In The Spotlight
Mountaintop sleigh ride and snowshoe dining have long been popular activities at western resorts. Four northern Michigan resorts are now embracing the tradition with signature style. Ski Brule, Boyne Highlands, Boyne Mountain and Treetops tender a truly unique outdoor experience.
Brule combines a sleigh ride to the resort’s 1880 Homestead Lodge with a Homestead BBQ dinner. Relax by the old fashioned pot belly stove, listen to acoustic guitar music and watch children tube on a nearby hill. It takes place every Thursday and Saturday night throughout the season. The free sleigh ride departs from the bottom of Homestead Trail and operates back and forth between 5-8 p.m. The dinner is $14 adults, juniors (10-17) $10, and children nine and under $8. A family, two adults and up to six children (17 and under), is $48.
Treetops sleigh ride dinners take place into March. Shuttled to a remote location, you board a horse drawn sleigh for a meandering ride through the woods to a river cabin where you enjoy a four-course gourmet meal with Michigan microbrew beer and wines. The menu includes special appetizers, Michigan salad, surf and turf and wilderness berry cobbler. An overnight package for the event starts from $195 per person. Seating is limited to 20 people per event on a first-come basis. The resort also hosts a cross country skiable feast, which includes six gourmet food stations on the leisurely excursion. You set the pace. The cost is $89, which includes tax and gratuity.
Boyne Highlands Aonach Mor Moonlight Dinner unfolds on North Peak. A 15-minute sleigh ride takes guests to the top of the peak where the mountaintop lodge is aglow with candlelight and an acoustic guitarist plays softly in the background. On clear nights, the lights of the Mackinac Bridge are visible nearly 30 miles away. The menu includes French onion soup, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, fresh local vegetables and roast tenderloin au poivre, followed by chocolate fondue with assorted fruits and cookies for dipping. The cost is $95, which includes gratuity.
Boyne Mountain hosts the Summit-To-Stein's Snowshoe Supper every Friday and Saturday evening through mid-March. Ride the historic Hemlock chairlift, enjoy a brief spiced wine or hot cocoa warm up at Eagle's Nest, followed by a trek down Cold Springs with a bonfire and warm beverages at the halfway point. Finish the excursion with a three-course meal paired with live entertainment at Stein Eriksen's. The all-inclusive cost is $65 per person, which includes tax and gratuity.
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The wind is blowing snow across the mountaintop. Temps are well below zero. Visibility is bad.
“This is an adventure,” said Chris Jarnot, sidestepping in his K2 skis up a narrow ridge, heading toward Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s precipitous, powdery Teocalli Bowl.
The executive vice president of Vail Resorts’ mountain division is adventuring hard at the end-of-the-road ski town, exploring not just Crested Butte’s legendary steeps, but how the cultural cradle of American steep-skiing fits into his company’s ever-expanding network of prominent resorts.
Both are daunting tasks.
Sometimes rapid growth isn't all it's cracked up to be. Arapahoe Basin has found that to be true and, because of it, announced it will no longer be part of Vail Resort's season pass portfolio next season.
Citing a “pinch on parking and facility space,” A-Basin's Alan Henceroth said the Summit County mountain will break with Vail Resorts and attempt to provide more “easy access” for skiers and riders.
“Our goal is to minimize waiting and crowding and maximize experiences and fun,” Henceroth said. “These actions are designed to preserve that special culture and vibe people expect when they choose to spend a day at The Basin.”
Ending a 20-year run, the 2018-2019 Epic Pass will be honored at Arapahoe Basin through the end of this season but will not apply to the 2019-2020 year. In addition, the Keystone A-Basin Pass – a limited version in the Epic program – will run out this season and be replaced by a Keystone-only pass next season. Keystone is owned by Vail Resorts.
Originally, Vail sought to purchase Arapahoe Basin in the mid-1990s when the Eagle County resort also bought Breckenridge and Keystone from Ralston Purina Corp. However, a federal court ruling labeled the purchase as a monopoly in Summit County, so Vail sold the venerable mountain to Dundee Realty Corp. of Canada -- but maintained a season pass relationship.
During the next 15 years, Dundee poured some $40 million into A-Basin, including high-speed lifts, facility facelifts and new lift-served on the backside and in extreme Beavers area.
The implication of Hencreroth's statements is that these improvements and the link with Vail's multi-resort Epic Pass put a crimp on the mountain's ability to handle steadily increasing skier-visits.
Henceroth also said that the mountain will look for other partners for reciprocity in the future.