Cross Country Ski
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9 Unique Activities at Michigan Ski Resorts

There’s no question that Michigan has some of the best ski resorts in the Midwest. In all, there are 39 ski resorts with more than 1,000 runs and 250 lifts. Our state is home to the second-most ski resorts in the nation after New York.

But, we understand that not everyone can bomb and carve up the slopes so easily. Though many of Michigan’s ski resorts offer beginner runs and even lessons, skiing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

But fear not! If strapping on skis and flying down the slopes isn’t your idea of a good time, there are plenty of unique, non-downhill skiing activities at Michigan ski resorts. There’s something for all ages, so you don’t have to ski to have a good time.

Cross Country Ski

Explore Terrain by Going Cross Country Skiing

Downhill skiing may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but cross-country skiing is another good way to have fun at a Michigan ski resort.

While downhill skiing is exactly that — skiing downhill on a slint — cross-country skiing (also called Nordic skiing) is done on flatter ground. It’s perfect for those who like skiing but enjoy a more moderate pace.

Cross-country skiing still requires a degree of physical strength to propel yourself forward, but it’s a great way to enjoy the surroundings of a ski resort and, perhaps, even in get a workout.

A favorite spot for Nordic skiing, The Highlands offers opportunities for a quick trip or an all-day adventure with 12 different loops. And, Shanty Creek Resort offers almost 20 miles of impeccably groomed trails, and visitors can take in some scenic, beautiful views while they ski.

Treetops Resort, Gaylord - Tobogganing &Amp; Snow Tubing
Treetops Resort | photo via @backrowgoalie

Embrace Your Inner Child by Going Snow Tubing

For those who like sledding, snow tubing is just like it (perhaps a bit more thrilling) and is a great way to embrace the inner child of anyone who participates.

Tubers of all ages can experience the thrill of speeding down a snow-covered hill on a cushioned tube and then taking a ride back up to the top to speed back down again. Tubes are lighter than sleds, so those who love speed will feel like they’re riding a sort of snowy rollercoaster.

Many of the top ski resorts in Michigan have embraced snow tubing as a popular activity and some of our favorites include Treetops Resort, which has an extreme snow tubing run with a 400-foot run and an 80-foot vertical drop; Cannonsburg Ski Area, which has a busy tubing area that includes a snack bar; and Timber Ridge, which has nine tubing lanes and a moving sidewalk.

The Highlands-Harbor Springs
The Highlands | photo via zacharydrobertson

Hit the Trails on a Fat Tire Bike

If riding your bike down perfectly groomed trails in the summer and fall is your idea of a good time, you’re in luck because many Michigan ski resorts give visitors a chance to do it in the winter too!

Another way to play in the snow is by hopping on a fat tire bike. These off-road bicycles are built with oversized tires to ride over snow, and resorts that offer room for biking keep their trails well-groomed for riding.

One of our favorite resorts for fat tire biking is Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire, which has a 3-kilometer trail that’s perfect for biking. Also, Crystal Mountain offers 12 miles of winter bike trails and on-site rentals. Meanwhile, Ski Brule in Iron River — one of the top-rated Midwest Ski Resorts — offers visitors a chance to trek over 15 kilometers of bike trails at the base of Brule Mountain.

Snowshoeing I photo by Amanda Shaffer

Achieve ‘Flotation’ & Glide Over Snow While Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing has gained quite a bit of popularity as a fun winter activity for those looking for alternatives to downhill and cross country skiing.

NOTE: For those unfamiliar, snowshoeing involves strapping snow shoes to boots to trek through deep snow, allowing people to walk on snow without slipping.

The goal of snowshoeing is to achieve “flotation,” which allows you to glide in the snow without sinking and to see the beautiful scenery in front of you.

Some of our favorite snowshoeing spots include the Mount Bohemia Ski Resort in the Keweenaw Peninsula, which has 12 miles of trails; Nub’s Nob Ski Resort in Harbor Springs, which has a variety of trials for all levels of snowshoers; and Mt. Holly, which offers snowshoe trails for all skill levels and a cool Bavarian lodge to lounge in when you’re done.

Ice Skating

Show Off Your Moves While Ice Skating

Even if you don’t want to carve up the slopes, visitors of all ages can carve up ice skating rinks during the winter at many Michigan ski resorts.

Whether you’re practicing your aerials or you simply want to glide around the ice, these resorts have skate rentals and are usually open all winter (temperatures and weather depending, of course).

Our two favorite ice skating spots include Crystal Mountain, which offers skating in the heart of Crystal’s village, and Boyne Mountain Resort, which offers a scenic view from the ice of its Clock Tower Lodge.

Besser Natural Area | Photo By Amanda Shaffer
Winter Hike | photo by Amanda Shaffer

Feel Exhilarated on a Winter Hike

Sometimes, there’s no better way to see the beauty of Michigan in the winter than by bundling up and setting off on a scenic hike. There’s just something about trekking on snow-covered ground with a nip in the air that’s special for many Michiganders.

The same resorts that offer trails for biking, hiking, and cross-country skiing keep their trails groomed for hiking too. The trails are well-marked and maintained, so hikers have an easy time keeping track of where they are.

Treetops Resort-Gaylord
Treetops Resort | photo via tabbycatlady

See the Countryside From the Comfort of a Sleigh

There isn’t a more relaxing (or romantic) way to spend a winter afternoon or evening at a ski resort than by taking a horse-drawn sleigh ride in Michigan.

Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville whisks visitors on relaxing horse-drawn surrey rides, which allow riders to travel through a winter wonderland with Belgian horses leading the way.

The rides are roughly half an hour, and each ends with complimentary hot cocoa — the perfect way to warm up after your journey. The surrey rides are usually offered from late November through March, depending on the weather.

Additionally, Treetops Resort in Gaylord offers sleigh rides, inviting visitors to bundle up, enjoy hot chocolate and coffee, and soak in the tranquility of the land around them. Rides are weather-dependent and may be done in a wagon.

Harbor Springs, Michigan
Harbor Springs | photo via @jgranger83

Discover the Charming Towns Nearby

With all the amenities that ski resorts offer, there’s plenty to keep visitors of any age occupied. But, Michigan’s ski resorts are usually located in quaint towns that are fun to explore.

Gaylord, for example, has a bustling downtown that’s highlighted by its Swiss architecture, trendy restaurants, unique shops, and vibrant nightlife.

Harbor Springs — the home of Nub’s Nob Ski Area — is a town for all seasons, nestled on the shore of Little Traverse Bay. During the winter season, visitors can stop by Pond Hill Farm to go snowshoeing and sledding.

Traverse City — the home of Mt. Holiday — always has something going on whether visitors want to take a scenic drive along Grand Traverse Bay or spend the day exploring Traverse City’s excellent downtown.

The Highlands - Harbor Springs
The Highlands | photo via kirstianaparker

Take a Load Off & Just Relax

We understand that, sometimes, the best ski resort getaway is one where you do little to nothing at all! So if hitting the slopes doesn’t do it for you, then the next best thing is to kick back and relax.

Many resorts have on-site spas with treatment rooms, relaxation lounges, saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools, and much more.

Plus, resorts have on-site amenities, such as hot tubs, that are perfect for shaking off the chill of winter for a while. You can even take advantage of family crafts, hiking, indoor pools, fitness centers, and much more.

Of course, if you’re looking for the ultimate in relaxation, you can stay in your room and watch TV, read a book, get some rest, or do anything else that your heart desires.

The Highlands At Harbor Springs, Harbor Springs - Tobogganing &Amp; Snow Tubbing
The Highlands at Harbor Springs | photo via @scafoto

Experience Non-Skiing Activities at Michigan Ski Resorts

Skiing is a very popular wintertime activity and a big reason why Michigan’s many ski resorts are beloved by scores of skiers. But, as you’ve read, there’s plenty of non-skiing fun to be had as well.

Whether you have absolutely no interest in skiing or you’re an experienced and avid skier who’s looking for something different to do, Michigan ski resorts offer plenty for anyone who visits.

So, kick your feet up and relax, explore the uniqueness of a quaint downtown, see the resort from a whole new perspective on a bike or winter hike, or let your inner child run from the seat of a snow tube. There’s lots to do at ski resorts besides skiing, and the only limit is the imagination!

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