GTPulse: Beyond Skiing: Activities in Northern Michigan to Reclaim Your Winter Joy
As a permanent resident of northern Michigan, I should be a winter sports expert. Sadly, that’s not the case – or at least it wasn’t. Of course, when I was a child, I embraced winter with all my heart. Driving up the hills in my pink snow suit, saucer sled in hand, I rode the hills out of the backyard. I skated most of the time on my grandfather’s house rink. And I had a fall or two with my third grade class for our downhill skiing lessons. But, something happened as I got older. I started to stay indoors, complaining about the adult chores that come with winter. Tasks like shoveling, blowing snow, scraping ice off my windshield. I have become a winter cynic.
When my boys grew older, however, I began to see winter again through their curious eyes. Wet gloves and rosy cheeks didn’t deter them from building forts and hitting hills. When they wanted to learn to snowboard, I decided that I would learn too. An hour after our first class, my boys had graduated to bigger hills, while I was still waiting in line with three-year-olds on the magic carpet. It was embarrassing. I decided to book a private ski lesson the next day and surprisingly a lot of things I learned in third grade came back to me. These days I’m not the fastest bunny on the slope, but taking these classes, as well as seeing the joy of winter through my kids’ eyes, rekindled my love of the snowy outdoors.
These days, I try (and fail) to keep up with my son’s pace as I crisscross the hills of northern Michigan ski resorts, but my return to winter has opened my eyes to dozens. outdoor winter activities. So if you’re not ready to hit the slopes but want to enjoy the joy of winter, we’ve put together a list of activities for non-skiers that will get you moving, busy, and they might even rekindle your childhood love of winter.
Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville:
I cannot say enough about the winter activities on the Crystal Mountain property. The fat tire bike has become one of my new favorites and Crystal brings it to you with 12 miles of winter bike trails. Crystal also offers surrey horseback rides and ice skating. For those looking for a winter hike, I recommend the Michigan Legacy Art Park trails located along the Crystal Mountain property. Whether you enjoy the trails on foot, on snowshoes or on Nordic skiing, the sculptures along the trail are absolutely magical in winter. Classic Interlochen Public Radio even created an on-demand playlist designed to accompany a few of the sculptures along the trail.
Mount. Traverse City Vacations:
Mount. Holiday has been a special resort loved and supported by residents of Traverse City for years. I love Mt. The Holiday Tubing Hills, which opened in late December despite exceptionally mild weather for the season. Tubing at Holiday appears to be a right of way for northern Michigan families, and special group rates for extended families are available at a reduced rate. I recommend calling ahead to reserve your tubing time and make it a safe way to get together with friends and family while enjoying the splendor of the outdoors. Mount. Holiday also offers outdoor food and drink options for spectators or for those who want a break between races.
Treetops Resort in Gaylord:
Located just off Wilkinson Road in Gaylord, this is one of my favorite family resorts in Northern Michigan. Treetops was named one of the best family ski resorts in the state, and it’s not hard to see why. With Winter Playground packages that include lodging and lift tickets starting at $ 189 for a family of four, Treetops isn’t just close to home, it’s affordable. But it’s more than skiing. I recently took my nephew to the Spudtacular snowshoe hike designed for families with three stops along the trail featuring potato and hot chocolate inspired cuisine. Your guide shares fascinating details about the Gaylord Potato Railway and the importance of America’s favorite carbs to the Gaylord community. At the end of the hike, families leave with full bellies, fond memories, and the kids even get their very own Mr. Potato Head doll. My nephew, Beckett, especially enjoyed spending time with the dog sledding team at Treetops.
Boyne Mountain Resort:
Earlier this winter, I was at Boyne Mountain Resort when I noticed something a little different up the hill. In the midst of the skiers and snowboarders there was something that looked like a bicycle – handlebars and all – but instead of tires it hurtled down the slope on three skis. My curiosity led me to Erin Ernst, communications manager for Boyne Properties. Erin explained that the gliders were actually Sno-Go bikes, and one of the best things about this technology is how easy it is to start. Parents and grandparents can join their families on the slopes after a lesson, thanks to Sno-Go’s intuitive design that combines the movement of the bike with downhill ski technology. Boyne offers Sno-Go rentals and lessons, and Sno-Go can even be used with your regular winter boots. In addition to Snowboard-Go, Boyne offers many other outdoor adventures besides skiing and horseback riding. Families can go tubing, snowshoeing, ice skating and even horseback riding.
Perhaps the cheapest way to spend time outdoors is to take one of the hundreds of northern Michigan trails that surround us. Winter hiking has become one of my favorites this year. The familiar trails of the village of Grand Traverse Commons are best when enjoyed with friends, especially when you can gather around one of the village foyers after a hike and enjoy an alfresco drink of Earthen Ales.
No matter where you fall in love with the winter specter, finding an outdoor activity you enjoy will rekindle your childhood love for the cold outdoor weather – and it might make you look at Michigan’s snow season a little differently.