Winter is in full swing, and that means one thing: time to ski and ride. Here’s our 2017 guide to Northern Michigan beginner ski resorts.
The secret to selecting the right Northern Michigan ski resort for newbies isn’t actually a secret at all. There are simply no wrong choices. Being beginner-friendly is a point of pride for Michigan hills, so most have designated areas designed to bring success to the sport’s novices, regardless of age.
If your squad’s goal is starting with the bunny hill—and quickly evolving beyond it—seek ski deals that won’t break the bank. One spot famous for this is Caberfae Peaks in Cadillac, where gold medal packages like “stay one night, ski two days” for as low as $69 per person exist. The resort also offers smart options like Family Fun Sundays, January through March, when lift tickets, rentals, and lessons for three are only $49 ($15 per extra family member).
Boasting the highest chairlift in lower Michigan, Caberfae can provide vertically averse skiers the chance to soak in a 360-degree view of Manistee National Forest while still gaining easy access to backside beginner favorites like the Smiling Irishmen and Easy Street runs. For strong skiers who are looking to advance their backcountry capabilities, there’s nothing quite like the 25-plus-acre area Caberfae opened up a few years ago. It’s a boots-back hike to the enormous day lodge at the base of the slopes, but getting to experience backcountry terrain without the West’s cliffs or huge boulders is an ideal way to start skiing “off piste.”
Added bonus: The day lodge, with its two-story stone replace and Adirondack chairs, makes for perfect hot cocoa breaks.
Find warm fuzzies even on the coldest days at The Homestead resort. This Glen Arbor gem proves stunning views don’t require daredevil steeps. The brilliant blues of Lake Michigan define The Homestead’s horizon, thanks to the resort’s location—nestled on Sleeping Bear Bay.
Starting at rates of just over $200, a family of four can get lodging, lift tickets, and breakfast. Combine this with Ski Express to save additional time and money; go online 10 days before arrival for rental gear, group lessons or additional lift tickets and get a 10 percent discount.
The gentle slopes and small crowds (The Homestead actually limits ticket sales well below its capacity) make this resort a podium-topper for folks looking for a relaxing, not-taxing, getaway. Hill-hugger chair lifts and a cadre of committed instructors help kids of all ages (including adults) master new skills.
Plus, there’s an elegant spa. Pampered humans make for happy learning.
Treetops in Gaylord can turn even the most strident winter fun doubters into full-fledged fanatics. In addition to 23 groomed runs, the resort’s list of snow-fueled adventures includes tubing parks, dog sledding, wilderness sleigh-ride dinners and more. Bump up your insider ski knowledge with half-hour groomer rides to get a first-hand account of how that beautiful white corduroy is created.
For skiers and riders who want to try a terrain park, Treetops offers three different options. The Playground is perfect for those just starting out, with a couple of small jumps and rails designed for easy learning. The resort’s “Get Park Ready” hour-long lesson ($40) gears up sideline skiers ready for rail and jump action. Students must master green runs and be able to complete stops before signing up.
Green Circle Tip: Resort websites most often provide trail maps and fast-facts about their hills. Pay close attention to the statistics (what percentage of terrain is listed as beginner). Also, review the maps with your ski partners to designate meet-up spots and check-in times throughout the day.
Kate Bassett is news director at the Harbor Light newspaper. Her first novel, Words and Their Meanings, is available in bookstores and on the web. All photos by Erik Olsen. Thanks to Boyne Highlands for hosting the Ski North photo shoot.
This feature was originally published in the January 2017 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine. Get your copy here for more ski tips!