Northern Michigan may not have many actual mountains, but there’s plenty of terrain for experts to shred. There are also plenty of ways to stay challenged and keep skiing fresh.

Not an advanced skier? Beginner Ski Resorts | Intermediate Ski Resorts

Nub’s Nob:

Sometimes, skiing in the Midwest requires a little shake up. Whether it’s testing new glades or turning into a ski racer at age 50, winter never needs to stay stagnant at Nub’s Nob. The hill, which prides itself on being just that—a ski hill with a day lodge—has 100 percent of innovation and staff energy directed at making the best experiences possible for folks on the slopes.

In addition to nine expert-only runs, the 248 acres of skiable terrain is 70 percent “most difficult” and “more difficult.” Some longtime favorites include the 427 feet of vertical drop on Chute and Twilight Zone, a knee-busting monstrous moguls run.

Ski gurus can spend an entire week-end climbing, cruising, and climbing some more in the four glade areas at Nub’s. Local favorites like Arena and Tower Glades are ideal for hiking. First tracks after big snow dumps in these glades equate to season-long bragging rights. Skiers (ages nine and up) looking for some of the most challenging racing in the Lower Peninsula can check out the bi-weekly Friday night Speed Series. Kicking off in January, the series uses four different front-face hills. The Giant Slalom, Slalom, and Super G courses are set to live up to the name of this series. $65 for the whole year includes a T-shirt, with an awards ceremony and brunch at the end of the season. Post-race grub often sponsored by racers is served in the Nub’s Pub.

Boyne Mountain

When a former Olympian calls your resort his home hill, it’s saying something. Former U.S. Team member Cary Adgate now spends his winter at Boyne Mountain training the next generation of ski racers. (Olympic snowboarder Karly Shorr got her start at Boyne Mountain, too!) And beyond the need for speed, the Mountain has long represented the Midwest as the ultimate spot for winter vacations.

It’s considered the double black-diamond standard of resorts: nine lodging options on property, a mini alpine village, an 88,000-square-foot indoor waterpark, seven terrain parks and 60 runs with a total of 500 vertical feet. The Spa at Boyne Mountain got a mega facelift last summer. We’re talking 19,500-feet of relaxation, including 18 treatment rooms, cedar saunas, whirlpools, state-of-the-art fitness equipment and more. In 2017, finish skiing and switch to snowshoes on Friday or Saturday night for the Summit-to-Stein Supper. Ride up the Hemlock chairlift, sip spiced wine or hot chocolate at the Eagle’s Nest, then strap on snowshoes and hike to a hot-toddy happy bonfire before continuing back down to Stein’s restaurant for a three-course meal and live entertainment.

Black Diamond Tip: Northern Michigan’s resort towns are even better in the winter months. Take time to explore the downtowns in all their snow-blanketed, deal-wheeling glory. Hotspot favorites: Mustang Wendy’s (Harbor Springs), Mitchell Street Pub (Petoskey), and Seven Monks Tap Room (Boyne City). There’s also great (free) winter hiking, fat tire bike, snowshoe, and groomed cross-country spots all over this area thanks to the Little Traverse Conservancy Preserves and a host of other community trails.

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. 

Photo(s) by Erik Olsen