Pack up the kids for some frozen fun at two of Michigan’s award-winning ski resorts.
Let it snow! Looking for a weekend on the slopes (plus tons more family-friendly fun), but don’t have the time or inclination to head to Gstaad, Aspen or Vail? No need. Two of the country’s top-rated ski resorts are right in our own backyard.
CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN RESORT & SPA, THOMPSONVILLE, MICH.
Spread out along 1,500 acres of exquisite rolling terrain and deep peaks and valleys, Crystal Mountain is just four hours northwest of Metro Detroit and two hours southwest of Charlevoix and offers 250 hotel rooms, suites, condos, townhomes and resort residences, most with in-room whirlpools, to suit each family’s needs.
Opened in 1955 as a community ski area, Crystal Mountain has been family owned for almost 50 years, with new additions and enhancements (including a widely lauded “green” initiative) added to lure travelers looking for charmingly comfortable and spacious accommodations and snow-filled adventure set amid a pristine Northern Michigan backdrop.
And the additions have paid off: The resort was named one of Condé Nast Traveler’s 50 Best Places to Ski and Stay in North America in 2011 and voted by Parents magazine as a Top 10 Snow Resort for Families.
Thrilling guests from avid skier and seasoned snowboarder to novice and snow enthusiast, Crystal Mountain’s pristine terrain offers 375 feet of vertical drop down 45 downhill slopes (27 lighted for night skiing) plus eight lifts and a glade area, 25-plus miles of groomed cross-country trails and more than 80 acres of wooded valleys to explore. Plus, a new-this-year 600-foot-long snowmaking pipe provides more snow with less energy and significantly reduces water friction losses.
FOR THE KIDS If you’re craving a little powder action unencumbered (read: without kids), sign them up for one of Crystal’s many options: Full-day, half-day, group and private ski and snowboard lessons with intensively trained cherry-picked instructors for all levels, beginning at age 3 (if potty trained and willing) and through grade 12, are available at Totem Park’s 2 acres of beginners-only groomed slopes. Innovative teaching aids, including the fan favorite Wonder Carpets Surface Lifts (which effortlessly transports skiers and snowboarders uphill), engage kids and get them moving immediately.
Check out Crystal’s Nanny McSki Doorstep Program: An elite instructor, certified by the PSIA/AASI and trained in childcare, will pick up three kids in similar ability from your doorstep, feed them breakfast and lunch and lead them in a day of hitting the slopes. If your child just doesn’t take to the skis, Crystal offers Adventure Care childcare for kids up to age 6, plus loads of activities and adventures, including Play and Paint, Kids Night Out (with pizza and play), a Night Owls snowshoe hike under the winter’s night sky, plus pizza and snow games (ages 9-12) and Crystal Quest, an enchanted journey around the resort in search of magical powers and the crown to the kingdom. Take part in an endless roster of family activities, including a snowman search, Wii game night, family bingo, a snow castle contest, a family bonfire and more.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE Take a break from the slopes to get in on plenty more activities at and around Crystal Mountain. Rent skates or bring your own for a whirl around Crystal’s outdoor skating rink, where lessons and hockey time can also be reserved. Test your skills with paintball in the snow; cruise around the resort’s new winter bike trail on fat tire snow bikes; enjoy a horse-drawn surrey ride, followed by a hot chocolate and a warming bonfire; and take a soothing dip in the outdoor hot tub. Rent snowshoes and explore Crystal Mountain’s property, or hike through the on-site 30-acre Michigan Legacy Art Park, where art and nature integrate seamlessly along the densely wooded trails.
Check out nearby Crystal Adventures (crystaladventures.com) to rent snowmobiles and direct access to a network of groomed snowmobile trails and ask the concierge about dog-sledding excursions. Rent a movie from the Park at Water’s Edge; see a live owl, hawk or falcon with Crystal Center’s Birds of Prey program; or schedule a winter Steelhead fishing trip on the nearby Betsie or Platte rivers. And in-room babysitting means mom and dad can escape to the luxe Northern Michigan-inspired Crystal Spa — the Midwest’s only LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified spa and recently named Sustainable Resort Spa of the Year by the Green Spa Network — for a dual massage or just a soak in the outdoor meditation garden’s private hot tub. Or treat your teen to a Junior Swedish-Style Back Massage.
RATES start at $129 per night, per adult.
CONTACT (800) 968-7686;
BOYNE HIGHLANDS RESORT, HARBOR SPRINGS, MICH.
Indulge in a winter retreat chock full of as much excitement as you crave at Boyne Highlands Resort. Purchased in 1964 as an elegant extension of Boyne Mountain (first opened as the Boyne Ski Club in 1948), the resort’s name was inspired by its resemblance to the lush rolling hills of Scotland’s mountainous regions, which in turn inspired its relaxed setting and architecture of an English country estate, which guests can soak up in 405 rooms and suites, condos, townhouses and cottages.
Majestically towering above the 100-year-old town of Harbor Springs, the deepest harbor on Lake Michigan and framing Little Traverse Bay, Boyne Highlands Resort is just 27 miles from its sister Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls (and a 4½-hour drive from Metro Detroit); the two offer interchangeable lift tickets and season passes for a fantastic snowsport value on two mountains.
Home to the Golf Channel’s Big Break X: Michigan, Boyne Highlands is the largest ski resort in Michigan and offers the highest vertical skiing and snowboarding, at 552 feet, in the Lower Peninsula. Voted Best Ski Resort in Michigan by the Oakland Press, the Highlands offers 55 trails, eight lifts on 435 acres, plus four terrain parks, one half pipe, an 8-foot wall ride and more than 30 features to test your riding skills. Guests can meander among snow-covered pines on nearly 22 miles of tracked and groomed trails (including 1.5 miles with navigational lighting) or race with a variety of programs.
FOR THE KIDS Kids age 8 and under sleep, ski and eat for free at Boyne Highlands. A 16-acre beginner area, a kiddie carousel and two Magic Carpets give the kids plenty of space to stretch their ski legs. Kids ages 3-6 and 7-12 can take part in the Highlands’ SnowSports Academy (which offers a Learn to Ride Guarantee) for ski camps. The academy has a Learn to Ride snowboard program for kids aged 7-12, plus a brand-new Riglet Park teaching area for on-snow play with run terrain and features designed to introduce children ages 3-6 to snowboarding. Kids can chill out at the Main Lodge arcade, with a Ping-Pong table, pool table and video games, and can give mom and dad a break at the Polar Cubs Child Care, which entertains and cares for children 2 months and up.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE Take skiing and snowboarding lessons with the SnowSports Academy or improve your racing technique with the Highland’s Austrian-led ski school race-team experts. Kids (5 and up) and parents alike will thrill on the area’s only tubing run — twist and turn down an 800-foot-long lane on an inflated tube, then ride a rope-tow back to the top. Soar through the trees at your own pace or race a friend on the Highlands’ single and twin zip rides (minimum weight: 60 pounds) on lines up to 50 feet high and more than 1,350 feet long — the longest in Michigan.
Ice skate on the Main Lodge pond, snowshoe on a trail lush with mature spruce and pine; explore snow-covered paths on horseback (ages 7 and up; ages 7 and under can get a 15-minute thrill on ponyback); experience a guided dogsled tour with Iditarod sled dogs from Nature’s Kennel
(natureskennel.com); or take a snow-groomer ride, horse-drawn wagon and sleigh ride and rent a snowmobile, then soak in year-round indoor/outdoor pools and hot tubs (one of which is the Midwest’s largest). Treat the family to a sleigh-ride-transported mountain-top dinner at North Peak, a day lodge with views of Mackinac Bridge on clear nights. Indulge in a Signature Bamboo Massage at the brand-new Spa at Boyne Highlands in the resort’s Heather Highlands Inn.
RATES start at $108 per night, per adult.