We all remember last seasons warm Christmas holiday week, and this year, every single ski and snowboard slope in Northern Michigan has made major expenditures to beef up snowmaking and grooming wherever possible.
There are also a host of new improvements, fun programs and events at your
favorite outdoor playgrounds. Every area and lodge listed has an inexpensive package for beginning any winter sport you choose; just call or click on the property closest to your abode for details on jump-starting your winter fun.
HIKE THE HOMESTEAD
Check out The Homestead, which is hosting a huge family-a-thon. With great kids programs like Camp Tam-A-Rack, the youngest can learn the fundamentals of skiing and sledding indoors, and then progress onto special beginner slopes to become winter lovers.
The whole gang can snowshoe, ice-skate on Fiddlers Pond in The Village, cross country ski or just go sledding. A true treat is hiking the beach with your sled in tow and sliding down the dunes. Its a truly beautiful spot for a super
THE BOOMING BOYNES
Heres a very cool deal at Boyne Mountain. The venerable grandfather of northern midwestern resorts is offering a new winter guided river rafting trip (yes, in the winter!) combined with snowshoe hiking, hot beverages, delicious snacks and a spa treatment. So much for roughing it - I want my hot toddy!
The Mountains sister resort, Boyne Highlands, instituted dog sled rides a season ago, and will continue this new winter treat with hour long treks this winter. Its a great gift for puppy lovers and a wonderful wintertime getaway youll remember forever.
Both Boynes also have expanded their huge tubing parks, so even if you dont ski or snowboard, you can still slide around while enjoying the world-class amenities of these mega-properties.
On the outside, each Boyne has spent oodles of money on more snowmaking and all the parts and pieces that customers like us never see, but certainly love when it comes to good conditions. Toss in exciting additions like new snowshoe tracks, more in-tree glade skiing, and fancy salons, and you can spend weeks exploring all kinds of winter games.
On the national front, Boyne USA bought even more ski and snowboard areas across the country during the off-season, and their seasons passes now let you save on lift tickets from Maine to Washington.
COOL CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN
Crystal Mountain is really talking up the old school, and I mean really old school, of Telemark skiing. The original downhill turn developed north of the Arctic Circle by those fun-loving Norwegians is now all the rage, and is being taught and even raced amongst the funsters of the Crystal Mountain Snow Sports School.
Also new on the Crystal learning front is their snow sports director, Tom
Bartholomew. A nine-year veteran of the teaching staff, Tom brings a huge snowboarding résumé, and his international snowboard
juggling title, to the snow school team.
Healthy is as healthy does; Crystal Mountain has also declared all of their buildings smoke-free facilities. The puffing ban applies to every building and room on Crystals gigantic resort campus.
On the environmental front, the Sierra Club recently awarded Crystal with its White Pine Award for its extraordinary dedication to protection of the environment.
Caberfae, Michigans oldest continuously operating ski resort, has expanded lots of their popular intermediate terrain. More snowmaking was also added, bringing the Faes snow guns total to over 100.
For regular Caberfae customers, there are now 50% more seasonal lockers in their rental building, making it so much easier to just show up and go skiing or riding. The rental was also enlarged, with more new equipment for both sports.
The Mackenzie lodge saw extensive renovations, too; everything from lobbies to restaurants to rooms have been updated and buffed to new standards of lodging comfort and dining deliciousness.
SCHUSS N SHANTY
The start of a $10 million renovation is underway at Shanty Creek. The former Shanty Creek lodge atop the Summit Slopes is the first to feel the huge undertaking with its redesign and new name, The Lakeview Hotel & Conference Center.
The Summit Slopes are having a meeting with the bulldozers for an upgrade as well, and all skiing and snowboarding for this season will be on The Schuss Mountain side of the resort.
Shanty Creek has also introduced a rewards program for students with good grades. This gives school kids super deals on lift tickets when they do well on their report cards; and, if you have kids who ski race, check out the WIN Alpine ski racing camp over the holiday break. Its a chance to schuss the big Schuss slopes with great coaches, and can make a big difference in any ski racers season.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY NUBS
Nubs Nob is throwing their own 50th birthday party this season with a million dollars worth of infrastructure stuff, including snowmaking, grooming and thousands of pieces of ski rental gear.
All new Rossignol skis and Nordica ski boots are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the constant improvements at the resort thats self-proclaimed Best in the Midwest.
In their 2007 Readers Resort Poll, the readers of SKI Magazine chose Nubs Nob as the #1 Terrain Park in all of North America. First announced by the national magazine in October 2006, it is the only time any Midwestern resort has ever topped the rankings in all of Canada and the U.S.
Nationally ranked #4 for grooming in the same survey, Nubs Nob put their money where there reputation is, and have purchased two more fancy Pisten Bully snow grooming machines to keep it all smooth and corduroy-like on the slopes.
NEW IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
Your local neighborhood areas are updating, too. Youll see more rental gear at Mt. Holiday and Mt. McSauba, and improved lights at the Petoskey Winter Sports Park. Hansen Hills has increased their nordic trails, and the ski racing programs at Hickory Hills, run by the age old Grand Traverse Ski Club, are bigger and better than ever for local youngsters.
On a personal note, our good Northern Express friend, Dick Fultz, proprietor of The Cross Country Ski Shop in Grayling, recently came through a surprise heart bypass operation with flying colours. Hard to believe that this marathon running, cross country ski racing, and cycling fanatic could have gone through that - but now that his heart is repaired, we all wonder if anyone will ever be able to keep up with him. We hope to see you on the snow soon, Dick!
So thats it for this year - winter is here and so are you. Make your plans now to get outside and enjoy some of Americas finest winter recreation right in your own neighborhood. As for the author, Im celebrating the 25th anniversary of The Ski and Snowboard News on local radio stations like WTCM - to all of you, thanks for listening for all these years. Now go and hit the slopes!