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10 Things to Do in Michigan If You Don’t Love Skiing

Posted by on February 26, 2014

We had no intention of skiing when we planned the Great Snow Trip of 2014; we just wanted to see snow. And lots of it. This is a little ironic since the majority of the places we stayed were technically ski resorts, although they were also four season resorts and many were actually busier in the summer. We are not skiers. But we are very serious aficionados of sitting in front of a fire whilst drinking hot chocolate and watching other people ski.

What could be better?

Well, we did technically get out into the snow quite a bit. And then we sat in front of the fire drinking hot chocolate. It’s a win-win situation.

We knew we would snowshoe since we had experienced that for the first time last winter in Door County and adored it. And we were pretty open to anything else at these fabulous resorts and we soon discovered that there were a lot of options for non-skiers. So what can you do when you head to Michigan for a winter getaway? Quite a lot, actually.

Cross country skiing.

Cross country skiing.

1. You can cross-country ski. We were not interested in downhill skiing, although Tom surprised me when he said he might actually like to try it the next time we go. We went to a really interesting meeting on our last day at Crystal Mountain with a guy named Rick Robb who has a group of “Retired Not Tired” individuals of varying abilities who are taking lessons and either learning or re-learning to ski.  I’m excited that Tom wants to try. I’ll take photos. Although we were leery of downhill skiing, we were very open to trying cross-country skiing. We had our first and, at the time, we thought our last cross-country skiing lesson at the Grand Traverse Resort. They were wonderful to us, helping us with borrowing the equipment and providing us with a one-on-one lesson but neither of us could hardly stand, much less ski. We gave up after about 20 minutes. In hindsight, we think the fact that there had been an icy rain on top of the snow may have made it much harder than it would normally be so we plan to give it another shot. We suggest you give it a try if downhill skiing sounds a little too intimidating.

2. You can snowshoe. This is, without a doubt, our favorite winter activity. It is easy for just about anyone – although putting on the snowshoes is a learning experience – and the peace and quiet of sliding through pristine, white snow on a clear, gorgeous winter day is absolutely unparalleled. Although we had snowshoeing opportunities almost everywhere we went, I think we made a wise choice to snowshoe at the Art Legacy Park at Crystal Mountain. We were the only people around and it was just a wonderful experience. However, you can snowshoe pretty much anywhere at the resort except the downhill slopes and cross-country trails. You can rent snowshoes for a very reasonable price and get maps of the trails at the Park at Water’s Edge.

3. You can go dog sledding. I had seen that dog sledding was available on the web site for the Grand Traverse Resort and we were able to experience this on the morning before

Dog sledding.

Dog sledding.

we left. We both loved everything about it. Second Chance Mushers is a husky and malamute rescue group that both teaches the dogs to pull sleds and puts some

of them up for adoption. Skimming along on that sled through the snow with the dogs howling for joy was just incomparable. We were really surprised when we arrived at Crystal Mountain and they had arranged a sled dog ride for us as well. We really though it might be the same group but instead it was a completely different experience with Sled Dog Express, another dog rescue group. This experience

was even better because the trail was very isolated, snow-covered, and you could forget you were anywhere near civilization but instead in the middle of a Jack London novel.

4. You can try fat tire biking. We had never even heard of fat tire biking before we visited Crystal Mountain but we were willing to give it a try as we love bike riding. Be aware that, although this is a lot of fun, it’s a pretty hard workout, especially on new fallen snow. The bikes are like mountain bikes with extra fat tires and you can rent them really cheaply, then spend some time tooling around on the trails.

5. You can ice skate. Ice skating was available on a variety of rinks at every resort although it’s not something we did on this trip. The most appealing rink I saw by far was the quiet one hidden away behind the Lilyjade salon at The Homestead when I was getting my nails done. A father and his young daughter were skating in the early evening and the trees surrounding the frozen pond, the snow slowly turning blue in the dusky dark, and the bright colors of their jackets as they skimmed around the ice looked like a winter postcard.

Best. Pizza. Ever.

Best. Pizza. Ever.

6. You can eat. It’s safe to say that we are big fans of eating since we have an entire section of the blog devoted to foodie reviews. This trip was no exception as we ate our way through Michigan with zeal and determination. Every place we stayed at had absolutely amazing food but one of our best experiences was at the Ristorante Brissago at the Grand Geneva Resort. I think one reason we were so amazed was that our expectations were low – just another Italian restaurant, right? So, so, SO wrong. Everything they serve is made from ingredients imported directly from Italy and you just can’t believe what a huge difference this makes in the taste. Favoloso!

7. You can visit a spa. We were lucky to be offered spa experiences at almost every resort and they were all special in their own way. The Homestead had a small, cozy spa with an incredible view of Lake Michigan. Crystal Mountain had a huge spa with one of the nicest lounge areas, complete with a fireplace that we have ever seen. And The Grand Traverse Resort has a lovely spa that was conveniently located off the lobby of the tower where we were staying so we could just float up to our room for a much-needed nap after our massages.

8. You can walk on the beach. It might sound crazy in the winter, but many of the resorts are popular summer locations, situated near gorgeous beaches on local bays and lakes. The Homestead and Crystal Mountain are both near

Warm up!

Warm up!

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park on Lake Michigan with miles of sandy beaches running beside the clear, blue lake. Check out the amazing ice formations and even unique ice balls the lake forms in the winter.

9. You can hit an indoor water park. This was not something we did but, after a tour, we would love to return to the Timber Ridge Lodge and Waterpark sometime with our water-loving grandson. Located on the same property as the Grand Geneva Resort, this indoor (and outdoor in the summer) location would be a great way to spend an afternoon away from the snow.

10. You can lounge in front of a fire. You haven’t really enjoyed a roaring fire until you have spent an afternoon in the snow, come inside, pulled off your coat and boots and plopped down to warm up. We had fireplaces everyplace we

stayed but the cozy fireplace in our suite at The Homestead was one of our favorites.

Full disclosure: Our stays were provided by the various resorts but as always, we will share my honest opinions about any travel experiences we have.

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