The Farmers Almanac is forecasting a winter with below-average temperatures for the Great Lakes Region and skiers and boarders can look forward to a fun-filled winter with plenty of places to enjoy Michigan’s snow-filled slopes and trails. With a combined total of 50 ski areas, boasting over 260 lifts, about 1,000 runs, more than 70 terrain parks and hundreds of kilometers of groomed cross-country 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.
The following is a rundown of improvements and special offers for the 2013-2014 season. It is important to note that early bird specials abound. Most ski areas offer discounts on season ski passes if they are purchased before the snow flies. For more information, visit goskimichigan.com, which has quick links to Michigan ski area websites.
1. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula slopes are busy getting ready for winter. At Blackjack Resort in Bessemer, they have continued their snowmaking improvements with the addition of a new pump and more snow guns. They also purchased a new snow cat for grooming and sculpting terrain parks. They have added more glade skiing (runs cut through the trees), which will serve as mountain bike trails in the summer. They are also adding terrain park features in the woods. The lodge has received a facelift as well, with a new, inviting entranceway and a fireplace in the bar area to keep the party going once the slopes close. (906) 229-5115, skiblackjack.com.
2. Pine Mountain in Iron Mountain will have three terrain parks – a beginner, intermediate and advanced park all levels of skiers and riders to enjoy. All terrain parks are accessible from Pine Mountain’s triple lift and all are hittable in one run. The advanced park, Boneyard, also includes a paddle tow. Pine Mountain features, night skiing Wednesday through Saturday and $15 lift tickets Tuesday through Thursday. Seniors 60+ receive discounted lift tickets and up to two kids 12 and under ski free with the purchase of an adult lift ticket. (906) 774-2747 or 1-877-553-PINE, pinemountainresort.com.
3. Mount Bohemia, Michigan’s extreme skiing area located in the Keweenaw Peninsula, is opening another new backcountry section called Middle Earth. This new area has five runs through the forest with a few small chutes in some of the runs. Middle Earth is located in the far east of Mount Bohemia just past the Outer Limits. Powder Magazine recently named Mt. Bohemia #1 East of the Rockies for “Powder per skier.” The magazine looked at vertical drop, snowfall and acreage per skier to make their determinations. In addition, season passes are just $99 if purchased on December 7. (231) 420-5405, mtbohemia.com
4. Marquette Mountain in Marquette offers all Seniors (65+) and Military personnel a lift ticket for just $27 anytime they are open. In addition, kids nine and under ski free with an adult lift purchase. Other lift ticket specials are listed on the Marquette Mountain website. (906) 225-1155 or 1-800-944-SNOW, marquettemountain.com
5. Mont Ripley in Houghton has also made changes by increasing the size of their rental department and ski shops. (906) 487-2340. mtu.edu/mont-ripley
6. Ski Brule in Iron River is teaming up with school districts in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois to reward students with good grades and attendance. Students who earn perfect attendance or all “A” status during the first or second marking periods will receive a free day of skiing or snowboarding. The free day includes a lift ticket, rental, and lesson. Purchasing lift tickets in advance can reap savings. Prior to December 24, advance lift tickets are $35 and are valid anytime during the 2013/14 season. 1-800-DO BRULE, skibrule.com
7. Heading into the Lower Peninsula Nub’s Nob Ski Area of Harbor Springs purchased another new snow grooming machine manufactured by Pisten Bully. To improve their ski and snowboard wax and tuning process, they replaced their equipment with a new fully automated WINTERSTEIGER Mercury model, which represents the latest ski and snowboard tuning technology. In addition, the National Ski Patrol System named the Nub’s Nob Ski Patrol “Outstanding Patrol in the Nation,” and Outside Magazine named their terrain park the number one in the Midwest. The lodge has also received new carpet and the grey chairlift has a fresh coat of paint. Adults 70+ and kids eight and under ski free at Nub’s Nob. (231) 526-2131 or 1-800-SKI-NUBS, nubsnob.com
8. Also in Harbor Springs, Boyne Highlands is celebrating its 50th season and adding 31 Boyne Low-E fan guns, a new PistenBully 400 winch cat, more rental equipment including 90 sets of Head skis and boots and 60 new Burton Learn to Ride boards, expanding The Spa with a new nail salon servicing manicures and pedicures, and offering guests a remodeled Main Lodge pool. Also new is a 110-foot suspended rope bridge creating new adventures for Boyne Highlands’ Zipline Adventure Tour available in the winter and summer seasons. Boyne Highlands will commemorate their 50th season – and celebrate its rich history, which includes being the home of the world’s first triple chairlifts - with a weekend of festivities on January 31-February 2, 2014 and additional activities throughout the season. 1-800-GO-BOYNE, BOYNE.com.
9. At Boyne Mountain in Boyne Falls, the 2013/14 season brings 20 additional Boyne Low-E fan guns, a new PistenBully 400 winch cat, new extreme body slide at Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark, renovated Boynehof Lodge rooms, and an expanded fleet of rental equipment including 230 sets of Head skis and boots and 95 Burton Learn to Ride boards. In the Clock Tower Lodge, guests will notice a fresh look this winter with new furnishings, lighting, and carpet in the hotel lobby and slope viewing area, and a revamped exercise room. Michigan’s first SuperLOOP slide is set to open in December 2013 in Avalanche Bay, Michigan’s largest indoor waterpark. The ride named The Big Couloir features a trap door dropping riders into the extreme body slide and traveling at speeds up to 38 feet per second before finishing with a splash. The Boynehof Lodge’s stylish new rooms have a European vibe and feature custom artwork, hand-painted details, knotty pine and log accents, wet bar with pebblestone backsplash, all-new fixtures, draperies, and bedding package, fresh paint, a new flat-screen TV and mini fridge. 1-800-GO-BOYNE, BOYNE.com.
10. At both Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands, anyone 80+ or 5 and under skis free every day, and both resorts offer free beginner areas. Together, Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain have received nearly $3 million in upgrades for the coming winter season.
11. In Gaylord, Treetops Resort reports that the resort will be open seven-days-a-week this winter. In addition, Olympic Snowboard Coach Tom Hutchinson will return to Treetops as an instructor. Treetops will also feature the Big AIRbag for a full season as well as an expanded Terrain Park and new features including a Boarder Cross Course. Rental equipment has recently been revamped and skis, boots, snowboards, snowblades, snowshoes and cross country skis are now available. They recently added a new tower snow gun and a Prinoth Groomer to their snowmaking/grooming arsenal. Treetops also offers some special reduced-rate season pass programs. Any student 8 and older who has a grade-point average GPA of 3.0 or above will qualify for a dramatically reduced rate season pass. The special rates are only available through December 24. For the very young and the young-at-heart, skiing is also very affordable at Treetops. Senior citizens 70+ and kids under 8 are eligible to receive a season pass for just $15. 1-888-TREETOPS, treetops.com.
12. There are plenty of improvements at Shanty Creek Resorts in Bellaire, including a new fleet of rental equipment from Volkl, Marker, Dalbello, Tecnica, K2, Burton and Scott; new ski school leadership and improved lesson programs; family-friendly, lower lift ticket prices for children 9-12 years old; more discounted ticket and rental options available online for advanced purchase; and “Summit Only” lift tickets—Michigan’s best value—starting at only $15 on weekends. In addition, there are improvements to snowmaking infrastructure and capacity; improvements to Schuss Mountain’s Monster Park and the Big Air Launch Pad; improvements to the racing and NASTAR infrastructure and facilities; more mid-day Saturday and Sunday slope grooming for improved snow conditions throughout the day; lodging improvements on property-managed units at Summit Village and Cedar River Village and more time to ski at Schuss Mountain with extended hours and a ski season scheduled through March 31. Seniors 70+ and kids eight and under can purchase a lift ticket for $5 or a season pass for just $24. Kids 8 and under ski free when lodging or in ski school at Shanty Creek Resorts. (231) 533-8621 shantycreek.com.
13. The Homestead in Glen Arbor is celebrating their 30th year of skiing. To commemorate this milestone, they have special events, a sweepstakes and discounts all winter long, including cooking classes an art & wine event, Elan ski demo day and a freestyle ski clinic/free ski day for kids with professional freestyle skier Rebecca Selig. Over the summer, Beppi’s courtyard was renovated to include outdoor dining, which will be open this winter and feature high-top bistro tables, a bar and two gas fire pits. CQ’s Cabin, the resort’s breakfast and lunch/warming area, was remodeled and now operates as a ‘scatter’ cafeteria providing unique, healthy, and indulgent food for breakfast or dinner. Guests coming to ski school will also be pleasantly surprised with upgrades and renovations that make the area a great place to warm up and watch the little ones on the pony tow run. At The Homestead, season passes are passé. They now offer a very new, very personal pass called “ONE,” which can be modified to include many amenities offered at The Homestead, including equipment for the season, a fitness membership and any number of salon or spa visits at a savings. In addition, senior citizens 70+ can ski for free and kids eight and under ski free with a paying adult. (231) 334-5000, thehomesteadresort.com.
14. Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville continues to make significant improvements on and off the ski slopes with $4 million worth of investments and three new runs to challenge skiers and riders for the 2013/14 ski season. The new ski-under Buck Quad Chairlift will move more skiers per hour to the top of the hill, and add skiable terrain including the new Buckaroo slope and Buck Glades. A new Gorge Glades area will also be part of the improved and expanded terrain. Improvements related to this project include re-contouring the signature Buck ski run, expanding the arrival zone at the top of the hill and adding a fleet of new snow guns with automation capability. Crystal has also invested in a Winch Cat groomer, which can push large amounts of snow uphill, permitting some grooming in steep areas such as the Gorge. When skiers need a break to refuel, they’ll be treated to more improvements inside Crystal Mountain’s main lodge. The Wild Tomato has undergone a complete remodel including a brand new kitchen and a new menu with more locally sourced, seasonal choices. The recently remodeled Clipper Café has again been improved with more seating near the fireplace. Crystal is also continuing to invest in its lodging options with more than $1 million in improvements that include completely remodeled Wintergreen units, new public spaces in the Hamlet, and upgrades at the Inn at the Mountain. Other investments include development of Trailside, a neo-traditional residential community located along the Mountain Ridge Golf Course. 1-800-968-7686 or (231) 378-2000, crystalmountain.com.
15. Caberfae Peaks in Cadillac has been busy making improvements on the slopes and in the lodge. The slopes have 15 new snowmaking towers equipped with new snow guns and over 1,000 feet of snowmaking pipe, allowing for better flow and increased water pressure. This season Caberfae will offer backcountry terrain for the adventuresome. Take warning! There is no lift access, no grooming and no snowmaking. Skiers and boarders enter at their own risk. Improvements to the base area include a renovated hotel lobby and the adjoining Beatie’s Bar & Grill, plus the addition of a renovated dorm room with 18 bunk beds for the budget-minded visitor. Those who purchase a season pass from Caberfae Peaks will also enjoy discounts at other Midwest resorts including Crystal Mountain, Shanty Creek and Searchmont. (231) 862-3000, caberfaepeaks.com.
16. Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon cut a new trail, called Lynne’s Run and this winter snow bikes will be able to tour the area on 11 miles of groomed trails. Kids 16 and under receive a facilities pass for just $4, any day. Silver Streek weeks – January 13 – 17 and March 3 – 7 offer discounts for anyone 55 and older. Every full moon during the ski season (snow permitting) Cross Country Ski Headquarters will light the Trapper’s Cabin ski trail with torches, creating a truly unique and memorable nighttime experience. (989) 821-6661 crosscountryski.com.
17. Hanson Hills Recreation Area in Grayling installed new lighting on their back cross-country trail, which will be groomed by a new Tidd Tech Groomer complete with an electronic actuated Track Setter. The rental department received new downhill and cross-country equipment and the lodge received a new “Family/handicap” restroom. 1-888-876-2196, hansonhills.org. In addition, Cross Country Ski Headquarters and Hanson Hills have joined to create the Hanson Hills/XC Ski HQ Paintball Biathlon Series, March 22 – 23. Paintball Biathlon Series welcomes men, women, and kids to compete in this 2-day event, combining cross-country skiing with paintball target shooting. Paintball guns are provided. Contact either ski area for more information.
18. Mt. Holiday in Traverse City has added a new rope tow and four new features to their terrain park. They will also open a second park area this winter. Adults 70+ and kids 6 and under ski free at Mt. Holiday. (231) 938-2500 mt-holiday.com.
19. At Snow Snake Ski & Golf in Harrison they’ve been busy updating their fleet of rental equipment, purchasing new boots and skis for the shop. The ski patrol facility also received upgrades this summer, along with the basement meeting space. Snow Snake continues to invest in snow making equipment, to ensure a snowy winter. In addition, anyone 70 years and older or six years an under skis for free. (989) 539-6583, snowsnake.net.
20. The folks at Cannonsburg in Belmont, have inked an agreement with MC Sports to establish a new retail entity called The Shop at Cannonsburg by MC Sports. The shop will provide exciting new brands and services to Cannonsburg skiers and riders. (616) 874-6711 cannonsburg.com.
21. Apple Mountain in Freeland allows children 6 and under to ski for free with the purchase of an adult lift ticket. (989) 781-6789 applemountain.com.
22. Heading to southwestern Michigan, Timber Ridge Ski Area of Gobles has expanded its tubing area. Kids 7 and under ski free with a paying adult and anyone 60 and over gets half-off the price of a full-day ticket anytime at Timber Ridge. There are also discounts for military families and college students. 800-253-2928 timberridgeski.com.
23. At Bittersweet in Otsego, adults 60+ receive a $5 lift ticket rate reduction and 10% off season passes plus kids six and under enjoy half-price lift and rental equipment. (269) 694-2820 skibittersweet.com.
24. Swiss Valley in Jones offers anyone 60 years and older half-price lift ticket and ski or snowboard rental. They also offer a 2 for 1 season ski passes for anyone 60 and older as well. Each day of the week Swiss Valley offers different discounts. Visit their website for details. (269) 244-5635 skiswissvalley.com.
25. In Southeast Michigan the crews at Mt. Brighton are busy with a $10 million facelift. The renovation is part of an effort by its new owner, Colorado-based Vail Resorts Management Co., to modernize the 53-year-old resort. Vail Resorts bought Mt. Brighton last December and began the upgrades in June. Vail is completely overhauling Mt. Brighton’s snowmaking system, which includes adding 43 snow-making guns; 17,000 feet of pipe to transport water for snow-making; 92 hydrants to hold water for the process; and an automated pump house. In addition, they are replacing the chairlifts; re-grading the beginner hill; expanding the race hill; creating a new terrain park designed by Snow Park Technologies and renovating the lodge to include a new table service restaurant, quick serve restaurant, bars, kitchens, meeting space, and an expanded children’s ski and snowboard school to improve the learning experience. 1-888-222-7521 mtbrighton.com.
26. Nearby, Alpine Valley in White Lake Township is improving its snowmaking machinery by adding 15 new snow guns and underground snow-making capabilities. The ski area has also remodeled a deck at the front of the lodge. 248.887.2180 skialpinevalley.com.
27. Pine Knob in Clarkston offers seniors 65 and over and U.S. Military personnel $5 off any regularly priced lift ticket. Lift tickets for kids 6 and under are half price. 248) 625-0800 skipineknob.com.
28. Mt. Holly of Holly has been busy, adding 10 more snow machines, moving dirt on the Thunderbolt to create a better ski-through area and installing a variable-speed drive system on Lift 7 to provide easier loading for skiers of all abilities. (248) 634-8269 skimtholly.com.