Crystal Mt. Mich. mountain biking

Lift served mountain biking takes place at many western and eastern ski areas and is a popular summer draw for customers. Heartland mountain bikers aren’t so lucky, but there are five ski areas offering lift availability in the Midwest.

Three are located in Michigan, Boyne Mountain, Boyne Highlands and Crystal Mountain, and one each in Minnesota, Spirit Mountain, and in South Dakota, Terry Peak. The first four are open weekly during the summer and fall, and Terry Peak only once per month during August and September.

Boyne Highlands offers the only bike park in the Midwest. They have both a bike park and a skills park, similar to a progression park for skiers and snowboarders, and cross country trails that meander between three and seven miles across the top of the ski hill winding back down to the base village. The progression park is designed to introduce beginning and novice mountain bikers to the freeride and downhill elements that are found in the bike park. Elements include a flow track with berms and rollers, skinny bridges, teeter-totters, ladder features, drops and more. Six new features have been added this summer to the bike park. It’s similar to what you’ll find at many resorts in the west.

Boyne Mountain biking

Boyne Mountain offers a variety of mountain bike trails. Some are quick shots down the mountain, and there’s also 33 miles of cross country trails that wind around the backside of the mountain and through forested terrain to beautiful overlooks of the countryside. There’s also a seven-mile paved trail that winds around the mountain and golf courses.

The lifts are open at both locations, located about a half-hour apart, Wednesday through Friday, 2-8 p.m., Saturday, noon-8 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Lift tickets are $20 weekdays, $26 on Saturday and $22 Sunday. A weekender pass, good Saturday and Sunday, is $40. Bike rentals are also available.

Crystal Mountain also offers a variety of mountain bike trails from technical downhill runs to miles of cross country trails that wind around the ski hill, golf courses and access a DNR trail system that will take you down to the Betsie River. The Betsie Valley Trail is also nearby, which is a beautiful rail-to-trail system that will take you along Crystal Lake and follows the Betsie River to Lake Michigan and Frankfort, a distance of a little over 22 miles.

Lift access for the downhill runs is available seven days a week through Sept. 2 from 11 a.m-8 p.m. on weekends and noon-8 p.m. weekdays. The cost is $20 daily. A 5-punch card is available for $89. Bike rentals are available.

Spirit Mountain is offering lift served mountain biking for the first time this summer. Two new trails have been built, a joint effort between the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) and local bike club, Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores, to accommodate both beginners and intermediates. Candyland, 1.5 miles, features large berms, medium and small sized table tops and hip jumps. Smorgasbord is a one mile, more difficult trail featuring large berms, jumps, gaps, drops and rock gardens.

The chairlift is open through Labor Day on Thursday and Friday, 1-8 p.m., and weekends 11 a.m-6 p.m. From Sep. 5 through Oct. 6 it will run Thursday through Sunday, noon-6:30 p.m. The lift ticket is $8 for a single ride and $20 for an all day pass.

Terry Peak in the Black Hills will offer lift served mountain biking Saturdays, Aug. 25 and Sep. 15, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. An all day ticket is $30. Established bike trails offer both challenge and gentle runs down the mountain side. The Peak offers the biggest vertical drop – 1,150 feet – in the Heartland. It’s true mountain biking.

Other ski areas located around the Midwest offer access to mountain biking trails on property, but these are the only ones where you can hop a lift to the top.

Top photo: Crystal Mountain bike riding (Crystal Mountain); Bottom photo: Boyne Mountain biking (Boyne Mt.)