When most people think about backcountry skiing in Michigan, they always seem to dismiss it. They say, “there isn’t enough snow” or “there isn’t enough vertical” or whatever excuse is easy. But the key is, just get them outside of the normal ski resort and they will understand.
Throughout the winter, I have been eyeing all kinds of new-to-me places to lay a skin track. It’s finally time to make those ski trips throughout northern lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula more about stopping along the road when I see a good line, than getting to another chairlift!
I have had an exceptional time this winter exploring whatever my eyes laid claim to. From the forgotten ski hill turned city park of Avalanche Mountain in Boyne City, to the hills of Munising, the Huron Mountains, and the ever snow-filled peaks of the Keweenaw Peninsula, one thing has remained constant; the backcountry skiing in Michigan is Awesome. Every time I come across a line, it reminds me how blessed I am to live and work in such a beautiful place.
These adventures that I am fortunate enough to have are ones that I love to share. Slowly but surely I am taking friends into the trees and encouraging them to blaze their own trail. Too often we might say it’s easier to just jump on a chairlift, but there is a lot to be said about earning your turns. Anytime I can convince a friend to join me, they come out smiling.
For the people who say we don’t have the terrain, snow, or it just isn’t worth it; I challenge you. Find a line near your house, stop in our factory and ask for a recommendation, or go trailblazing up a hill; just get outside the chairlift world for a day. Once you make your first turns in the fresh stuff (after you’ve done your climbing) you will understand it.
We may not have the biggest terrain around, but that just means you can make more laps in a day! If you don’t have a touring setup, go somewhere that has a well packed trail. Places like these can be found all over Michigan. Think summer hot-spots, yes the places that might even have a stairway up the hill, they make a climb in boots much easier than post-holing into the deep stuff. If you do have an AT setup, just underutilized, try a new spot. You might have the idea that putting on and taking off your skins will take too long for a short climb, but you just need to get into your groove. I was once one of those people who thought it wasn’t worth it to put on my skins and instead boot-packed… Boy was I wrong, with my alpine touring setup, I can easily lap a spot 3-4 times more than by bootpacking.
Boy was I wrong, with my alpine touring setup, I can easily lap a spot 3-4 times more than by bootpacking.
While a few of these words might come across anti-resort, that in no way reflects my thoughts on skiing in-bounds. I actually love sliding downhill wherever I am. The point I am attempting to get across is that skiing can be so much more than what you may think. It’s about getting back to nature with your friends, about putting in a hard days work to earn your turns, and maybe just to save some cash with the current prices of a day pass. For me, it’s all about doing something new each time I’m skiing.
This is my plea, let’s keep making skiing more and more interesting, and let’s continue to grow the sport for generations to come! Just remember anytime you head out off the beaten path, be careful, be prepared, and always know the risks involved wherever you are.
So next time you are in the area, give me a heads up; maybe we can make a few laps together and I can show you some of my favorite places to ski!