Pro Skier Mike King Grew Up on a Northern Michigan Cherry Orchard

Watch a Mike King ski video and you might want the Dramamine in easy reach. There he is, streaking down some far-flung snowcovered craggy peak in British Columbia, schussing off a rocky face to suspend in the air, strawberry-blonde curls flying, as he flips, rotates and flips AND rotates. But one of the coolest things about this chill pro skier who reps for 686 Technical Apparel and Lib Tech Dream Boards? That would be the beaming smile he wears just about 24/7. No doubt, this ski wunderkind has crazy fun at his winter job. But know, too, that he has a solid work ethic—a product of his childhood on his family’s King Orchards in Central Lake, where he still works during the summer.

This Q&A is featured in the January 2019 issue of Traverse Magazine. Get your copy. 

Your earliest ski memories are?

I’ve been skiing my whole life. I’m the youngest of four and my brothers and sister loved skiing. I basically liked to do whatever they did. My parents would drop all of us off at the hill. It was almost like daycare. We got involved with the Antrim Ski Academy at Schuss Mountain in Shanty Creek. We practically lived at the mountain during the winter.

Your ski career at Central Lake High school was crowned with three state championships. But you are no longer a downhill racer. Enlighten us, please, as to what it is you do on your boards.

Backcountry skiing or freestyle skiing. All powder skiing. It’s kind of taking this new age freestyle skiing you see in the parks with the flips and the tricks, and it’s putting that on natural features on big mountains. A lot of cliffs and backcountry jumps we build, or shredding spine and really just using the mountain for what it offers naturally. Powder is definitely what we’re going for. The softer the powder, the easier it is on your body, and it’s super fun.

As this magazine hits the press, you’ll be heading to the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. What’s the plan when you get out there?

Well, we have several exciting things going on. My outerwear sponsor, 686 Technical Apparel, is filming a two-year movie that I’ll be in. I also have some things going on with my ski sponsor, Lib Tech. They have a really awesome factory out in Washington where I get to go and meet the ski designers and people crafting the product. All of the skis are made in the United States, all with environmental practices, zero hazardous waste. I’m trying to do a bunch of work with them to grow their ski program.

You have a pretty tricked out work- and live-rig.

My brother and I built a sled deck on my truck, which is a steel structure that sits on top of the truck bed. The bed is dedicated to storage and my snowmobile sits on top of the deck. And then I tow this 6-by-12-foot cargo trailer that we outfitted with a bed, a heater, a table, a two-burner stove, a light and a nice countertop. The trailer has a bunch of cedar in it and smells really good so it’s very homey. There are times we get pretty far away from civilization for three or four days and I live at the trailhead.

But home base is still King Orchards in Central Lake. Has farm life shaped your skiing work ethic?

Yeah, a hundred percent. When you’re working on the orchard, it’s definitely a grind—especially when it’s cherry season. You have to wait as long as you can for the cherries to fill up with sugars and get as fat as possible. Then you have a very limited amount of time to get them off the trees. I find it the same with skiing. You only have a limited amount of time to achieve everything you’re trying to achieve. You are going as hard as you can and it’s a grind. You just have to keep going, but before you know it, it’s over.

A grind certainly, but growing up on a Northern Michigan orchard sounds like a storybook childhood.

It was really fun. My parents were always working in the field so they would take us out with them and we were free to run around. As we got older, we learned how to work hard and earn money. It was really all I knew, and it was definitely a pretty awesome way to grow up.


Northern Michigan Skiing