A ski resort with terrain for all levels and closeby lodging, lots of apres ski activities and a good ski school make for great vacations on snow.
Winters in populous Michigan are cold and snowy, so it's no surprise that the state is rich in ski resorts. In fact, it's second in the nation and sports over 40 alpine resorts. (New York, if you're curious, claims 43 resorts.)
When visitors and locals think of vacationing in the Land of the Lakes, they also think of the state slogan that says about everything you need to know: “Pure Michigan.” The campaign began in 2006 fueled by millions of dollars of promotional funds and the voice of comedian Tim Allen, who grew up and attended college in the state.
Michigan is significantly “pure” for winter lovers like us because the state is home to many downhill ski areas (second only to New York); more than 6,200 miles of maintained, interconnected snowmobile trails and the Upper Peninsula alone offers 3,000 miles of groomed trails. All this and Motown, too.
Boyne Highlands offers the most vertical, longest runs and steepest terrain around. There is a 552-foot vertical spread over 435 acres with plenty of lodging at the base. Ski or ride day or night. It's near its sister resort, Boyne Mountain, as well. There's a 13-foot half pipe to keep snowboarders happy and a high-speed quad to help serve 435 skiable acres.
Boyne Mountain is a longtime favorite of Michigan skiers. There have been numerous upgrades in the past few years. Don't miss the Avalanche Bay Indoor Water Park where the temperature is always 80 degrees. Both Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain are in the Petosky-Harbor Springs area.
Caberfae Peaks is home to the highest lift-served peaks and some of the best ski terrain in Michigan. The Peaks has something for everyone, with a dedicated novice area and ski school for beginners, as well as the vertical drop and challenging terrain to satisfy experienced skiers and boarders.
Cannonsburg has one of those long runs that make a day fun. It's 1,500 feet, which is quite a feat with a vertical drop of 250 feet. annonsburg has the highest vertical in southwestern Michigan.
On a rise above the Betsie Valley and a short trip away from massive Lake Michigan is Crystal Mountain, a favorite among Midwest skiers and riders. Crystal is a family-owned and -operated ski resort, where trails and a small stream meander through the village while the Scottish-themed Kinlochen Lodge looms over the golf course and ski runs. There are 103 acres in which to play and, despite the relatively short vertical of 375 feet, one run rambles a half mile. Nine lifts serve 58 slopes of fun, 27 of them illuminated for night skiing every evening.
Indianhead Mountain Resort overlooks the Ottawa National Forest, an area known for its natural beauty and wildlife. The ski and summer resort in Michigan's western Upper Peninsula offers 195 acres of skiable terrain served by nine lifts and tows. One trail, Voyagers' Highway, is over 40 acres in area, larger than many Midwest ski areas. Snowmaking is 90%.
Ski every night of the week at Marquette Mountain (and days too, of course) on over 169 acres of terrain. The vertical is 600 feet. A backcountry ski zone is fun for advanced skiers and boarders. The area extends from outer Weasels Gulch trail to Supreme and includes Freefall - accessible from the Rocket Lift and boasting a 40% to 60% grade.
Nub's Nob has a vertical drop of 427 feet, with 53 runs on 248 acres of skiable terrain, divided between Nub's Nob South and Pintail Peak. The longest run is just under a mile. All trails have snowmaking, with only the area's gladed terrain dependent on natural snow. Terrain is weighted toward intermediates. There is a halfpipe and terrain parks. Three quad chairs, 4 triples, 2 doubles and a handle tow combine for uphill capacity of 18,275 skiers per hour. The family-owned area is a favorite among Upper Peninsula skiers and snowboarders.
Shanty Creek offers 47 trails over two distinctive ski areas. All the tough stuff is on Schuss Mountain. There are Slopeside condos and a popular tube park. Looking for a Midwest thrill ride? Make a run down Kingdom Come with its 450-foot vertical drop.
Ski Brule in Iron River is a family-centered resort that has made a promise for several decades that it will be the first to open (sometimes as early as October) and the last to close because of its location and snowmaking capabilities. The Rapids and Snowshoe Terrain Parks make it a favorite of snowboarders, and there's even 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. There's even a tubing park on the Whitewater Trail.
Timber Ridge has the highest natural vertical rise in Southwest Michigan, and the skiing and riding is spread over 50 acres. There's a terrain park and tubing hill. Several lodging choices are nearby. The resort is eight miles north of Kalamazoo.
Treetops Resort, long known for world-class golf and owner, swing-doctor Rick Smith, also offers a wide array of winter activities. Treetops is perched along a ridge overlooking the scenic Sturgeon River valley and offers 23 downhill ski runs and an exciting tubing area. It's the perfect winter family getaway surrounded by thousands of acres of unspoiled forests and rolling hills.
Other Michigan areas include Alpine Valley, Apple Mountain, Big Powderhorn Mountain, Bittersweet, Mount Brighton, Mount Holly, Mount Ripley, Mt. Holiday, Norway Mountain, Pine Mountain, Snow Snake Mtn., Swiss Valley and The Homestead.
This region is home to one of the best snowbelts in the state thanks to lake effect snow (that snow originates in Canada and sweeps across the Great Lakes bringing often prodigious amounts with it). Areas: Mt. Holiday (Traverse City); Caberfae Peaks (Cadillac); Crystal Mountain (Thompsonville); Bay Mountain at The Homestead (Glen Arbor); Hickory Hills (Traverse City); Petoskey Winter Sports Park (Petoskey); and Challenge Mountain (Boyne City).
Don’t overlook it. Areas: Alpine Valley Ski Area (White Lake Township); Pine Knob Ski and Snowboard Resort (Clarkston); Mt. Brighton Ski Area (Brighton); and Swiss Valley Ski Area (Jones).
Catch the biggest snowfalls here. Areas: Mount Bohemia (Mohawk); Marquette Mountain Ski Area (Marquette); Bessemer Area Skiing (which has several areas within a 20-minute drive if each other) Blackjack Mountain-Big Snow Resort, Indianhead Mountain, Big Powderhorn, Mt. Zion, Mont Ripley at Michigan Tech, Pine Mountain Resort (Iron Mountain), Porcupine Mountain Wildnerness State Park (Ontonagon) and Ski Brule (Iron River).
Michigan has a variety of ski areas that offer family fun, like Big Powderhorn in the Upper Peninsula. There's terrain to fit all members of the family (a key criteria) where 70 percent is beginner or intermediate skiing or boarding. For a change of activity, you can bring your ice fishing gear to Lake Gogebic, the largest inland lake in the Upper Peninsula. The resort also offers access to waterfalls, a snowmobile, snowshoeing, kids programs, and ski and snowboard lessons. The relaxed atmosphere is a big plus, too.
Treetops Resort is another family-friendly area with a range of activities from which to pick. For something really different go on a family fairy tale sleigh ride while experiencing a wilderness experience as you pass through the forest on the sleigh. Kids will like the scavenger hunts where they can collect rubber bracelets to wear – there might even be a prize if they can find all the bracelets. Whether you are an expert or beginner, the downhill runs are groomed for all experience levels. Extend the day ski trip to a weekend, choosing from lodging options that include chalets, suites, cottages, and condos.
Here’s all you’ll want to know for a “Pure Michigan” winter vacation:
The answer is – drum roll please – Boyne Highlands in the Lower Peninsula is the biggest. Skiers and riders can play on 53 slopes spread over 432 acres, 3 terrain parks, and the vertical drop is 552 feet. There are 1 lifts.
There are more than you can likely ski in a winter of all sizes and descriptions divided among the 43 areas. You will find 28 of those covered here at OnTheSnow.com. Check out, which are open right now.
You bet. The downhill ski trails of Michigan appeal to all levels of skiers and snowboarders from those advanced skiers who have the stuff to try Mount Bohemia to those who are just learning to fly down tiny Sawkill Ski Area’s 70 vertical feet. Snow can be plentiful with resorts opening in mid-November and hanging in to mid or late March. Still, the best snow is generally piling up for February and, with school breaks and holidays, you can’t go wrong. But book accomodations early.
If one wants consensus, settle in with Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands in the Lower Peninsula. The legendary Ev Kirchner and his partners bought what would become Boyne’s slopes in 1947 from a state senator. The resort opened the next year and the rest is history.
Today it is an ideal family resort, comfortable and fun for all to ski ands ride. And remember its sister resort Boyne Highlands is 30 miles away and many argue the skiing and riding is even better there. Enjoy them both.
Sure we can: Boyne Mt. (Boyne Falls) is located in northern Michigan. The area offers 415 skiable acres, 60 trails, 12 lifts, 5 terrain parks, and a 500 foot vertical. It’s close to Avalon Bay Indoor Waterpark (.05 miles) for a bit of diversion. Trail distribution is 29 percent beginner, 41 percent intermediate and 30 percent advanced. The Spa at Boyne Mountain offers normal spa treatments to a fitness and wellness center. Cherry Capital Airport and the Traverse City area is approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes from the Boyne area with direct flights domestically and internationally. Several onsite lodging choices include a classic main hotel, lodges, villas, cabins and condos.
Boyne Highlands (Harbor Springs) Highlands is the largest ski area in Michigan giving winter visitors access to 432 acres, 55 groomed downhill runs, 3 terrain parks. There’s a network of 10 lifts. The Austrian-American SnowSports Academy has taught skiers and riders of all ages and levels for decades. There are lodging options for every family and group size - from upscale hotel rooms, condos with full kitchens to home rentals. Consider staying in the newly upgraded and well-appointed rooms in the renovated The Main Lodge hotel.
Crystal Mountain Resort (Thompsonville) is a family-owned, family-friendly place to ski and ride. The area has 4 terrain parks, 58 trails, 27 lit nighttime slopes and a vertical of 375 feet. There is a spa, fitness center, indoor pool. and 250 varied lodging options. It’s 130 miles north (about 2 hours) of Grand Rapids and 240 miles (4 hour-drive) from Detroit. For a special dining treat try the Thistle Pub and Grille which serves meals all day in an intimate setting with Scottish decor. You can explore the 30-acre Michigan Legacy Art Park on the grounds of Crystal Mt. featuring 50 sculptures and 30 poetry stones, open during daylight hours 365 days a year.
Mount Bohemia (Mohawk) is a "tough as nails" destination ski resort located on Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula that will put you to the test. It has 550 skiable acres, 95 runs, the longest run (1 mile +) and highest vertical at 900 feet and deepest powder in the Midwest with an average snowfall of 273 inches. Be advised: They do not groom the slopes. One triple and one double chair get you around the mountain. Onsite lodging includes trailside cabins and yurts; but the 45-minute trip to Houghton offers creature comfort accommodations. Visitors can try a snowcat skiing experience on Voodoo Mountain without traveling to the Rockies. There are 1,800 acres on 4 peaks in a 20-passenger snowcat that takes you into the forests of Keweenaw Peninsula.
Timber Ridge (Gobles) is the oldest ski area in southwest Michigan at 60 years of age. It’s conveniently located 14 miles from Kalamazoo, 36 miles from Grand Rapids and 134 miles from Chicago. This family-friendly area offers beginner, intermediate, expert, and wooded trails, snow tubing and 2 terrain parks. You’ll find 1 triple, 2 doubles and 1 quad chair, with most rides taking less than 30 seconds. Did we say small but fun?
Winter in Michigan is considered to be December, January, and February. Annual average Dec. temps range from 33°F-19°F with 11 snowy days. Temps in January are a few degrees cooler, ranging 29°-13° with 12.5 snowy days. February closes out the winter season with “higher” temps ranging from 32°F-14°F. Winter is generally considered mild (you may not want to believe it) due to impact of slow cooling lakes. This doesn’t prevent significant snowfalls. The record-high seasonal total of 355.90 inches came in the winter of 1978–79. The least amount of snowfall occurred in the winter of 1930–31 with 81.30 inches.
Sure there are: Ernest Hemingway was a visitor to Petoskey where he sought relaxation and charm. The town is located on the shores of Lake Michigan’s Little Bay in lower northwest Michigan. Charm awaits you at the Gaslight District where you can shop, dine, walk. The 3 ski resorts of Nub’s Nob, Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain are close by to the Petoskey-Harbor Springs area. Dining Tip: Try Leggs Inn in Cross Village, a unique restaurant with great views. The college town is also the home of No. Central Michigan College.
From open air bars to rooftop decks with a view, Traverse City is rapidly developing as a trendy scene to unwind and celebrate with its mix of bars and nightlife hot spots especially in the once industrial Warehouse District. If you like cherries, you’ll love Traverse City where bakeries boast nearly a dozen varieties of the classic American dessert, all using the regional Montmorency breed. Pick from a wide variety of tasty food including street food, pizza restaurants, cornish pasties or Latin American fusion.
Skiing is part of the Traverse City lifestyle. Head to Crystal Mountain about 45 minutes southwest. The Mt. Holiday Ski & Recreation Area, just east of the city limits, provides hours of fun for the entire family, with skiing and snowboarding. The city's favorite hometown ski area is Hickory Hills, located on the west side Slabtown neighborhood. Don’t forget about Shanty Creek resort, only 30 miles from the city.
Michigan has 15 airports offering commercial flights. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport or Kalamazoo International Airport are the best getaways for Southern Michigan resorts. Fly into Cherry Capital Airport of Pellston Regional Airport for Northern Michigan resorts. The majority of resorts are an hour or less from their nearest airport (Boyne Mt. is less than 30 minutes from Pellston). Rental cars are available at airports. Reserve in advance.
It is absolutely among the best. There are so many choices you don’t need to go anywhere else. Hone your skills here, get the family skiing here and then you might graduate to the Rocky Mountains once every season. But, if you can’t find fun, good skiing and snowboarding in Michigan you are “purely” not looking.