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Michigan wears winter well. Our roads are among the worst in the nation, but dang is that snow pretty when it glistens in the sunlight. Snowmen, snow forts, snow angels, snow fights, snow and ice festivals...so many activities to enjoy!
Hopefully, some of the following activities get you pumped about making the most of a northern winter.
Michigan is home to some world-renowned skiing. Yes, really! Because of shorter runs, though skiers tend to focus on turns rather than a straight run, making the experience last longer. Lift tickets are much more affordable than resorts out West, as well. Some favorite ski and snowboard regions include Traverse City, Petoskey, Gaylord, Manistee, and, of course, the Upper Peninsula (UP), home of the Porcupine Mountains.
If skiing and snowboarding aren’t your thing (they aren’t mine), how about luge, tubing, or sledding? (Personal opinion: tubes make the bumps easier to take.) The same regions that offer skiing also offer these activities. And check out the Olympian-designed luge track at the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex. Olympic medalist Mark Grimmette got his start here, so it’s nothing to sneeze while being perfectly safe for non-Olympians.
Get on the water.
I am referring to frozen water, of course, which offers so many possibilities. There’s ice skating, ice hockey, ice fishing… Pretty much any fish you can catch in Michigan during the summer, you can catch in winter, as well, and you don’t need a boat to reach them. Broomball and curling are other activities that take place on the ice, and when the lakes are frozen over, you can take these sports outside.
While one can ice fish anywhere that fish are present, my family often drove up to Cadillac from Kalamazoo to go ice fishing, but other popular fishing destinations include Gaylord and the Upper Peninsula.
Hit the trails.
I have never been snowshoeing, but I have always wanted to try! Hiking in winter can be tough in the drifts are particularly deep, so a pair of snowshoes or a set of cross-country skis make the trip a lot easier. Gliding along through the woods on a pair of skis, enjoying the beauty of nature around you, the glint of the snow… It’s a pleasure I can personally recommend. Another way of traversing the trails is by biking - fat tire biking, that is. And, of course, there is always snowmobiling.
Trails that are specifically groomed for fat tire bikes include the Noquemenon Trail Network, the TART Trails, and the Deep Lake Trail at Yankee Springs Recreation Area. Gaylord has a Snowmobile Festival every February, and you can find races as well as trails all over the state. A nice place to go walking is also the beach, where you can sometimes observe boulder sized ice balls collecting on the shore.
Climb a waterfall.
Yes, you read that correctly. Michigan has many, many waterfalls, and it is not uncommon for them to freeze over during the winter forming icefalls, and they are gorgeous. The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula is comprised of hundreds of miles of frozen waterfalls and sandstone cliffs awaiting the right kind of adventurer.
Ice climbing is a unique winter sport that requires special gear and should not be undertaken lightly. It is also a fun challenge and offers some fantastic views from the top.
In case you didn't know, let me tell you that Michigan’s Upper Peninsula gets very cold and very frozen during the winter. I am not saying you need a team of dogs to pull you around on a sled, I am only letting you know that you could. Book a tour with a kennel that lasts only a few hours or a few days. Or enjoy one of a number of dog sled races.
Kennels are located in Munising, Shingleton, Wetmore, and many other UP communities. Marquette is home to the UP 200, Midnight Run, and Jack Pine 30 races. There is also the CopperDog 150 in Calumet, the Tahquamenon Country Sled Dog Race, and Kalkaska Winterfest.