Can’t-miss runs, slope-side eats, unbelievable lift deals, super-cozy lodging … it’s going to be a perfect day at these Northern Michigan ski resorts.
Featured in the November 2019 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine. Get your copy.
Katie Clark // Downhill Ski Coach
Grand Traverse Ski Club & Hickory Hills, Traverse City
Teaching Experience: 7 years
Can’t-Miss Run: My favorite run at Hick is from the top of Swede (a blue square/ intermediate hill) down to the bottom of Waterfall (a black diamond/expert hill). It has a nice length, a fun pitch and you don’t have to worry about running into the lodge at the end of it—ha!
U-Pick: Skiing, definitely. Though that’s mostly because I’m a rubbish snowboarder!
Favorite Food Break: Hot chocolate and a Snickers, 100%! But if you’re there for the day, I would recommend packing a proper lunch.
One-of-a-Kind Feature: The fact that Hickory is all rope tows! You get to ski the whole time and it helps keep you from getting too cold (as opposed to sitting on the chairlift for 5 minutes after every run).
Teaching Tip: Black Diamond runs can be intimidating and should definitely be approached with respect. That said, they’re not impossible to handle, even for newer skiers. If you can make controlled turns and can stop when you want, I say give it a try! Just remember to make lots of turns, take it slow, and stay in control. If you do fall, remember to try and maneuver your feet so that they are below you pointing across the hill. If you’re all tangled up and can’t quite figure out how to get your feet back under you, you can always pop your skis off as a hard reset.
Best Life Ticket to Buy: Definitely the all-day Saturday pass, you get the most bang for your buck.
If You Have One Day a Year to Ski: Hickory hosts a Family Fun Day at the end of the season (generally early March). There are a lot of fun and silly events, and the atmosphere is awesome. It’s a nice cap to the end the season. My ideal day to ski weather-wise, is one of those rare sunny days in late February when it’s super cold in the morning, but gets up to the mid-20s during the day. Not only does the snow tend to be awesome on days like that, but there’s a view of Grand Traverse Bay from the top of Bail (one of the new hills at Hick) that is absolutely picture perfect.
Carson Menne// Ski Instructor
Treetops Resort, Gaylord
Teaching Experience: 2 years
Can’t-Miss Run: Timber Trail. It’s a black diamond available from the first chairlift. It’s fast, easy to jump things and offers a spectacular view of nature.
Favorite Food Break: Chicken tenders from The Sports Bar. They are also known for their American Kobe Burgers including the Jack Daniel’s Double Decker.
Top Teaching Tip: Always believe in yourself. Slow and steady wins the race.
Best Lodging: Treetops Lodge. The staff is great to be around and always happy to help. There are indoor/outdoor swimming pools and a hot tub, a fitness center and Treetops Spa at the lodge.
Best Terrain Park Feature: The Cannon Rail is one of cleanest rails to ride on. We have four terrain parks to explore.
Perfect Time of Day to Ski: Sundown. It’s a beautiful sight to see the sun going down on the hills.
Best Lift Ticket to Buy: Thrifty Thursdays. From 4–8 p.m., you can get $10 lift tickets, $10 rentals, $10 group lessons and free Nastar runs.
If You Have One Day a Year to Ski: St. Patrick’s Day weekend. It’s crazy with green on the hills!
Scott Anderson // Ski Instructor
The Homestead, Glen Arbor
Teaching Experience: 33 years
Can’t-Miss Run: White Trillium. This is one of the most challenging runs at The Homestead, and the view is spectacular. The area overlooks Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, voted by Good Morning America viewers as “The Most Beautiful Place in America.”
U-Pick: It’s easier to start with skiing … if you were standing with skis on and your legs apart, I could give you a push and you could quickly move your feet to maintain your balance. If you were strapped to a snowboard, you can’t move your feet to stay in balance.
Favorite Food Break: Cavanaugh’s. The newly renovated “grocerant” offers grab-and-go foods, a soup and salad bar, and made-for-you pizzas.
Top Teaching Tip: Make sure you’re in an athletic stance. This allows you to use the entire ski and handle any terrain changes that might come your way. The body is centered slightly over the ball of the foot. You are flexed at the ankles, knees, spine and shoulders. Your hands are up and in front of your body.
What to Wear: Layers! Make sure your underlayer is breathable. Add several layers for maximum warmth. It’s easier to take it off than to put it on. I wear a helmet all the time on the slopes and suggest this to all my students.
Perfect Timing: I prefer to get on the hills early and take an early lunch. Then, while others are eating lunch, I ski. In the early p.m., I take a break and then go out in the late p.m. for a couple more runs.
Best Lift Ticket to Buy: There are a lot of opportunities to find discounted lift tickets. Liftopia and the MSIA (Michigan Snowsports Industries Association) White Gold Card are two.
Bud Ashton // Snowsports Director + Ski Instructor
Caberfae Peaks, Cadillac
Teaching Experience: 12 years
Can’t-Miss Run: Smiling Irishman. It’s a long and wide beginner-to-intermediate trail that also provides access points to the backcountry for advanced to expert skiers/snowboarders. Additionally, it’s a great trail to teach the beginner lessons and allows for enhancement exercises for upper level skiers.
U-Pick: Skiing is my choice by far. It allows access to all terrains and hill conditions. I prefer advanced and expert terrain options and realized that to have those choices, I needed to be on skis.
Favorite Food Break: R Dubs Pub (try Caberfae Darkside Ale, brewed by Right Brain Brewery just for Caberfae Peaks) and Beaties Bar and Grill (the legendary Arlo’s Ultimate Bloody Mary is served at Beatie’s, along with Caberfae’s famous French fries).
Top Teaching Advice: Turn shape is a critical element in all levels of skiing. Recognize the importance of creating good turn shape (not just a directional change) by emphasizing active steering—controlling the dominate outside ski throughout the arc of the turn.
Best Lodging: The 36-room MacKenzie Lodge at the base of the ski area with out- side swimming pool and hot tub.
Fave Thing to Do Off the Slope: Enjoying the outside pool and hot tub!
Best Life Ticket to Buy: Mid-week ski packages such as “Ladies Day,” “College Night” on Fridays, “Silver Streaker” for ages 50+ and Family Fun Day Sunday.
Devin Kurzhals // Race Manager + Ski School Instructor
Boyne Mountain Resort, Boyne Falls
Teaching Experience: 7 years
Can’t-Miss Run: North Boyne is the Race Arena for the resort. It’s easily accessible from the main high-speed six-person chairlift. There are also alternate runs that come off of North Boyne. Because of the contour of the hill and alternate runs connected, you can get really creative with it.
U-Pick: When the snow is deep, snowboarding can be a blast. But I prefer to ski overall because I can go anywhere, and I don’t have to strap in and out on every run. Snowboard boots are way more comfortable though!
Favorite Food Break: Forty Acres Tavern is phenomenal and never slow. Try the panko chicken sandwich.
Top Teaching Tip: Forward pressure is always an issue with students. Look down at the toes of your boots. If you can see them, your ankles aren’t flexed enough. Block your vision of your toes by flexing your ankle and keeping your knee over the toes. This should keep your shin tight to the tongue of your boot.
Best Lodging: The Village At Disciples Ridge condos are by far the best ski-in ski-out lodging in the Midwest. (Amenities include whirlpool bath, fireplace, cathedral ceiling and access to an outdoor heated pool.)
Fave Thing to Do Off the Slope: Cross-country skiing is a great way to unwind and block out the noise.
What to Wear: Boot warming systems and heated socks are awesome investments to keep you comfortable. They are available at most ski shops at resorts, including Boyne Country Sports at Boyne Mountain.
Jan Clark // Assistant Snowsports Director
Shanty Creek Resort, Bellaire
Teaching Experience: 34 years
Can’t-Miss Run: My favorite run is what I call the Face, but its real name is Kingdom Come. The face is so steep that you can’t see the bottom when you start. Access it from any of the chairs on the front of Schuss Mountain—the yellow, the pink or the blue. Our lifts are named by their color, which you can see from runs all over the mountain. A great way to find and meet others in your group!
Favorite Food Break: At the resort, I send people to the River Bistro. My favorite? Their homemade Parmesan chips. Or head into Bellaire—one of the most happening small towns around. It has Short’s Brewery Co., Bee Well Meadery, Mammoth Distilling, Hello Vino and Toonie’s.
Best Lodging: I love the Lakeview Hotel at Summit Village and its awesome view of Lake Bellaire and the best sunsets.
Best Terrain Park Feature: The Monster Park crew does a great job with all the jumps and rails. I like to watch the kids when they go off the 6-foot picnic table.
Best Life Ticket to Buy: Sunday Family Funday. You can get a lesson, lift ticket and rental from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. all for $29. The lesson is optional and is for “never-ever” beginners.
If You Only Have One Day a Year to Ski: The Special Olympic Winter Games Ski Races that we host at the end of January. To watch the determination in the athletes is amazing and to see the faces when they cross the finish line, makes me smile!
Dana Frank // Ski Instructor
Nub’s Nob, Harbor Springs
Teaching Experience: 32 years
Can’t-Miss Run: Outback Jack on Pintail Peak is my favorite run. It’s a moderate “blue square” that is wide enough for large radius turns, but offers a nice straight line for short swings. At the top is the Pintail Peak Warming Hut, a great place for soup and sandwiches. Outback Jack also has some natural walls that are great practice for skiers who want to eventually try the half-pipe. I may also be partial to Outback Jack because it’s named after my dad, Jack Frank. He’s worked at Nub’s for over 40 years: first as an instructor, then as a coach. Now he drives the Nub’s Nob shuttle bus.
Favorite Food Break: When I was growing up, everyone would stop skiing at 3 p.m. to go in and have fresh donuts. Warm, soft and glazed—they have ruined other donuts for me. Donuts now come out in the mornings, and if it’s your lucky day, you may catch general manager Ben Doornbos coming around with a plate of warm donut holes soon after. The curly fries at Nub’s are amazing. They come in sharable portions and I recommend dipping them in the house-made buttermilk ranch dressing.
Best Terrain Park Feature: The half pipe. Skiing the pipe involves so many skills: weight, steering, balance, pressure. It is also self-regulating, depending on your ability. Better skiers can go farther up the walls, and beginners can stay lower. Kids are so proud at the end of a lesson to tell their parents that they skied the half pipe!
What to Wear: Women should wear boots made for women. Women’s calf muscles attach further down the leg than men’s. Boots made for men are taller and stiffer and can be uncomfortable. Also, wear one pair of non-cotton socks with no clothing tucked into your boot.
If You Have One Day a Year to Ski: Our Mardi Gras day in March. This spring day is family-oriented with costumes, silly races, lots of beads, the Petoskey Steel Drum Band and the Soaker Cup challenge.
Chris Fisher // Director of Training & Development + Head Alpine Coach
Crystal Mountain, Thompsonville
Teaching Experience: 6 years instructing, 16 years coaching
Can’t-Miss Runs: I love these three black diamonds: The Gorge when there is fresh snow; I love its steepness and how its mood changes with the weather. Buckaroo when it’s covered in skied-up fresh snow and bumps; I love how it rolls over from the top and gets steeper from top to bottom. Finally, Buck when it’s groomed to corduroyed perfection; it’s perfect for race training or high performance turns when you want to blow out the cobwebs.
U-Pick: Skiing. Because it’s better (don’t tell all my snowboard buddies!).
Favorite Food Break: The Waffle Cabin is my sons’ favorite place, by far! They go there so often I have a tab there. It’s right outside my office door. You can walk up and get a chocolate-covered waffle to go! I prefer a cheeseburger and jalapeño poppers at the Clipper Cafe or shepherd’s pie and truffle fries at The Thistle Pub and Grille.
Top Teaching Tip: Always go with a certified professional ski or snowboard instructor! It doesn’t matter if you’ve never skied before or if you are looking to up your game on the steeps and bumps or if you want to get faster in the race course—a certified pro can always make your skiing or riding experiences better.
Best Lodging: The new Inn at the Mountain is great because the rooms are beautiful and it is centrally located. For larger groups, try The Bungalows at Crystal Glen because their designs are visually pleasing, and they have a lot of room. They sleep 9–10 guests.
Fave Things to Do Off the Slope: Workout in the Peak Fitness Center, enjoy dinner at The Thistle Pub and Grille, or skate with my family on the new ice rink that is built to tolerate fluctuations in winter weather.
If You Have One Day a Year to Ski: A day with your family. If I have to choose, I’d say my wife’s birthday at the end of March because the weather is almost always as beautiful as the snow, and my family and I all get to ski together all day long. Tough to beat that!