It’s time to venture into the Northern Michigan outdoors and conquer the slopes. Welcome, ski season. Whether you’re a first-time skier or a pro, here’s what you need to know about the 2015-16 season of Northern Michigan skiing at Crystal Mountain Resort in Benzie County.
The conversation below is part of a series of MyNorth interviews with Northern Michigan ski resort managers about the 2015-16 downhill season.
With downhill ski and snowboard season at Northern Michigan resorts about to launch, we check in with Crystal Mountain’s Chris MacInnes, chief operating officer, to hear what’s ahead for the Thompsonville, Michigan, resort.
What’s at the top of your mind as we wait for the snow season to get started?
We have a $10.5 million inn expansion happening here, and that is a very exciting project for us. If you go to our website you can get a drone view of it taken earlier this year. It is a 31,200 square foot project that is an extension of the inn. In addition we will be adding a central plaza where in winter there will be a skating rink and there will be water flowing there, like a babbling brook, down the small hill there.
Some other things I’m excited about in this, a glass enclosed 33-foot staircase that leads to a rooftop terrace. It will be the county’s first rooftop terrace. The residential units on the second and third floor will have floor to ceiling glass, so it will be a quite transparent building and is nearly doubling the size of the existing inn.
Crystal has a reputation for environmentally intelligent development, and I know your husband, Jim, is active statewide in alternative energy solutions. How is that environmental ethic reflected in this development?
We are building to achieve LEED certification. Much of that will depend on the HVAC system, and what we are using is a groundwater heat pump. The energy is primarily renewable and qualifies for LEED points. But there are many elements of LEED design. Most of the lighting is LED, so, very low energy use. The flooring is reclaimed wood. All the appliances are energy efficient, and when we were specifying the different materials for the building, the wall coverings, the paint, and so on, we made sure all are environmentally friendly.
When do you expect to be opening the expansion?
We started construction in October, and we hope we will be opening in October 2016. The main structure contractor is Comstock Construction.
Any changes in the food and beverage mix as this comes online?
Yes, very important. On the main level we will have about 3,500 square feet of commercial area called Mountain Market, which will be a specialty foods area. We are saying, “food to eat, food to heat and food to make.” So that will be a fairly complete food market on campus. And we’ll be adding a wine and coffee bar in the lobby that will be a gathering space open from early to late, like 6 a.m. till midnight or something like that.
We have word of new slopes at Crystal.
Yes. We have eight new slopes opening on the backyard. This is between North Face and Ridge slopes. This will connect the whole back of the mountain, so it will make going to the backside much more fun. There will be some nice rolling slopes and a fair amount of gladed area. Three-quarters of the new slopes will be traditional groomed hills and a quarter will be thinned out so you can ski in the trees. And we will be adding a three-person lift. It is actually the triple that was on Loki that we took down a few years ago and we’ve completely rebuilt it.
So now, you can basically ski around the mountain, which is pretty cool. When you come off the terrain in different directions, not only does it give you more fun, it also gives you flexibility in terms of the weather. When it’s warm, you can ski on the north side. But if you need warmth, you can ski the south side. If you want to catch the sunset, you can ski on the west side.
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