Michigan Ski Guide — Exploring-Newlands (2023)

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Written By Janae Newland

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Did you know that Michigan has over 40 ski resorts?! It actually has the second most ski resorts of any state (after New York). And because Michigan winters are soooooo long, you might as well pick up a hobby that has you wishing for snow!

Skiing is one of our favorite family sports, and it’s one of the best sports to gain some quality time with your kiddos - that super slow chairlift is good for something! Unfortunately, as far as sports go...skiing is probably near the top of the list when it comes to cost. Check out these tips and tricks below to make it a little more affordable.

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Look for Deals on equipment

When you’re first trying out the sport, renting equipment at the resort makes sense. If you decide to commit, you’ll want to invest in the gear:

  • Buy skis at a ski swap (these usually occur in cities around October)

  • Do a trade-in program for your kids, or buy used at a ski shop. Most stores that sell new skis also have a season rental program, or consignment program. My sons’ used skis and boots cost $99 to rent for the season this year.

  • Check Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace for deals. When they are young, don’t worry about brands. You just want skis that don’t look too used (peeled edges, rust, etc.).

Check out these Michigan stores to purchase, buy used, or rent for the season:

Shumaker’s in Saginaw (formerly The Stable) & Flint - sell your old skis, rent new or used

Sun & Snow Sports (stores in Plymouth & Ann Arbor) - excellent boot fitting if you’re ready to buy!!!

Boyne Country Sports (Grand Rapids & Metro Detroit locations) - seasonal rental/trade-in program

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Look for deals on lift tickets:

  • Go to the resorts that have deals for kids (most places, kids 5 and under ski free).

*** At Nubs Nob, near Harbor Springs, kids 8 and under ski free!

  • Buy your tickets online a couple of weeks in advance for up to 30% off, sometimes more!

  • Be loyal to one hill and buy their season pass. **Often there are big deals if you buy your season passes before October.

  • Ski mid-week (The most expensive ski day is Saturday)

  • Check out the resort's ski school program - many offer free or discounted group lessons with the purchase of a ticket.

  • Look for the end of season deals! Sometimes you will see a pass sold around the end of February for $100-$200 for the rest of the season. Ski seasons often go into April!

  • Check out Liftopia for ski deals in your region

  • Go to the resort website where you’d like to ski, and check out their “deals and packages” section. For example, Crystal Mountain (in Michigan) offers a ‘5 for $50’ ski deal on select Sundays (five skiers ski for only $50 total).

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***Special Michigan ski deals:

  • ‘Cold is Cool Passport’ for 4th & 5th grade students = up to 3 FREE skis at each of the 28 participating resorts! This is such a great deal! Register your child here.

  • White Gold card = you pay $299 for the card, but you get one free ski at each of the 31 participating resorts (great for bouncing around and trying new places until you find your favorite). These sell out fast!

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In my opinion, this is how I would classify the following Michigan resorts...

**Most family friendly

Nubs Nob (Harbor Springs)

  • Kids 8 and under ski free! This makes it one of the most budget-friendly options for families with young children. And if you’re staying on the bunny hill with them, you don’t need a lift ticket either!

  • There is a chairlift on the bunny hill (so you’re not lugging a kid up a tow rope or finagling a magic carpet).

  • There are a wide variety of runs from easy greens to black diamonds - check out the ‘Panda Land’ run - your kids will love the animal sculptures that line both sides!

**We love hanging out on the backside of the mountain at ‘Pintail Peak.’

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Best Resort Life

**Boyne Mountain (Boyne City)

This is one of the most expensive ski options in Michigan, but it also boasts a ton of restaurants, a waterpark, an amazing spa and many slope-side food trucks and dining options. Plus, there are a great variety of runs!

  • Kids five and under ski free every day

  • Tickets to Boyneland, the beginner area, are available for $20 (first come, first serve basis).

  • If you’ve never been, check out their “first-timer” info. This place is BIG!

  • Check out their end of season package deals (or Ski and Avalanche Bay waterpark combo deals)

  • Boyne Resorts participate in the IKON ski pass (beneficial if you’re planning to ski out west)

  • They have a slope-side Waffle Cabin!

Crystal Mountain

Located on the west side of the state (about 45 minutes southwest of Traverse City), this resort is sprawling, and beautiful. The runs are short, but it’s one of the bigger places to ski if you’re on that side of the state.

  • Lots of blue runs!

  • Award-winning spa

  • Night skiing

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Most to Explore

**Boyne Highlands (Harbor Springs)

This resort is partnered with Boyne Mountain (check for passes that allow you to ski both).**Currently running a ski from March 1st on for $179 pass!

  • Boyne Gold pass will allow you to ski both Boyne Mtn. and Boyne Highlands

  • Largest ski resort in Michigan

  • Longest ski run in Michigan, 1.25 miles

  • Lots of dining options and lodging options

  • Across the street from Nubs Nob, so if you find lodging in the area, you can try out both.

Most budget-friendly

**Caberfae Resort (Cadillac)

Caberfae is a bare-bones resort (think bring your own crock-pot or bagged lunch), and often offers some great deals, especially on Sundays. There’s nothing fancy about this place, but it has a good variety of runs for all skill levels.

Parenting tip: Teach your kids to look both ways when cutting across ski hills. Caberfae has quite a few trails that merge into one another, and if you’re not looking up the hill as you cross over it, there could be a collision.

**Also, on the front side of the mountain, the closest chairlift is a two-person lift, so be mindful of that if you’ve got a ratio of two small kiddos to one adult.You may have to hike over to a more distant chairlift.

Starter Hills

We put skis on our kids at age three, but I’ve seen some two-year-olds cruising down the bunny hill like pros. Skiing with young kids is labor-intensive - lugging them up tow ropes, lifting them onto the chairlift, getting them down the hill when they’ve gone ‘bone-less’ from exhaustion.. or indifference - but all of that hard work does pay off in the long run. Pun intended! My seven-year-old can do any run that I can and my nine-year-old just started double black diamonds (Well, the Michigan version).

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The point is, there is definitely an advantage to starting them young!

***A harness like this will keep your tike from getting away from you on the hill.

Snowsnake (Harrison)

You can see everything from a comfortable seat in the lodge. This place is tiny, but lessons are very reasonable, so it’s a good place to learn.

  • Children 6 and under ski free (with paying adult)

  • Weekly night skiing for only $25!

  • A great “after school” ski program

Treetops (Gaylord)

  • Very small hill, short runs

  • Kids 6 and under ski free

  • They also have extreme tubing, dog-sledding, and sleigh rides!

Mt. Brighton (Brighton)

  • Part of the Epic Pass - great if you’re planning to also ski out West!

  • Magic carpet in beginner area

  • If your child is 4-7 years old and taking a lesson, their “Child Freebie” lift tickets will print out free with the lesson ticket.

  • Great snow-making capability

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Are you a thrill seeker? Check out this chart for the longest vertical drop in Michigan (hint: think outside the lower peninsula):

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**It seems counter-intuitive, but often ski runs in the Upper Peninsula will be closed because there’s not enough snow (no snow-making machines), so check conditions before you go.

Our go-to ski plan for the post-Covid future…

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It’s amazing how much your kids can progress from a few consecutive days of skiing. I think the most budget-friendly *and fun* way to achieve this is to chip in on a ski-in/ski-out rental with a couple other families for a long weekend. When splitting the cost, a large condo can actually end up costing less per night than a hotel room, and the flexibility of skiing in for lunch and back out whenever you choose is an incredible perk.

**Check VRBO, Airbnb, or the lodging listings at the resort of your choice.

Wishing you lots of powder and ‘bluebird’ days ahead!


Janae Newland

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