What’s the best way to enjoy winter? Having the inside line on outside time, of course! Come close, and we’ll tell ya the scoop from our Northern Michigan ski slopes.

This story is featured in the January 2019 issue of Traverse Magazine. Get your copy.

Nub’s Nob Ski Area, Harbor Springs


Nub’s lead groomer, Scott “Guppy” Koontz, is so meticulous about his corduroy, that when he parks his machine at the end of the night, he makes all of the groomers walk out single file to the lodge to keep it clean. When the lifts open at 9 a.m., there isn’t a single man-made blemish to be found. Get there early to leave your mark!


Nub’s Nob’s lead chef Ralph Horn is known for his homemade soups. His chicken noodle soup is legendary, but a local favorite is clam chowder, which is available every Friday. For another kind of warm-up, try “Nub’s Pale Ale” from Petoskey Brewing—a hoppy ale dripping with flavor.


Nub’s has a view that you can’t replicate: Little Traverse Bay. Stop at the top of Pintail Peak for blue sky, tree-dotted snow as far as you can see, and the soul-building blues of Lake Michigan. And now you can get your caffeine fix there too: This season boasts a new Italian Espresso machine at the lodge.


Nub’s Nob has a twofer: Just a few miles away are the charming downtowns of Harbor Springs and Petoskey. Top tip when you can’t ski another inch: Catch a movie in downtown Harbor Springs at the newly renovated Lyric Theater, where you can enjoy a glass of wine or craft brew with your flick.

Crystal Mountain, Thompsonville


It’s like a Hallmark movie. Barr Park is in the center of Crystal Mountain: twinkling lights, snow-topped village all around and ice skaters pulling loops in falling snow. And this winter, Crystal’s ice rink will be a little less subject to meteorological whims. Their new skating surface with a chiller now allows figure-eights, even if the temperature climbs above freezing. Alongside the rink, there is also a new bonfire area to keep your toes above freezing, too.


Crystal’s salty, scrumptious Thistle Fries were featured in Condé Nast Traveler when the resort was ranked among the 12 Best Family Ski Resorts in North America. If you’d rather do sweet, tie into the Crystal Crispie—the classic treat is shaped like the Michigan mitten with a single chocolate chip pinpointing the resort’s location.


If you aren’t greeted by Fisher, Crystal’s K9 Ambassador, you’re doing Crystal wrong. You can find the golden retriever greeting visitors in the lobby of the Inn or on Instagram. You can even find plush toys of Fisher in the Mountain Market for your take-home keepsake, no upkeep required.


Just a moment away is Iron Fish Distillery, the place to get a drink and take in some local flavor. And if that isn’t enough, you can find a trio of new services at Crystal’s Spa: The Barrel-aged Body Treatment, Winter Wheat Massage and Tawny Port Pedicure—all featuring special products infused with Iron Fish spirits.


The chairlifts will stay open a week longer than usual this season, until April 7. Of course, to ski and snowboard, you’ll still need permission from Mother Nature and Old Man Winter.

Photo by Boyne

Boyne Highlands Resort, Harbor Springs


There’s a new kid in town. And, despite his name, he’s gonna make outside recess better. The new Pistenbully ParkPro groomer is created for one thing and one thing only: making sure no kid gets left behind. Boyne’s terrain park will be the best ever this year, with a major modification made to the resort’s halfpipe. The MacGully Terrain Park will become the signature park this season, putting the hurt on even the most experienced bullies, in the nicest way.


How would you like a gorgeous table, laid out as far as 14 guests can go? You can pretty much secure yourself a place in history with the newest offering at The Country Club of Boyne. The exclusive Chef’s Table Dinner Series is limited to 14 guests and features a private five-course dinner prepared personally by Executive Chef Dean Grill. Priced at $99, choose from just three dates: January 6, February 3, and March 3. The chef promises tastes like duck sausage, warm morel salad, edible flowers, pan seared wagyu flat iron steak and flourless chocolate pistachio tart. For reservations, MyNorthTickets.com.

Boyne Mountain, Boyne Falls


If you’re at Boyne Mountain, the guy in charge might well be Duane Brandt. He is the resort’s best-known lift operator and works the six-place Mountain Express chairlift between greeting guests and coaching newbies into their first ride. If everything they say is true, Duane should be crowned king.


There’s someone else you might have heard of at Boyne too: Founder Everett Kircher. But it could be only because his name’s on a beer. Everett’s IPA will be available in cans for the first time this year. This golden, hoppy brew is made for Boyne exclusively by Petoskey Brewing. If you get one, be sure to toast both Duane and Everett.


The thing about Boyne is that the kids are never disappointed. Weather doesn’t matter in Michigan’s largest indoor waterpark. At 88,000 square feet, Avalanche Bay Indoor Water Park was the first indoor waterpark to open at a ski resort anywhere in the country in 2005. It’s been improving parents’ approval ratings every year since. Kids can tackle the Splasherhorn and the Downhill Mat Racer, while Mom and Dad hit the Après Ski Pub, where clothing is optional … and by that we mean, you can wear your bathing suit or ski or street clothes. Not neither.


This summer saw the opening of the Great Lakes Center for the Arts just 20 minutes away from the resort. Friday, February 22, brings Swan Lake, the quintessential love story ballet. Enjoy this performance by the talented dancers from the Interlochen Arts Academy. (IAA is a few hours’ drive away and is famous for students like Jewel and Norah Jones.)

Shanty Creek Resort, Bellaire


A must try: Neon Snowsuit is an exclusive custom brew made by hometown brewery, Short’s Brewing, and only available at Shanty Creek. Neon Snowsuit is a light-bodied lager despite its deep black color and soft brown lace. Think dark chocolate and espresso flavors that finish crisp and clean. Just add snow.


Ski instructor Mike King has a truck everyone notices in the parking lot at Shanty Creek. While he’s wearing his instructor hat, his dogs wait so very patiently in the back of his truck, much to the delight of guests. His “Pets That Pull” dogs are not only lovable and beautiful huskies, they also give dog sled rides for children on Saturday afternoons and holidays.


The rental line just got a little bit happier. A big boon for this season will be all new rental Rossignol equipment including skis, snowboards and boots. The gear provides the latest design technology to create buttery smooth turns and carving. So, why rent your equipment? All the perks of new without the full price tag or upkeep.


New this year: Shanty’s Nordic trails have been excavated and widened to span 20 feet across. That means side-by-side track-set trails, plus plenty of space for groomed skate skiing too. Imagine your lover in one set of tracks, you in the other. Try to stay upright.


The most famous off-campus find is Short’s Brewing Company. Joe Short’s infamous brewpub literally put Bellaire on the (brew trail) map. Meanwhile, Short’s sister brand, Starcut Ciders, carries the torch nearby with apple-based ciders. And straight across the street, get a bead on Bee Well Meadery: They feature honey-based meads and ciders using locally sourced fruits including apples, peaches, and of course, tart cherries. Their downtown Bellaire tasting room is a must-see, must-taste experience. It’s fair to say you probably won’t go thirsty in Bellaire.

Kandace Chapple is a freelance writer and co-publisher of Grand Traverse Woman magazine. 

Northern Michigan Skiing & Snowboarding

Photo(s) by Tony Denim