Winter is here, which means it's time to go skiing and riding. The greatest slopes for beginner, intermediate, and advanced skiers/snowboarders are listed in this guide to Northern Michigan ski resorts.

Northern Michigan's Best Beginner Ski/Boarding Resorts

The key to picking the best Northern Michigan ski resort for beginners isn't so hidden after all. There are no such things as bad choices. Because being beginner-friendly is a point of pride for Michigan hills, most have specific sections meant to help novices of all ages succeed in the sport.

Caberfae | Cadillac, Michigan
If your group's goal is to start on the bunny hill and soon progress beyond it, look for ski deals that aren't too expensive. Caberfae Peaks in Cadillac, for example, is known for offering gold medal packages like "stay one night, ski two days" for as little as $69 per person. The resort also provides cost-effective options such as Family Fun Sundays, which run from January to March and include lift tickets, rentals, and lessons for three people for only $59 ($15 per additional family member).

Caberfae has the highest chairlift in lower Michigan, allowing vertically challenged skiers to take in a 360-degree perspective of the Manistee National Forest while still having easy access to backside beginner favorites such as the Smiling Irishmen and Easy Street slopes. Nothing compares to the 25-plus-acre area Caberfae opened up a few years ago for strong skiers eager to improve their backcountry skills. It's a long journey to the massive day lodge at the bottom of the slopes, but getting a taste of backcountry terrain without the cliffs or massive rocks of the West is a great way to get started skiing "off piste."

With its two-story stone fireplace and Adirondack chairs, the day lodge makes for ideal hot cocoa breaks.

The Homestead | Glen Arbor, Michigan
Even on the coldest days, The Homestead resort will give you the warm fuzzies. This Glen Arbor gem demonstrates that breathtaking views need not necessitate a fear of heights. The Homestead's horizon is defined by the beautiful blues of Lake Michigan, thanks to its location on Sleeping Bear Bay.

The cost of hotel, ski tickets, and breakfast for a family of four starts at slightly over $200. Combine this with Ski Express to save even more time and money; order rental gear, group lessons, or additional lift tickets online 10 days prior to arrival and receive a 10% discount.
The Homestead's moderate slopes and sparse crowds (ticket sales are limited to well below capacity) make it a preferred choice for those looking for a quiet, non-taxing vacation. Hill-hugging chair lifts and a dedicated staff of teachers assist children of all ages (including adults) in learning new abilities.

There's also a luxurious spa. Humans that are pampered learn better.

Treetops Resort | Gaylord, Michigan. 
Even the most adamant winter fun skeptics can be converted into full-fledged believers when they see the treetops. Tubing parks, dog sledding, backcountry sleigh-ride dinners, and other snow-fueled activities are among the resort's offerings, in addition to the 23 groomed lines. Increase your insider ski knowledge by taking a half-hour groomer ride to see how that gorgeous white corduroy is made.

Treetops provides three terrain park alternatives for skiers and riders who wish to try something new. The Playground is ideal for beginners, featuring a number of tiny jumps and rails that make learning simple. The resort's hour-long "Get Park Ready" session prepares sideline skiers for rail and jump action. Before enrolling, students must master green runs and be able to accomplish stops.

The Circle of Green Tip: Most resort websites have trail maps and quick facts about their slopes. Keep a close eye on the numbers (what percentage of the terrain is listed as a beginner). Also, go over the maps with your ski buddies to plan where you'll meet up and when you'll check-in for the day.

Check out this video for a look at the Skiing Lifestyle

Best Intermediate Skiing/Boarding Resorts in Northern Michigan

This winter, take it to the next level by trying something new. Northern Michigan's ski hills also happen to have some of the nicest views in the state. There are enough things to spend every weekend on the slopes without becoming tired, whether it's meandering through groves of birch trees, hemlocks, and red pines or taking advantage of on-property adventures.

Shanty Creek Resorts | Bellaire, Michigan. 
Shanty Creek has an ambiance worthy of a weekend getaway, in addition to being close to some of Michigan's best beer (Short's Brewery, Bellaire). On Saturday afternoons, dueling piano bar action at Ivan's makes for a great family-friendly pit break in between runs, and live bands are scheduled every Friday and Saturday night throughout the winter. Finding the ideal fit is straightforward with three hotel options on property: the groovy alpine appeal of Schuss Village, the elegance and Lake Bellaire views of Summit Mountain, or the ski-in/ski-out simplicity of Cedar River.

One of the most appealing aspects of this location is the ability to pick between two distinct hills. Summit Mountain was the resort's first and is still a terrific (and affordable) option for skiers who are content with a few dozen lines, a couple of chairlifts, and a magic carpet. For those beginning to ski, magic carpets are a game-changer: imagine an airport luggage belt, but with people moving uphill. People also come to Schuss Mountain, which has several challenging slopes. It also has a lot of long, twisting runs that people of all abilities will enjoy.

Crystal Mountain | Thompsonville, Michigan.
When it comes to enjoying the winter season, Crystal Mountain means business. There are four glade sections and four terrain parks in addition to the 102 skiable acres (48 percent of the resort's 58 downhill slopes are intermediate). Riders wishing to improve their equipment game might benefit from a superb demo ski rental program. Demo rentals allow you to try out different pairs of skis for one day for $60, or $30 for three hours. What did you think of what you tried? When renting demo skis, the resort gives a maximum discount of $60.

Crystal is only 28 miles southwest of Traverse City, making it a quick sail from the city's shopping and restaurants. It's entirely possible to start your day with a substantial breakfast at TC's Patisserie Amie and be on the slopes before lunchtime. It's also worth hunkering down at the hill, especially because the resort stays true to its winter vibes even beyond the slopes. Through 12 miles of groomed, snow-packed tracks, soak up the silent beauty of a snow-socked forest on a big tire bike. It's not an issue if you don't have your own bike; rentals are available every day, and guided trail rides are available on select dates (for a fee of $19). 18.5 miles of Nordic trails, scavenger hunts, bonfires, sleigh rides, and ice skating add to the snowy excitement (even with a dedicated space for hockey fans).

Boyne Highlands | Harbor Springs, Michigan.

Boyne Highlands, located just east of Harbor Springs, may take you from excellent to exceptional in a single weekend. Skiers may polish their skills, try new feats, or eventually conquer their first black diamond thanks to the resort's renowned SnowSports Academy. This season, the Highlands is bringing in Lisa Densmore, a former member of the United States ski team who is noted for her coaching abilities. The weekend includes video analysis, boot fitting, and après-ski fun for intermediate to advanced skiers.

Once you've finished skiing, head to the resort's Adventure Center (two words: winter ziplining). Spend a few hours zipping through the air on the state's longest zipline or saddle up for a horseback ride over the resort's extensive trail network. For families wishing to divide and conquer during the dinner hours, a Saturday evening kids club is an added bonus. Little ones can have a snowball fight, play games, and eat pizza while their parents enjoy adult-oriented activities in the main dining area, Slopeside Lounge, or Zoo Bar.

Blue Square Tip: Make sure you schedule enough time to do more than just ski. Many resorts provide free activities in addition to the expected amenities such as a heated pool, and resort websites promote forthcoming events such as ski races with huge raffle prizes or community festivals. 

Best Advanced Skiers/Boarders' in Northern Michigan Ski Resorts

Although there aren't many genuine mountains in Northern Michigan, there is plenty of terrain for experts to shred. There are also numerous strategies to keep skiing interesting and challenging.

Nubs Nob | Harbor Springs, Michigan

Skiing in the Midwest might be a little unsettling at times. Winter at Nub's Nob never has to be boring, whether it's trying out new glades or reaching 50 and becoming a ski racer. The hill, which prides itself on being just that—a ski hill with a day lodge—dedicates all of its ingenuity and personnel energy to providing the finest possible skiing and snowboarding experiences for visitors.

The 248 acres of skiable terrain are 70 percent "most difficult" and "very difficult," in addition to nine expert-only lines. The 427-foot vertical drop on Chute and Twilight Zone, a knee-busting huge moguls course, are two long-time favorites.

In Nub's four glade zones, ski gurus can spend a whole weekend climbing, cruising, and climbing some more. Hiking is perfect in local favorites like Arena and Tower Glades. In these glades, the first tracks after a major snowfall amount to season-long bragging rights. The bi-weekly Friday night Speed Series is for skiers (ages nine and up) looking for some of the most challenging racing in the Lower Peninsula. The series, which began in January, features four different front-face hills. The courses for Giant Slalom, Slalom, and Super G are all expected to live up to the series' moniker. A T-shirt is included in the $65 annual membership fee, which also includes an awards ceremony and brunch at the end of the season. The Nub's Pub serves post-race cuisine, which is frequently sponsored by competitors.

Boyne Mountain Resort | Boyne Falls, Michigan

It says a lot when a former Olympian refers to your resort as his "home hill." Cary Adgate, a former member of the United States Ski Team, now spends his winters at Boyne Mountain coaching the next generation of ski racers. (Olympic snowboarder Karly Shorr, for example, began her career at Boyne Mountain!) Beyond the necessity for speed, the Mountain has long been associated with the Midwest as the quintessential winter vacation destination.

It has nine hotel options, a little alpine village, an 88,000-square-foot indoor waterpark, seven terrain parks, and 60 routes totaling 500 vertical feet, making it the double-black-diamond benchmark of resorts. Last summer, the Boyne Mountain Spa had a major makeover. There are 18 treatment rooms, cedar saunas, whirlpools, state-of-the-art workout equipment, and more in this 19,500-square-foot oasis. For the Summit-to-Stein Supper in 2017, complete skiing and switch to snowshoes on Friday or Saturday night. Ride the Hemlock chairlift to the Eagle's Nest, sip spiced wine or hot chocolate, then put on snowshoes and trek to a hot-toddy happy bonfire before returning to Stein's restaurant for a three-course feast and live entertainment.

Black Diamond Tip: The resort communities of Northern Michigan are even better in the winter. Spend some time exploring the downtowns in all their snow-covered, deal-wheeling splendor. Mitchell Street Pub (Petoskey), Paper Station Bistro (Harbor Springs), and Seven Monks Tap Room are also popular hangouts (Boyne City). Thanks to the Little Traverse Conservancy Preserves and a slew of smaller community trails, there is plenty of fantastic (free) winter hiking, fat tire biking, snowshoeing, and groomed cross-country sites all around this area.

Posted by Brook Walsh on

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