Each winter, as much as 150 inches of snow blankets West Michigan (even more in the Upper Peninsula) providing the perfect setting for tons of seasonal fun.
For generations, families have been hitting the slopes at ski resorts throughout the region – some 40 in all – which collectively boast a thousand runs, 269 lifts, and 50 terrain parks. Most also offer unique spa treatments for post skiing relaxation (and warmth).
At Boyne Mountain (Boyne Falls) and Boyne Highlands (Harbor Springs), discover 115 slopes, an extensive trail network for cross country skiing and snowshoeing, a designated tubing hill, sno-go bikes, fat tire bikes, horseback riding, a zipline course, and more. Boyne Mountain is also home to Avalanche Bay, Michigan’s largest indoor waterpark.
In addition to its downhill options, Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville offers snowy hikes through its famed Michigan Legacy Art Park as well as horse drawn surrey rides, ice skating, snowshoeing, and outdoor laser tag, all within a short drive to the Lake Michigan shoreline.
Bellaire may be a small town, but it is big on snowy fun at Shanty Creek Resort. Welcoming families since 1963, this resort has grown into two distinct ski destinations – Schuss Mountain and Summit Mountain – with a combined 53 ski runs, 35km of cross country trails, a 6-lake alpine tubing park, and the state’s most awarded terrain parks for snowboarders of all ski levels.
Gaylord is known as Michigan’s “snow belt” and that means Treetops Resort benefits with some of the highest recorded accumulation numbers every year. Both downhill and Nordic skiing are offered, along with extreme tubing, dog sledding, and sleigh rides. For something new, indulge in the popular Skiable Feast, where guests snowshoe or cross country ski between various food and beverage stations.
One of Michigan’s oldest ski destinations, Mt. Holiday Ski & Recreation Area in Traverse City (circa 1949) offers 16 ski runs, tubing hills, and a 10-station, 4,000-foot zipline course. Meanwhile, Cannonsburg Ski Area in Belmont (northeast of Grand Rapids) has been open since 1965 and features downhill and cross country skiing, snowboarding, fat tire biking, and more.
Those wanting a more woodsy experience can check out the year-round rentals at Timber Ridge RV & Recreation Resort in Traverse City – where cross country skiing, snowshoeing, snow biking, and snowmobiling are found right outside your cabin door. A variety of well-known annual events are also held here including the Suds n Snow, North American VASA, and Iceman Cometh.
Some of Michigan’s most unique winter activities are found at the Muskegon Winter Sports Park, inside Muskegon State Park. The 850-foot luge track, with its six curves and speeds of up to 30 mph, was specifically designed for the general public to unleash their inner Olympian. The park also offers a family skating rink, hockey rink, and a lighted quarter-mile skating trail, as well as snowshoeing and sledding.
Meanwhile, at Echo Valley in Kalamazoo, the thrills reach up to 60mph on their eight quarter-mile toboggan runs. Welcoming families since the late 1930s, this popular winter attraction also offers a tubing hill, observation deck, and warming lodge where hot chocolate is always waiting.
Those looking for a need for motorized speed can hit the 6,300-miles of snowmobile trails that wind around the state through six state forests, three national forests, and acre upon acre of privately owned land. In fact, Michigan is one of only three states in the country with a large system of interconnected trails for sledders.
For a more relaxed and quieter winter experience, visit one of the area’s many natural areas. Bring your sweetie out for a snowshoe hike at the Blandford Nature Center in Grand Rapids or grab the kids to enjoy one of the many winter themed hikes and programs. At the Sarett Nature Center in Benton Harbor, you’ll find five miles of groomed trails as well as designated routes for snowshoeing, traveling through forest, prairie, and wetland habitats. Equipment rentals are also available.
Even Michigan’s islands welcome visitors in the winter. Drummond Island, accessible out of DeTour Village in the Upper Peninsula, is a seasonal paradise with 80 miles of groomed snowmobile trails, 12 miles of snowshoeing trails, and 11 miles of groomed cross country ski trails. Off roading, ice fishing, and ice skating are also offered. Those daring enough can ride the ice bridge to Canada, marked by evergreen trees after the waters of Lake Huron have frozen to a safe thickness.
An ice bridge for snowmobilers is also set up (conditions permitting) from St. Ignace, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, to Mackinac Island. But the more conventional way to get to the island is via ferry (until the Straits freeze) or airplane (out of St. Ignace). With the horses and crowds gone for the season, this Victorian-themed island takes on a totally new look and feel with a handful of businesses in operation year-round.