Lake-effect snow is a Michigan skier’s dream because it pretty much assures thick and lovely, white-carpet treatment throughout winter.
Snow bands form when frigid winds reach the warmer, open waters of lakes Michigan and superior. That’s why average annual snowfall in Muskegon exceeds 100 inches, about twice that of Milwaukee, a mere 87 miles due west.
Upper Michigan boasts an even bigger wintry wallop because most of the peninsula is sandwiched between the great lakes. Average annual snowfall hovers around 200 inches (and the record, set in 1978-79, is 392).
Within Michigan are at least 3,000 miles of snowshoe and cross-country ski trails, plus about 50 downhill ski areas that total more than 1,000 runs. Where are many of the most awesome winter spots? The Upper Peninsula, logically, and what is here can satisfy all levels of ability, elite athletes to active families with small children.
At 500-acre and 1,465-foot-high Mount Bohemia are the longest runs, highest vertical drop (900 feet) and deepest powder snow in the Midwest. no beginners are allowed on the 95 challenging, ungroomed runs.
Think black-diamond, double- and triple-black degrees of difficulty. Mile-long runs with extremely steep chutes routinely skirt cliffs, clumps of fir trees, boulders and nature’s other obstacles.
This rustic ski site and resort in the Keweenaw Peninsula opened in 2000 as an extreme sports lover’s dream. Book a cozy, trailside cabin or yurt (they sleep up to 13, include breakfast) and trek over to the north Pole Bar and restaurant for a Pick ax Blonde from Keweenaw Brewing co. choices for chow are limited but creative; that includes half-pound Kobe beef burgers, strawberry crepes.
mtbohemia.com, (906) 289-4105.
Another option is to settle into a lakeview suite at Dapple-Gray Bed and Breakfast, near Copper Harbor, 15 miles northeast. Inside the pet-friendly log house are windows almost three stories tall, revealing lake superior’s many moods. Also on the B&B’s 27 acres is a traditional Finnish sauna and antiques shop.
dapple-gray.com, (866) 909-1233.
Pack cross-country skis, too, and pick up a day pass for the Michigan tech trails and recreational Forest, Houghton. about 7.5 of the 35 kilometers of groomed trails are lighted for nighttime exploring.
michigantechrecreation.com, (906) 487-2578.
At the pristine Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, naturalist-guided snowshoe hikes happen on weekends, and lanterns brighten the superior loop cross-country trail on Saturday nights, when the skiing ends at a bonfire. the 60,000acre Ontonagon county park’s 87 miles of snowshoe and cross-country trails include a 42-kilometer Nordic trail system and are in addition to 19 runs (a mix of easy to expert) for downhill skiers.
porcupineup.com, (906) 884-2047.
At the foothills of the Porkies is Mountain View Lodges, modern and two-bedroom cabin rentals on the lake superior shore. Cook your own meals or head to Fish tales resort for heaping helpings of hearty fare (such as whitefish or walleye, for the Friday fish fry).
mountainviewlodges.com, (906) 885-5256; fishtalesup.info, (906) 842-3366.
For a Mix of Abilities
In the far west U.P., 250-acre Powderhorn, 100-acre Blackjack and 230-acre Indianhead Resorts are within 10 miles of each other, close enough to swoop into during one ski trip to Gogebic County. It’s an attractive destination for friends whose skiing abilities vary. At each area are at least two dozen runs on a mix of novice, intermediate and expert terrain.
Lodging is plentiful in a-frames, chalets, condos and rooms in lodges. trails often begin right outside the door. that means more ski time and easier breaks for lunch or to simply warm up.
ironwoodchamber.org, (906) 932-1122; bigpowderhorn.net, (800) 501-7669; skiblackjack.com, (800) 848-1125; indianheadmtn.com, (800) 346-3426.
Meat and veggie-filled pasties are a symbol of heritage because this is what miners carried to work long ago, and these hot, flaky pies remain the quick meal of choice among U.P. locals. For a more substantial and memorable meal, hop across the border for gourmet fare in a casual setting at the dinner-only Kimball Inn, Hurley, Wis.
facebook.com/kimballinn, (715) 561-4095.
Ironwood’s Gogebic Community College offers associate degrees in ski area management (how to run and maintain downhill ski operations) and winter sports for budget-minded groups. The 10-slope Mt. Zion ski complex, a student training area, provides ski lessons, programs for children, free skiing for senior citizens, $20 per day lift tickets, a snow tubing park and groomed cross-country trails.
gogebic.cc.mi.us, (800) 682-5910.
EXTREMES IN MARQUETTE
Cross-country courses are abundant throughout the U.P., and some of the most scenic pass frozen waterfalls. that’s the case near Marquette, where the 45-kilometer Noquemanon trail network also attracts rugged, makeshift “snow bikes,” which are a step beyond mountain bikes in no-nonsense durability.
noquetrails.org, (906) 235-6861.
Downhill enthusiasts head to Marquette Mountain’s 26 runs on 170 acres, and only 15 percent of the trails are considered easy. along the 1,357-foot slope are some of the state’s most challenging courses.
marquettemountain.com, (906) 225-1155.
Two downtown Marquette hotels, a roomy Hampton Inn and the remodeled 1930 Landmark Inn, face lake superior and are within a quick walk of boutique shops and independently owned restaurants. add a pint of fresh craft beer tapped at Blackrocks Brewery, ore dock Brewing or the Vierling (which also operates a fine dining restaurant that prepares whitefish four ways). travelmarquettemichigan.com, (800) 544-4321.
Near neighboring Ishpeming is the Al Quaal Recreation Area, whose 20 kilometers of trails meet the expectations of beginners to advanced cross-country skiers. More than one-half of the courses are rugged and steep; that includes the 5k Olympic trail, whose trail design is internationally known. the Al Quaal hosted the 2012 NCAA regional Nordic skiing championships. ishpemingcity.org, (906) 486-9371.
That’s merely a slice of the pretty and provocative U.P. ski spots that draw repeat visitors and earn respect for their consistent quality. Keep tabs on Michigan’s winter ski and snow conditions at michigan.org/skiing. For more about U.P. destinations, go to uptravel.com.
This article originally appeared in the 2014 fall/winter issue of Experience Michigan magazine. The contents of this article were checked for accuracy when it was published; however, it’s possible some of the information has changed. We recommend you call first if you have specific questions for the destinations, attractions or restaurants mentioned in this article.
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