While some people hibernate inside during Michigan’s frigid winter weather, others embrace the snow, ice and chilly temperatures by turning the Mitten State’s parks, lakes and woods into their very own frosty playland.
The top winter attraction in northern Michigan is definitely the Great Outdoors, said Jennifer Jenness, PR manager, Traverse City Tourism.
“Once the snow begins to fall across this glacier-carved landscape, it becomes a sparkling white playground for outdoor winter sports — and that’s where the fun is,” she said.
Downhill skiing is the ultimate sport for those who enjoy bundling up and staying active outdoors all year long.
“I think it is about the thrill. It’s great to be outside in Michigan’s winter going fast down a hill. It’s great exercise,” said Mickey MacWilliams, president/executive director of the Michigan
Snowsports Industries Association (MSIA).
Plus, she said it is a family-friendly sport.
“Downhill skiing in Michigan is something that a family can all do together, regardless of your age or ability. You can ride up the chair together and take different slopes down depending on ability,” said MacWilliams.
In a news release, the MSIA said according to the National Weather Service, the Upper Peninsula Snowbelt is one of the snowiest places on earth, with an average snowfall of over 203 inches (almost 17 feet). This has created many amazing places to go downhill skiing in Michigan. Some, like Mt. Holly and Mt. Brighton, are closer to home. Others are located Up North and make for a great weekend getaway with family members or a group of friends.
Voodoo Mountain, located just south of Copper Harbor, opened on a limited basis two years ago. According to the MSIA, it moves into its third season with a major expansion to a second peak and now offers over 200 acres of terrain. The ski area also features snow cat skiing.
Developed by Mount Bohemia, it is the only commercial snow cat ski operation east of the Rockies, states the MSIA news release. Skiers ride a snow cat (18 to a cab) to the top, ski down the mountain and get picked up by the snow cat for a return to the top.
Shanty Creek Resorts, located near Bellaire about 30 miles northeast of Traverse City, offers 43 trails with some of its most challenging runs located at its southeastern edge on Schuss Mountain, rated “Best Downhill Terrain in the Midwest” by readers of OnTheSnow.com.
“If you think Michigan skiing is ho-hum, try making a run down Kingdom Come, a black diamond trail with a 450-foot vertical drop that starts steep and keeps on getting steeper,” said Jenness.
The MSIA also announced that at Mt. Holly bulldozers and earthmovers have shaped, contoured and softened the area between the White Lightning and Mozart slopes to create a new slope, Aurora Pass. This trail is accessible from White Lightning and Mozart and will exit onto the Mozart run. Most of the new slope goes right under the White Lightning chairlift.
Check out other MSIA members at www.GoSkiMichigan.com/michigan-ski-areas-snow-conditions/downhill-ski-areas.
If you are not an avid skier or have never been skiing before, MacWilliams said most ski areas rent equipment. The team at Nub’s Nob Ski Area of Harbor Springs, for example, spent time on the snow testing new rental boots and decided to purchase a new fleet of Nordica boots based on comfort and performance, according to the MSIA.
In addition, Treetops Resort in Gaylord purchased a brand new Rossignol ski rental fleet that consists of the Rossignol Experience skis and Terrain Junior skis, both of which are the official “Terrain Based Learning” skis.
You’ll also want to be prepared for the wind whipping in your face as you ski downhill, so MacWilliams said to dress for the weather with wind pants, a parka or jacket, hat or helmet, goggles and ski gloves or mitts.
“It’s easy to get down in the winter months when daylight is at its shortest and you’re spending the majority of your time indoors,” said Jenness in an email. “Those who embrace the snow and frigid temps tend to lead the more joyful lives in this region — and rightfully so! Combine the adrenaline rush of these fast-pace activities with the brisk air of Traverse City, the natural light glistening off the ground and you’re on your way to happier, healthier winter.”
With just a little cold weather, Michigan’s ski slopes can be blanketed in white even if the ground is bare. To prove it, MSIA has created a page on its website that links to ski area webcams all across the state. “By visiting the webcam page on MSIA’s website, goskimichigan.com, you can see what is happening on the slopes and trails across Michigan in real time,” said Kershner.
Here are some facts about snow making courtesy of the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association (MSIA).
• Somewhere around 28˚ F. is the “magic number” for snowmaking, depending on humidity and wind. It can be a little higher if it is dry out and lower if it is very humid
•With the use of grooming equipment, ski areas can keep the snow on their slopes and withstand warm temperatures for a surprisingly long time. It is not uncommon for some ski areas to have patches of snow on the slopes well into June
•Ten inches of natural snow, when packed, usually adds only one inch of snow to the ski slope’s base while 10 inches of man-made snow adds seven inches of base. Man-made snow is more dense and durable
•For every 10-degree temperature drop, snowmakers can double the output of machine-made snow
•The lower the humidity, the better for making snow. If you add the temperature plus the humidity, that sum should equal less than 100 for favorable snowmaking weather.