Clarkston, MI 2011/1012 – 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 41 ski areas, boasting over 200 chairlifts, 840 runs, more than 40 terrain parks and hundreds of kilometers of groomed cross-country trails, there is something for everyone.
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.
Nearly all ski areas made improvements over the summer to their snowmaking and snow grooming equipment. The following is a rundown of improvements and special offers for the 2011-2012 season. It is important to note that early discounts abound. Most ski areas offer discounts on their 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.
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula slopes are busy getting ready for winter. The largest ski area construction project in the Midwest is underway at Big Powderhorn in Bessemer. A fire destroyed the main lodge building on January 13, 2011, but a brand new lodge is scheduled to open for this winter season. 1-800-501-SNOW (7669) bigpowderhorn.net
A few miles away at The New Blackjack Resort, also in Bessemer, discounts abound. This season kids 12 and under ski free with a paying adult. Show a valid military or college ID and your lift ticket is $30 anytime. In addition, the first two weeks in January are College Days, where lift tickets are $20 and rental equipment is just $15. For those who can ski midweek, a five-day midweek ticket is $75 after January 1, 2012. Blackjack has also added two new glade runs (skiing in the trees). One is their first double black diamond (expert) run and the other is less steep, a favorite for kids. Blackjack also added new features to their terrain parks. (906)229-5115, skiblackjack.com
New this season at Pine Mountain in Iron Mountain is a Resort Rewards Program, allowing customers to accumulate points for every dollar they spend at one of the Resort facilities. It’s free to sign up. (906) 774-2747 or 1-877-553-PINE, pinemountainresort.com
Heading over to Ironwood, Mt. Zion offers free skiing to all Gogebic Community College students and to anyone 62 years and older! Located on the campus of Gogebic Community College, Mt. Zion is the oldest winter recreation complex in “Big Snow Country”. Owned and operated by GCC, Mt. Zion is open to the public and also serves as a laboratory for the college’s nationally recognized Ski Area Management Program. (906) 932-4231, gogebic.edu/aboutGCC/mtzion.shtm
For those who like a challenge and a great discount, on December 3, 2011, for one day only, season passes for Mount Bohemia in the Keweenaw Peninsula are just $99. Or, for variety, ski all season long at Mount Bohemia and Porcupine Mountain for just $124. Passes can be purchased online, by phone or in person on December 3 at either Porcupine Mountain or Mount Bohemia. Skiers at Mount Bohemia will be pleasantly surprised with the addition of five new glade runs, which are spread throughout the mountain. Porcupine Mountain: (906) 289-4105, skitheporkies.com; Mount Bohemia: (231) 420-5405, mtbohemia.com
The folks at Marquette Mountain in Marquette, have been very busy over the summer, moving terrain on the slopes. They have widened Weasel Gulch, Whoop Dee, Upper Rocket and Shaker, added a new Women’s FIS Slalom ramp on Cliffs Ridge, created a new terrain park layout with 10 new rails, cut through from Twilight Zone to Supreme Trails, and increased snowmaking capacity. In addition, Marquette Mountain is extending their lift hours until 8:30 p.m. nightly, from December 19 through March 11. (906) 225-1155 or 1-800-944-SNOW, marquettemountain.com
Heading into the Lower Peninsula Nub’s Nob Ski Area of Harbor Springs has once again increased snowmaking capacity by adding 11 new Nub’s Nob snow guns, ensuring snow-filled slopes. Nubs also has a new fleet of “rockered” rental skis and boots to match. Rockered skis are the latest technology in ski design and allows for easier turning and maneuvering while still maintaining stability. For young ski racers, Nubs Nob is introducing a Junior Alpine Racing Team, based on the USSA Alpine Racing Program, with multiple midweek training sessions. Finally, Nubs acquired 60 additional acres north of their Bigtime beginner area. The acreage has a significant pitch and long vertical, allowing for more ski slope and cross-country trail development in the future. (231) 526-2131 or 1-800-SKI-NUBS, nubsnob.com
Also in Harbor Springs, Boyne Highlands has added on-board air compressors to six Low-E snow guns, enabling greater snowmaking options. They also expanded their racing program by adding a Friday night race down the steeper slopes of South Challenger for the aggressive racer.
Twenty-seven miles south of Boyne Highlands is Boyne Mountain of Boyne Falls. New this year is the addition of 20 Boyne Low-E snow guns that feature proprietary technology that maximizes snow output. At the base of the slopes, Boyne’s Clock Tower Lodge is undergoing extensive renovations that are planned to be complete for the winter season. Guests at Boyne Mountain will have the option for in-room recycling, allowing for responsible disposal of aluminum, plastic, glass and paper.
Both Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands have purchased brand new PistenBully groomers and both resorts have also purchased 400 pairs of HEAD LINK skis for their rental departments. The new ski technology makes it easier for skiers to initiate and hold through turns. 1-800-GOBOYNE, BOYNE.com
One Dollar Fridays begin January 6, 2012, at Hanson Hills Recreation Area in Grayling. Each Friday night, a lift ticket is just $1 and rental equipment is $1 as well. 1-888-876-2196, hansonhills.org
In Gaylord, guests at Treetops Resort will enjoy an outdoor bonfire area to relax outside, near the slopes, by the warmth of a fire. 1-888-TREETOPS, treetops.com
Shanty Creek Resorts in Bellaire will feature an improved terrain park design at the slopes of Schuss Mountain. They have also moved the halfpipe and added two new runs near the red chairlift. Like many other ski areas, they are improving their snowmaking to insure great conditions all winter long. 1-800-678-4111, shantycreek.com
Round the bend into the Leelanau Peninsula to find The Homestead, which will open its 28th season of skiing with a host of improvements to the Village that surrounds the base of the Bay Mountain Ski Area. Brand new salon and cafeteria, expanded and improved guest parking, upgrades to Nonna’s Italian Ristorante and a new general store will offer guests all the amenities of a five-star resort. Also new this year is a concept that takes the season ski pass and expands it to other services. Called “One, It lets the pass holder choose from a variety of different activities, from skiing, to dining, yoga, spa services and more. In addition, Good Morning America conducted a poll to find “America’s Most Beautiful Place” and viewers voted the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore the winner for 2011. The Homestead is located right in the middle of the national lakeshore. (231) 334-5000, thehomesteadresort.com
Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville will unveil a new ski-under quad chairlift for the 2011/12 season. The new chairlift will increase uphill capacity and skiable terrain on Loki and Thor and service the nine adjoining slopes. The lift terminal will be constructed in close proximity to Camp Totem, the resort’s learning area, and includes a loading conveyor providing beginners an easier transition to the mountain. Crystal is also recontouring the upper elevation of Loki & Thor slopes and adding tower-mounted snowguns and related infrastructure to increase snowmaking capacity for this portion of the ski area. In keeping with it’s reputation for environmental stewardship and sustainable practices, Crystal has now become the first Michigan resort to install an Electric Vehicle (EV) charging station, which will provide a complimentary charge for all electric vehicles driven to the mountain. 1-800-968-7686 or (231) 378-2000, crystalmountain.com
Caberfae Peaks in Cadillac has been busy contouring the slopes and increasing snowmaking. Seventeen new low-energy snowmakers will produce snow at temperatures five to six degrees warmer than the snowmakers that they are replacing. In addition, the 3/4-mile-long Smiling Irishmen slope is now three times its original width. At the base of the slopes, a new eatery, called Beatie’s Bar & Grill has been constructed inside the MacKenzie Lodge. Plus, 1,000 new pairs of skis, 50 new snowboards and 20 pairs of snowblades have been added to the rental department. For those who want to try something different, Caberfae Peaks will offer backcountry dogsled rides through the historic ski trails. Also new this year is a partnership with McGuire’s Resort in Cadillac. The package includes 6 nights lodging at McGuire’s Resort and a season pass at Caberfae for $299 per person. (231) 862-3000, caberfaepeaks.com
Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon has pumped up their fleet of cross-country demo skis to include the latest from Fischer, Salomon, Rossignol and Alpina. They also added a new stretch to the Rolling Hills trail, bringing the total kilometers of groomed trails to 20. (989) 821-6661 cross-country-ski.com
Heading south to the Grand Rapids area, Cannonsburg Ski Area in Cannonsburg has something interesting in store for skiers who want to get married. Couples who book their reception for 125 guests or more at Cannonsburg, will receive complimentary season passes! Also new, Cannonsburg will be one of three Burton Learn-to-Ride (snowboard) Centers in Michigan and the only retailer with the Fischer Vacuum Fit fully moldable ski boot system in the Central Midwest. (616) 874-6711, cannonsburg.com
Further south, Bittersweet Ski Area of Otsego has been working over the summer to expand its beginner ski area and add a new beginner chair lift to service the expanded terrain. (269)-694-2820, skibittersweet.com
Swiss Valley Ski & Snowboard Area in Jones has teamed up with nearby Timber Ridge of Gobles to present Friday Night Fights, a traveling Terrain Park rail jam series that pits the best skiers and riders from each ski area against each other on select Fridays in January and February. Prizes and awards are given for the series. In addition, Timber Ridge will have an all-new terrain park design with new features, an S-Box and a Wall Ride. Swiss Valley is featuring a “For Ladies Only” Ski & Snowboard Program on Saturdays in January, with lessons for beginners and intermediates. Timber Ridge: 1-800-253-2928 or (269) 694-9449, timberridgeski.com; Swiss Valley: (269) 244-5635, skiswissvalley.com.
Snow Snake Ski Area in Harrison has added a new Zip Line Tour, which is the first and only one in Central Michigan. The tour consists of 9 unique zip lines that go through thick woods and over deep valleys at speeds reaching 20-25 mph. To begin the adventure, zip riders gear up with a full harness, take a short trip up to the first zip line and then ride all nine zips down the hill. It is called a “tour” because certified guides escort participants. (989) 539-6583, snowsnake.net
In Southwest Michigan, both Alpine Valley of White Lake and Mt. Brighton Ski and Golf in Brighton have expanded their snowmaking capabilities and terrain parks. Both ski areas also purchased brand new rental skis, ensuring a great ski and snowboard season in Southeast Michigan. Alpine Valley: (248) 887-2180, skialpinevalley.com; Mt. Brighton: (810) 229-9581, mtbrighton.com.
The folks at Pine Knob Resort of Clarkston are increasing snowmaking capacity with additional snow guns. They also made some major improvements to their Chair #6 by installing a new drive terminal, which allows the chair to run at variable speeds. (248) 625-0800, skipineknob.com
A short drive northwest to Mt. Holly in Holly, skiers will enjoy additional snow on the slopes, as 14 new guns were added to Holly’s arsenal. In addition, a remodeled rental department will speed up the rental process and provide more space and comfort for those renting skis and snowboards. (248) 634-8269, skimtholly.com