Northern Michigan Snow Survival Guide

Apparently, living in Leelanau County’s Glen Arbor has put me, for the moment, in the eye of the polar vortex—at least according to snow measurements. The basis for my claim to fame? A Facebook posting the other day that stated Michigan was beating out all the other 49 in terms of inches. Cousin Melanie in Alaska, feel free to pipe up here if I have not fact checked that precisely, but hey, did God shape Alaska like a mitten? And hush up Wisconsin, you are such a mitten poser.

And then … this morning I woke to a  Leelanau Enterprise article that declared that at 188.1 inches and counting, Leelanau County (the state’s wee, pinkie finger) is the snowiest spot in Michigan. So not only am I living in the Sleeping Bear Dunes, declared by ABC to be The Most Beautiful Place in America—I am living in THE place where snow is far more than just a four letter word.

Bring it on, weather gods! Given that I am now a bonafide snow star, I feel qualified to pass on advice for making the most of frozen water. So beyond all the boring, snow shovel and kitty litter in your car kind of stuff, here’s the real Northern Michigan snow survival guide.

1. Make crock pot Chocolate Lava Cake

Crock Pot Chocolate Lava Cake

2. Build a sauna. Or at least, read about being in a sauna.


3. Invite a plow driver in to warm up. They all deserve some hospitality this winter, besides listening to them makes you feel better just knowing that somebody else is doing the real heavy lifting. Plus, plow drivers are very funny (a lot of time alone to rehearse in that cab … ). Tip to get the conversation going: Ask him how much coffee they drink in a shift which invariably leads to, how the heck do you find a place to pee?

Here’s what my personal favorite plow driver, Bill Ayers (works for Harriger Construction in Empire) answered. (Note: Bill guzzles the equivalent of four pots of coffee on a shift): “Geez Louise, ya gotta’ sink as low as you dare in those 8 foot drifts then pretend like you’re workin’ on your wipers.”

See, you laughed didn’t you?

Bill Ayers

4. Make Beatrice Richard’s Cheeseburger Soup


5. Remember when Pa Ingalls tied a rope from the cow barn to the log cabin so Mary and Laura wouldn’t get lost in the snowstorm when they did their chores? I’m thinking of doing that for my octogenarian mother who lives in a cottage across my backyard. Wondering if a bungee line might get her home faster? Thoughts?

bungee ASSMBLIES-1

6. Go to greenhouse. Inhale.

7. Use up those legumes you’ve been pushing around the pantry for years. Everything needs gassing up this winter.

pumpkin chili

8. Get yourself a deal on snowshoes or those new shorter, fatter cross country skis and get out there. Pilgrim, that’s champagne powder—don’t miss out! Unless you are a true backcountry dude or dudette, best to pick a groomed trail like the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail that runs (right up that chilly little pinkie finger to about the knuckle) from the Sleeping Bear Dune Climb to Glen Arbor.


9. Mix a winter drink(s). Click for recipes from Northern Michigan’s most eminent mixologists.

cherry drink

10. Thaw the country’s political polar vortex and cuddle up with the humorous side of Michael Moore at the Traverse City Winter Arts Comedy Festival. Go on to warm up with comedians Fred Willard, Rosie O’Donell, Michael Ian Black, Jeff Garlin and a bunch more funny folks.

Traverse City Winter Comedy Arts Festival

11. If you don’t do any other outdoor activity this winter, ride the free ferris wheel they set up on Traverse City’s Front Street during the Traverse City Winter Arts Comedy Festival. Tip: Make sure your snow pants have traction.


12. Build a winter bonfire

13. Invest in an electric blanket. If you are the uber-green type, don’t think of this as a capitalistic plot to entice people away from down comforters (as admittedly I once did). Layer your plug-in with your down comforter and know that you are saving energy by heating your body not the entire bedroom. It gives new meaning to pig-in-a-blankey.


14. Build a quinzee

15. Buy the February issue of Traverse Magazine. We promise to make you Fall in Love with snow.


No money back guarantees …

16. Make this hot chocolate recipe:

sugarkissed cocoa

17. Make maple syrup snow candy


18. Watch the movie Groundhog Day. Again and again and again …


19. Spend some quality time with your mailbox. You never know if it will make it through the winter:


20. Avoid Atlanta: The Detroit Pistons couldn’t even fly into that slippery state. And Alabama.

21. Put an orange tennis ball on your car antenna so you’ll be seen above drifts. Oh wait, they don’t make those kind of antennas anymore. Thoughts?


(photo courtesy of

22. Wear ski googles when driving through blizzard conditions (preferably yellow). Lends contrast to the flat snow. At the very least, you will look cool when they take you to the morgue. (This tip courtesy of the  eternally optimistic Traverse Magazine photographer, Todd Zawistowski).


23. Wear a GoPro when you’re shoveling and blast “Don’t Sweat the Technique” by Eric B. & Rakim through your earbuds. It turns it into an extreme sport, trust me.

*There is a photo here, you just can’t see it because it is extremely white.

24. Don’t sleep alone.


25. Kidnap a teenaged boy to do your shoveling. Bait? Try putting the Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendar in your window. And they say print is dead.


26. Take this opportunity to buy (and wear) a Stormy Kromer.


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