January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month. Throughout the Midwest ski areas are offering discounted lesson programs. Michigan offers one of the best programs for cost and simplicity, and it’s available at ski areas throughout the Wolverine State.
The 2018-19 winter is off to a great start all across the Midwest. Most ski areas across the upper tier of the Heartland and around the Great Lakes opened in November, and the rest across the Lower Midwest, Ohio, Indiana and Missouri, opened this past weekend or scheduled to open next weekend.
Winter has arrived across the upper Midwest. Many ski areas and resorts are opening this weekend, and Thanksgiving Weekend also looks good if you want to get away for that first ski trip of the new season.
The Hemlock Open takes place April 28 on Boyne Mountain. (Boyne Mountain)
With plenty of snow on the slopes and in the glades Michigan’s Boyne Mountain, located in the Lower Peninsula, and Mount Bohemia, in the UP, have thrown down the gauntlet. Who will remain open longest this season for the Wolverine State title?
Nubs spring runs are silky smooth. (Nubs Nob/Facebook)
With snow in the forecast this week across the upper Midwest and plenty of snow still on the slopes the snowsports season is extending into April, and a couple may stay open into May.
Baumgartner in the starting gate wearing his trademark houndstooth pants. (Nick Baumgartner/Facebook)
Nick Baumgartner, who lives in Iron River in the Wolverine State’s UP and calls Ski Brule his “home hill,” got word last week that he has been named to the U.S. Olympic snowboardcross team. He also competed in the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics.
Crystal Mountain kids in lesson. (Crystal Mountain)
Many state and industry programs are offered throughout the west and east allowing elementary age kids the chance to give skiing and snowboarding a try throughout the winter. The Michigan Snowsports Industries Association (MSIA) offers one of the best in my opinion. It’s the only statewide program I could find being offered in the Midwest.
Sometimes you luck out with an Easter snowstorm. (Bretton Woods)
April snow will still be in abundance at many resorts across the country, so hop out for some spring runs with the Easter Bunny this Easter.
Looking down at the Ski Brule lodge. (Ski Brule)
Michigan's Ski Brule, a longtime Midwest family favorite, offers a variety of terrain – slopes, terrain parks, terrain trails and half pipes – that flow off a 500-foot ridge. As Heartland skiers and riders have learned in past years, a Brule season pass can be a wise investment. You can count on plenty of time to use it. They hold the record for the longest Midwest season staying open 182 days during the 2005-06 season. The area normally opens in early November and stays open well into April.
Join Boyne Highlands for a beginner lesson and some smiles. (Boyne Mountain)
If you’ve wanted to give winter sports a try there’s no better time if you’re a Michigan resident or living just across the border in Indiana or Wisconsin.
Michigan Snowsports Industries Association (MSIA) and McDonald’s Restaurants have teamed up to offer an affordable lesson program for both adults and children. It covers downhill skiing, snowboarding and cross country skiing.
The Discover Michigan Ski program includes a beginner lesson, ski or snowboard rental, and a beginner area lift pass or cross country trail pass at 27 of the state’s top ski areas. The program is available throughout the month of January. The cost for the program, which is open to everyone from 7 on up, is $20 for a cross country skiing lesson and $35 for a downhill skiing or snowboarding lesson.
Signing up is easy. The Discover Michigan Ski vouchers are available at participating Michigan McDonald Restaurants and selected ski shops while quantities last. A printable version is also available by visiting the MSIA website. The voucher lists participating ski areas. You must pre-register with the area.
“It’s been very popular program in past years,” Mickey McWilliams, longtime MSIA executive director, told SnoCountry. “It offers an affordable way to give snow sports a try, and many keep up with it after that initial lesson. We’ve been offering this program in January for several years now, and in that time a few thousand people, both young and old, have come out to give winter sports a try.”
A sampling of participating areas includes some of the larger resorts in the state; Boyne Mountain, Boyne Highlands, Nubs Nob, Shanty Creek, Treetops in northern Lower Michigan, and Bittersweet, Timber Ridge and Apple Mountain in the southern part of the Lower Peninsula. Big Powderhorn, Ski Brule and Marquette Mountain in the UP are just a few of the participating ski areas.
Afton Alps will host a Thanksgiving race camp. (Scott Melander)
The first Heartland ski area opened this past weekend, and just in time if you are looking for a Thanksgiving race camp in the Midwest. Four are scheduled across the upper Heartland; two in Minnesota, one each in upper Michigan and Wisconsin.
Minnesota’s Wild Mountain opened for the season this past weekend, and is hosting a Thanksgiving Race Camp Nov. 25-27, daily 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. The cost for the three-day camp is $150. The racing program is an alliance between Three Rivers Racing - TR2 and Wild to cultivate, promote and develop world class alpine ski racers from the surrounding area. This coming weekend is demo days. Wild has been the first Midwest ski area to open in the Heartland over the last decade.
Nearby Afton Alps is also hosting its race training camp Nov. 25-27, daily 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Cost is $85 three days and $40 for a single day. The camp, open to ages 7-21, includes slalom and giant slalom training with free ski skill development under the guidance of experienced coaches. Registration deadline is Friday Nov. 18.
Ski Brule, located in Michigan’s UP, plans to open for the season Nov. 18. They are hosting their 26th Thanksgiving Race Camp Nov. 24-27. Fees are $60 per day or $220 all four days. Regarded as one of the top camps in the Heartland, they have always been able to provide lift served trails for training. It’s geared towards age and ability and provides small group training. Thanksgiving dinner will be available in the lodge. Lodging packages are available over the holidays. Stay four nights and Wednesday night is half-off. In all those years Brule has never had to call off a Thanksgiving camp.
Wisconsin’s Trollhaugen is hosting a Thanksgiving Race Camp Nov. 25-27, running daily 8:45 a.m.-4 p.m. Training includes small groups, slalom and giant slalom skiing and racing techniques and video. Cost for 13 years and older is $110 one day, $145 two days, and $170 all three days. For those 12 and younger the respective cost $105, $135 and $160. Fees include lift tickets, lunch, a camp T-shirt, five hours daily training, and swag.
The Wisconsin and Minnesota areas are within an hour’s drive of the Twin Cities.
Two ski resorts in Michigan’s UP plan on skiing and riding this weekend, and one plans on staying open through mid-April. With the recent return of winter across the upper Great Lakes, conditions should be prime spring skiing and riding.
Once again Minnesota’s Wild Mountain, east of the Twin Cities along the Wisconsin border, is the first to open for skiing and snowboarding in the Midwest. A major winter storm is sweeping across the region, leaving 3-20 inches in Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.
Thanksgiving Weekend is when Midwest resorts have high hopes to kickoff the ski season. Frequently it happens, but not always. A handful of Heartland ski resorts are scheduling weekend events in anticipation.
It’s not often that you get to ski and golf on the same day, but Boyne Mountain has the Hemlock Open slated for Saturday, April 18. This is the third year in a row that they have held the competition. The last few years the event was held the first Saturday in May.
As the old saying goes, “It ain’t over until the large lady sings,” applies to the Michigan ski season. A handful of resorts, both peninsulas, plan on staying open through April 12 and some on weekends into May if the snow lasts.
March, with longer, warmer days, is often one of the best months to head to Michigan’s UP for some skiing and riding. More good reasons: Indianhead Mountain is hosting its annual spring music festival and Ski Brule plans a beach party.
While mountaintop and sleigh ride dining have long been popular activities at western ski resorts, three northern Michigan resorts are now embracing the tradition with their own signature style. Offering interesting cuisine and breathtaking views along the way, Ski Brule, Boyne Highlands and Treetops tender a truly unique experience.
A Heartland ski season for the record books, and it’s not over yet. Now heading into its sixth month, many Midwest areas started skiing in mid-November, there are still four ski areas that plan on remaining open weekends into May, assuming the weather hang in.
Four resorts scattered across the upper Great Lakes will be open for skiing and riding Easter Weekend even though it’s coming later in April this year. That’s thanks to the record-breaking Midwest winter.