Treetops XCCheck out Gaylord, Mich. if you like cross country skiing laced with nice amenities, good downhill choices, and an appealing village dressed for winter.

Located in the central highlands of the Lower Peninsula just a stone's throw off I-75, Gaylord is arguably one of the best winter towns in the Great Lakes area. I was just there this past week. 

The village has a charming alpine motif that would fit right into the Swiss Alps. In addition to downhill skiing, riding and groomed cross country trails, there's an abundance of lodging choices, from resorts to quaint "mom and pop" motels, and a variety of excellent restaurant choices; something to fit everybody’s budget. The Alpine Tavern makes an excellent stop after a cross country outing, great soups, sandwiches and craft beer.

Downtown Gaylord resembles an alpine village.  Mansard roofs, textured stucco and shake shingles mix with balconies, painted flower boxes, and A-frames to bring a bit of Switzerland to northern Michigan.  The supermarket even boasts a glockenspiel.  The village embraces winter and puts you in the mood to enjoy it. Check out all that the area has to offer at the

Treetops Resort, just east of the village, sits on a high ridge overlooking the expansive Pigeon River valley, the elevation and scenic Elk in Aspen Park, Michbeauty provide a perfect backdrop for skiing and riding. It offers 23 runs, two terrain parks, four chairlifts and a couple of surface tows.  There’s also the Extreme Tubing Park with its own lift.  The Yard Terrain Park features 10 to 20-foot rails, a 16-foot battle ship kinked rail, a 16-foot rainbow rail, and numerous tabletops and natural jib features. They also offer the only air bag in northern Michigan, which is available Thursday-Sunday.

For food lovers who also enjoy getting out in the snow, take note. Treetops is increasing their skiable feast and sleigh-ride dinner offerings this winter. Over the river and through the woods, off to a cabin in the woods we go to enjoy a Skiable Feast or a Wilderness Sleigh Ride Dinner. Eat all you want and burn calories along the way. It features a six kilometer, groomed ski trail through the rolling hills along the Pigeon River in the resort’s Project Nature property, totally away from the hustle and bustle of the resort village and downhill slopes. There are also cross country trails available at the resort village.

There are three Gaylord cross-country venues. Pine Barron’s Pathway, on the west side of town, offers about five miles of easy groomed trails. Aspen Park, downtown Gaylord, has about three miles groomed. The city trails pass by an elk pen that has a herd of about 30 animals. It’s lit for night skiing. South of Gaylord, Michaywe’ features 20 kilometers of cross country trails that wind around scenic Lake Michaywe', with a lighted loop for night skiing. A clubhouse is open for dinners in the evening with a variety of soups, salads, sandwiches and fine dining options.

Photos: Top -- Cross Country skiers pause on trail at Treetops (Treetops); Left -- Elk are ready to view at Aspen Park (Aspen Park); Below -- Ski at Treetops when in the Gaylord area (Treetops/Facebook)

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