboard Team this month, and other international snowboard teams are rumored to be coming as well; including the Australian and New Zealand teams.
Last season no less than 12 top international teams stopped by the Midwest resort for a little training as they prepared for the 2010 Winter Olympics. The Australian and New Zealand teams were among them.
"The halfpipe is just like the Olympic model, and this is why we're coming back to train here," New Zealand rider James Hamilton said, when he was here during the holidays. "It's world-class and as good a pipe as you will find in the world. The resort has a great set up."
Otsego, which is actually a private ski club, opened to the public for the first time in 60 years last season on Thursdays and Fridays and will continue again this season. Michigan snowboarders can finally experience, arguably, one of the best all-mountain terrain parks in the Midwest.
The O Park features the region's only 22-foot superpipe, as well as a variety of rails, jibs, and custom wall rides. This unique park is similar to some of the great terrain parks snowboarding enthusiasts and twin-tippers enjoy at Western ski resorts in Park City, Winter Park, and Vail.
"The O Park has created a level playing field for elite riders in the Midwest who want to train in an environment to get them ready for the world stage," General Manager Kris Klay told OnTheSnow. "We've definitely seen a greater interest in the club from Midwest families around the region. Especially from those with young kids competing in snowboard events; it's a chance for them to seek new skill levels."
Families who want to spend a weekend at Otsego Club can check out their Test Drive Weekend Package, available to the public based on availability. Weekend packages start from $595 for a family of four, including two-nights' lodging, two adult lift tickets, two kids' lift tickets, and breakfast daily in the Duck Blind Grille. Lift tickets are good for Friday arrival, all day Saturday, and all day Sunday.
The resort has an Old World charm you won't find anywhere else in the Heartland, and the dining borders on gourmet. It's truly a unique setting; not your typical ski resort.