It’s time to get out and ski in Northern Michigan! From Traverse City to Boyne City, get excited now! Snow guns started firing at the end of November and hot gear and clothing crowds the store shelves. We check in with ski and snowboard insiders to hear the latest about gear and more, as well as a Q&A with Chris Hale, Vice President of Schuss and Shanty Creek Resorts, about his hopes for the upcoming season. This feature was originally published in the November 2014 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.
Last winter was pretty epic in terms of weather and snowfall. What’s the hope for this year?
Chris: Every year the weather can make or break a ski season, and it’s completely unpredictable. Our hope is always for every day to be 20 degrees and sunny, with occasional snow days (enough to keep the Nordic trails in prime shape). Then we can make all the snow we need, the roads are clear and safe for guests to visit us, and the skies are blue … that’s the bluebird dream.
We’re also coming off a Winter Olympic year, and ski/snowboard events got more attention than ever. What’s the most exciting buzz in the industry these days?
Chris: The terrain parks remain buzz-worthy. Shanty Creek has stayed on the cutting edge in the Midwest with multiple parks at Schuss Mountain including the award-winning Monster Park, the all-natural glades park The Natty, the Big Air Launch Pad, and a beginners park area called Low Rider. Because of the visual excitement of terrain parks, we combine technical features and multiple jumplines in spectator-friendly areas of the slopes.
How does your resort help raise new generations of little rippers? And how do you keep parents and grandparents coming back (or starting on the slopes for the first time)?
Chris: Making skiing and riding fun is the first step. Every Shanty Creek instructor understands just how critical “making it fun” is for beginners. Our programs are designed with that in mind. And our ski school has a rotation of costumed themes like super heroes, where our instructors dress up on the slopes like Superman, Wonder Woman or Batman, etc.
Another way we want to draw folks in is to show skiing doesn’t have to be cost-prohibitive. We offer Super Sundays, a beginner-friendly program after 1 p.m. on Sundays (non-holiday) when you can get a lift ticket, a rental, AND a group lesson for only $25. It’s the perfect time to come out: the crowds are smaller and the price is right.
What does your ideal season look like?
Chris: The ideal season is filled with blue skies, lots of smiles and the sound of laughter. Whether it’s parents smiling with pride because of the quality family time they are sharing or the kids in the terrain park high-fiving after a big air landing. It starts with the popular early-season Sardine Special (December 19) and then Ski Free with Santa on Christmas Day, and if Old Man Winter agrees, we’ll still be skiing at Spring Break at the end of March, early April.
Shanty Creek will do its part by maintaining exemplary snow conditions and grooming, providing a friendly and caring staff and ski patrol, and extending family-friendly value on the slopes, in the tubing park and on the Nordic trails.
The Latest Snow Gear
When looking to protect your dome, go for the best technology out there. Multi-piece construction—to cover different zones of your head—is the next big thing in the world of headgear. Adrenaline junkies can rejoice, because these helmets are also built to stop the “crumple factor.”
K2 has stepped onto the boot-making scene this season, and it’s a game changer. The company created a boot geared for backcountry and all-terrain, with an intuition liner. Of course, Pete Carter, resident expert at the Bahnhof in Petoskey, says he can’t stress enough the importance of a professional boot fitter. “You are basically wearing plastic shoes, and not everybody has the same foot. It’s crucial to get a good fit, and to have the help of someone who knows what that means.”
Truth is, the snowboard market is getting smaller and smaller, a result of the twin-tip ski generation. However, board makers are creating new ways to introduce riders to the joy of the deep carve. This season, expect to see lots of full rocker boards, which grab the snow and make it easier to turn.
Warm, Smart, Sharp
Hooray for a fashion trend we can finally endorse wholeheartedly: form, function, and long-lasting warmth combine for some of this season’s best on- (and off-) slope winter styles. According to Boyne Country Sports clothing buyer, Kelly Sue Eccleston, this season’s outfits will keep polar vortex chills at bay and look extra cool at the same time.
“Outdoor brands are just getting better and better at après styles,” Eccleston says. “It’s great to wear something with quality that you expect will last for years but also have you feeling very trendy.” Layering has gone from a necessary evil to a fashion dream, with fun colors and prints made from merino and natural fabrics. Flattering mid-layers of down, Primaloft and other insulators are often post-slope outfits of choice. Added bonus for ladies: down skirts make a warm (and super cute) addition to winter wardrobes.
Go go gadgets! This season’s jackets have every pocket, zip, and pull you need to keep your phone, iPod, mini-tablet and more in the right places. Want to get even more geeked out? Eccleston says some styles include touch screen fabric and stylus pens. The future is here, folks.
Color is Key
The old “everything old is new again” adage is hitting the slopes full force this season. Bright colors—and interesting combos—are all the rage. Think jewel tones of purple, teal, and reds for the ladies, and yellow, red, and blue for guys. And for better or worse, “camo just will not go away,” Eccleston says. “It’s ever changing from very subtle prints to wild and crazy, and it’s coming from a number of different brands like Burton, The North Face and even luxury brands like Bogner.”
Forget the Stay Puft marshmallow suit styles to keep kids warm. Today’s winter gear for kids keeps them hot without sacrificing style (or mobility). Colors, prints, and layering pieces make kids look cool and feel comfortable. Eccleston says Obermeyer continues to lead the industry with the cutest ski apparel for little ones, and “grow systems” in jackets and pants help parents avoid the mid-season growth spurt blues.