Unique Cold-Weather Recreation Experiences in Michigan

Find seven fun and daring ways to embrace the cold weather in Michigan, the ”Water-Winter Wonderland.”
Photograph courtesy of Shanty Creek Resort.

With nearly 3,300 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, 3,000 miles of cross-country ski trails, more than 6,500 miles of interconnected snowmobile trails, and 51 ski and snowboarding areas boasting a total of 260 lifts and nearly 1,000 runs, Michigan’s “Water-Winter Wonderland” nickname is well deserved.

Ready to become immersed in one of Michigan’s unique cold-weather experiences? Here are just a few to check out statewide this winter.

Experience the glow tube at Bowers School Farm

Photograph courtesy of Bowers School Farm

Traditional snow tubing is offered at this Oakland County farm, but the real fun begins when darkness falls.

The four-lane, 200-foot hill becomes illuminated by colorful lights, including several arches that riders pass under on each trip down. Lanes are lined with carpet, sprayed with water, and frozen, so tubing happens with or without snow. Only rented tubes are allowed.

The recommended height for riders is 46 inches. Tubing is available Wednesdays through Sundays from Jan. 6 to Feb. 26. Tickets must be purchased online in advance and tend to sell out quickly. Bowers School Farm, 1219 E. Square Lake Road, Bloomfield Hills; 248-341-6475; schoolfarm.org

Ride in a dogsled Up North

Photograph courtesy of Shanty Creek Resort

Witness professional mushers in action during rides offered both at Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire and Treetops Resort in Gaylord. Dog rescue organization Second Chance Mushers conducts 20-minute dogsled rides at Shanty Creek, along with meet and greets and photo opportunities with the dogs.

At Treetops, professional dogsled racer Liza Dietzen takes riders on a mile-long jaunt over the hills and through the snow- covered golf course trails surrounding the resort.

Visit the resorts’ respective websites for schedules, pricing, and weight limits and to book online. Shanty Creek: 2400 Troon South, Bellaire; 231-533- 3939; shantycreek.com. Treetops: 3962 Wilkinson Road, Gaylord; 866-348- 5249; treetops.com.

Slide, ski, and skate through the woods at Muskegon Luge Adventure Sports Park

Photograph courtesy of Muskegon Luge Adventure Park

One of only four facilities in the nation offering luging for the general public, the 850- foot track is not refrigerated but is made of natural ice and features six curves.

Riders receive proper training before lying flat on a luge and racing down the track at up to 30 miles per hour. Participants must be at least 48 inches tall and weigh at least 65 pounds.

The Muskegon Luge Adventure Sports Park complex, located within Muskegon State Park, also boasts a quarter-mile ice-skating trail through the woods and a 7-mile cross- country ski trail that light up at night. There is also a 2-acre outdoor ice rink that accommodates both skating and hockey.

Snowshoe trails meander through the state park’s white-pine forest to the top of sand dunes with sweeping views of Lake Michigan and Muskegon Lake. Equipment rental for all activities is available. Muskegon Luge Adventure Sports Park, 462 Scenic Drive, North Muskegon; 877-879-5843; msports.org.

Cross-country ski at two of the nation’s top venues

Photograph courtesy of ABR Trails

Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon and Ironwood’s ABR Trails consistently make national lists of the best places to strap on skinny skis.

ABR (pictured above), voted North America’s fourth best cross-country ski resort in a 2019 survey by USA Today, offers the greatest number of miles of groomed cross-country ski trails (62.7) in a single Michigan location. They are contained within an 1,100-acre tract featuring a variety of landscapes along the Montreal River in the Upper Peninsula.

ABR is open from November through mid-March, and trails measure from 1 to 8.5 miles. There are also 12.5 miles of snowshoe trails. On-site lodging ranges from luxury houses to rustic ski-in cabins next to trails. Lessons, waxing, and equipment rentals are available.

Called a “Nordic skiing mecca” by Outside magazine, Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon has nearly 12 miles of trails for all ability levels that wind through deep forests and are groomed every morning.

One groomer can actually turn hard-packed, icy snow into fresh powder. Skis and equipment can be rented or purchased (with boots and skis custom-fitted) on-site. Certified instructors and staff are ready to enhance the experience.

Cross Country Ski Headquarters: 9435 N. Cut Road, Roscommon; 989-821-6661; crosscountryski.com. ABR Trails: E5299 W. Pioneer Road, Ironwood; 906-932-3502; abrski.com.

Ice climb not far from home

Photograph courtesy of Peabody Ice Climbing

Yes, this is possible not far from metro Detroit at Peabody Ice Climbing in Fenton, where first-timers are in the capable hands of American Mountain Guides Association-certified instructor Garrett Peabody.

Tryouts for the United States’ World Cup ice climbing team and national competitions have been held here. Peabody features 45-foot and 72-foot towers made of plywood that are blasted with water by huge blowers and quickly freeze over.

Warm up in Peabody’s heated clubhouse and 10-person sauna between sessions. Peabody Ice Climbing, 12326 Foley Road, Fenton; 810-433-3304; peabodyiceclimbing.com.

Face Michigan’s tallest vertical drop and the only snowcat ski experience east of the Rockies

J.T. Robinson drops the knee while dropping into the run “Slide Path” at Mount Bohemia.// Photograph by Joey Wallis

Nestled in a remote area just south of Copper Harbor, near Mohawk, Mount Bohemia is not for novice skiers. This U.P. resort operates without snowmaking or grooming equipment, relying solely on the region’s nearly 300 inches of annual snowfall.

Mount Bohemia features about 100 runs across over 650 skiable acres. The property is also home to Michigan’s tallest vertical drop, measuring 900 feet, as well as the state’s longest run, Ghost Trail, which spans almost 2 miles.

Mount Bohemia is also home to the only snowcat skiing experience east of the Rocky Mountains on nearby Voodoo Mountain. Skiers and snowboarders ride in the 20-person cab of a snowcat machine to the top. That’s where they can break pristine powder with a small group in a true wilderness setting.

Guides are present to help them navigate the area. Lodging options include yurts, cabins, a small inn, and a hostel. Among the amenities is a Nordic spa, consisting of a sauna, steam cabin, outdoor hot tub, outdoor hot pool, cold pool, and cold Nordic waterfall.

In 2020, Bohemia was designated the fourth best ski resort in North America by USA Today. Mount Bohemia, 6532 Lac La Belle Road, Mohawk; 906-360-7240; mtbohemia.com.

Take a sleigh ride through the forest

Photograph courtesy of Fantail Farm

Fantail Farm in Benzonia offers 45-to-55-minute sleigh rides that carry passengers though peaceful forests not far from Lake Michigan. Deer and, at times, even bald eagles can be spotted along the way.

To accommodate parties of various sizes, riders can choose from a cozy, two-passenger carriage or a spacious one that seats up to 10 people. The sleighs are typically pulled by horses of the strong American Brabant draft breed.

Rides are offered nearly every day, but reservations must be made in advance. Fantail Farm, 4700 Wallaker Road, Benzonia; 231-930-7216; fantailfarmllc.com.

This story is from the January 2023 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition