As most good Michiganders know, the way to enjoy the winter is to revel in it and play outside. I have been a pretty terrible Michigander for a while now; I have stopped doing anything outside except for the occasional late night sledding adventure with friends. However, I knew that the opportunity to spend a #MittenTrip weekend in Bellaire, Michigan, at the Shanty Creek Resort would be just what I needed to remember how much fun the winter months can be.
After some careful packing of layers, quality outdoor clothing, and a positive attitude about a snowy weekend up north, my travel companion and I loaded the car to head up I-75. Since no road trip is complete without a few pit stops, our first one was outside Flint at a Halo Burger. Can you believe that I’ve never been to one of these heavenly burger joints? Regardless, it was a great opportunity to rest and fuel up for the rest of the journey.
Leaving the freeway meant we started careening down the winding and snowy roads of northern Michigan. I’m familiar with the experience since I am originally from the northern parts of the state, but my travel partner remarked how dark everything became as soon as the turns toward the resort started. We made it to Shanty Creek’s oldest lodge, Summit Village, after nightfall.
After we were graciously welcomed, we settled into our accommodations that had everything you might need for a weekend on the slopes including a small kitchen, a balcony overlooking Lake Bellaire, a jacuzzi tub, and a fireplace. But we didn’t travel all the way up north to watch TV in the room so we made our way down to the hotel’s bar. I ordered a Neon Snowsuit, a dark American lager made specifically for Shanty Creek by their Bellaire neighbor, Short’s Brewing Company. We didn’t stay at the bar too long because we knew that we had an active weekend ahead of us and wanted to be properly rested for grand adventures.
Early on Saturday morning, we ambled down to The Lakeview Restaurant for fresh coffee and a breakfast buffet complete with a build-your-own omelet bar. As my travel partner put it, “You can’t break a leg before you break an egg.” Jokes aside, we properly fueled up for a day on the slopes and prepared for the day outside.
After piling on some warm layers, we climbed into the shuttle service that Shanty Creek provides between each of the lodges to make our way over to Cedar River for a morning snowboarding lesson. Upon reaching Cedar River, the newest of all the Shanty Creek facilities, the staff outfitted us with all the gear necessary for a day full of snowboarding – including an instructor to make sure we made the most of our time on the hill.
We all clamored into an open-air shuttle that Shanty Creek lovingly calls the “Skibra,” because of its zebra stripes, to make our way to the beginner hill. Working with the instructor on the beginner hill was a great re-acclimation for me, and I remembered how to handle my snowboard after a few times down the slopes. The most interesting experience was the magic carpet that transports skiers and snowboarders up the smaller hills. I was envious of my nephews (new to skiing and snowboarding) who will never know the aches and pains that came from tightly grasping the rope tows of my winter sports’ youth.
For those not acclimated with snowsports, a magic carpet is a conveyor belt that transports folks up the hill by just standing on the wide belt up smaller grade hills. Before those, there were other surface lift options including rope tows. For those, passengers grasped a rope that was on a constant loop at the top and bottom of the hill powered by an engine. This was a strain on the passengers’ arms and backs, but worked well enough on smaller hills.
After a couple hours of failures and successes on the slopes, we went indoors to rest and refuel at the River Bistro at the Cedar River. It was the perfect thing to reinvigorate me for more outdoor fun. We had the option of going snowshoeing or cross-country skiing on one of Shanty Creek’s many nordic trails, but I was having too much fun snowboarding. We grabbed our gear and headed back out on the hills to try some of the bigger options that Cedar River and Schuss Mountain had to offer. I’ll say that I would have been a little lost if my ten-year-old nephew hadn’t joined the fun and been there to guide me, but I promise that the Shanty Creek staff was perfectly friendly and would have been happy to make the right hill suggestions for any level of skier or snowboarder. The resorts had multiple options of hill styles and difficulty. There was even a terrain park for the braver outdoor enthusiasts sponsored by Monster Energy Drinks.
By the late afternoon, we were truly beat! It was time to head back to the hotel, change into some dry clothes and head to downtown Bellaire for some less intense activities. For those of you that don’t know, Bellaire is home to Short’s Brewing Company, and I, for one, was almost as excited about my visit to the brewery as I was for a day on the slopes. That excitement manifested in sampling quite a few beers and enjoying some of Short’s newer creations, Starcut Ciders. My whole family was able to join me for the Short’s festivities, and I’ll just say that because they were able to satisfy all of us, including the little kids, it’s a testament to how versatile the menu is for all sorts of folks.
After food and drinks brought back some of my energy, I was ready for the entertainment portion of the weekend! We were lucky enough to be at Short’s for The Ragbirds performance. I will say, though, that there is never any shortage of things to do at the brewery. I was just especially excited because I’m a big fan of that particular group, so I was able to dance a little before calling it a night.
As much as I wanted to party all night long, I knew my energy was waning, so we made our way back to Summit Village (on another free shuttle that runs from the hotels to downtown Bellaire). Once we got back and relaxed, we started a fire to end the evening on the right note. I don’t think I even made another half hour though because my exhaustion took over as soon as I laid down.
Bright-eyed, I woke up on the final day of the #MittenTrip ready for one final adventure, Alpine Tubing. Our balcony overlooked the Summit Mountain, so I had been watching families enjoy the tubing hill all weekend, and I was looking forward to my turn.
My nephews and mother joined my travel partner and I for a one-hour session on the hill. Tip: Make sure to arrive a little before the top of the hour to get your lift tickets because they only send folks out at on each hour mark. We all had a blast flying down the hill in the tubes provided by the resort – it was probably the fastest tubing experience I’ve ever had! The best part? They had another one of those magic carpets to help us get back up the hill. That was a great help when you have a four-year-old along that’s not overly interested in the hard work of that hill climb.
Following another meal at The Lakeview Restaurant, it was time to pack up and call it a successful #MittenTrip in Bellaire. We made great time on our way back to Detroit, so we stopped in Pinconning off of I-75 for some hard-earned cheese samples and purchases at Wilson’s Cheese Shop. I highly recommend their 7-Year Cheddar – yum!
It was a beautiful weekend in Bellaire, and it was a great reminder how much I love playing outside in Michigan’s winter wonderland. Now, I just need to figure out where a girl from northern Michigan goes snowboarding in Metro Detroit so that it’s not another ten years before I get back on a board.
What are you favorite ways to spend a #MittenTrip in Bellaire during the snowy months in Michigan?