The Skinny: Armed with its Piston Bully groomer, Boyne Mountain boasts some of the sweetest, safest and most scenic trails around—25K of 'em, 5K lit at night—and a fat Cross Country Center for rentals, instruction and Nordic goodies.
The Crash Pad: Stay in the Village at Disciples Ridge, and your home is a two- or three-bedroom condo complete with cathedral ceilings, whirlpool tub and fireplace; your neighborhood is a tranquil forest chock full of ski trails.
Worth Writing Home About: Avalanche Bay, a wet, wild and always 84-degree indoor water park that'll call forth your inner child and splash him silly. Waterslide wedgies optional.
Book it: Boyne Mountain Reservations at 800-Go-Boyne or Boyne.com; Cross Country Center at 231.549.6088; Avalanche Bay, AvalancheBay.com.
The Skinny: If a being is ever to achieve that gastronomical Zen where calories consumed equals calories joyfully burned, it's Garland's Gourmet Glide, where skiers cruise 10K of groomed trails, braking along the way for five elaborate buffet feasts—chocolate fountains, Northern Michigan smoked fish samplers, venison chili and pasta among the spreads. The glide is scheduled for Saturdays through the winter.
The Crash Pad: Whether you stay in a room at Garland's luxe main lodge—the largest log cabin east of the Mississippi—or cozy up in the elevated king beds that make their private petite villas feel so darned palatial, it takes but one step out the door to get to ski-able snow.
Worth Writing Home About: The Glide's Trout Pond stop, where fishing poles, a dozen holes in the ice, a blazing bonfire and a brick of butter await your freshly caught trout treasure.
Book It: Gourmet Glide and lodging reservations, 877-442-7526 or garlandusa.com.
The Skinny: Lose yourself in the moonscape that is the snow-covered Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Choose from a mile-long stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline or nine trails—ungroomed but usually well tracked—over snow-swept sand dunes, into dark pine plantations, among fields, hardwoods and aspens a'shiverin'.
The Crash Pad: Access to the white planet is easy if you stay at The Homestead's pedestrian village, just a trail away. There, Fiddler's Pond's spacious rooms and ice-skating pond are fab for families; Little Belle's luxurious, romantic and recently renovated fireplace suites are the ultimate couples getaway.
Worth Writing Home About: The views of Lake Michigan - they're everywhere.
Book It: The Homestead at 231-334-5100 or thehomesteadresort.com; Sleeping Bear Dunes skiing at nps.gov/slbe.
The Skinny: Upon its 4,500 acres, Shanty Creek grooms and track sets over 30KM of Nordic trails scenic trails—including its new solar-powered lit moonlight trail at its Summit Village. All trails are groomed for skate skiing and tracked for classic kick-and-glide.
The Crash Pad: Stay in Summit Village at the recently renovated Lakeview Hotel in a king suite complete with in-room hot tub or full kitchen and fireplace with panoramic vista views of Lake Bellaire and Summit Mountain.
Worth Writing Home About: The new Natty Park on Schuss Mountain is for more extreme skiers and riders. Situated between its Purple Daze terrain park and Village Way, Shanty Creek's beginner park, the Natty Park is a glade-based run with rails carved from fallen trees and other all-natural features. Cool and fresh.
Book it: Shanty Creek Reservations at 855-Up-North or shantycreek.com.
The Skinny: About 2 hours from Petoskey and 6 hours from Detroit, Canada's Stokely Creek is worth the run for the border. You'll ride astride 130K of groomed classic and skating trails that unfurl across 8,400 acres—11,000 if you count the Ministry land next door—without ever crossing a road.
The Crash Pad: While a sled hauls your gear, you'll ski the N mile in to Stokely Creek's Lodge. Your reward is basic backcountry bliss: spare rooms sans TV or phone, a roaring fire, waxing room, on-site sauna, plus skiers buffet breakfast, lunch (or packed trail lunch) and candlelight community dinner. Packages start at $90 nightly, including meals.
Worth Writing Home About: Norm's cabin, the cozy cottage beside Bone Lake where passing skiers can stop for cookies and tea on the trail.
Book It: 866-STOKELY or stokelycreek.com.
The Skinny: 40K of groomed skate and classic ski trails bob and weave across Crystal's crystalline landscape—some, like the sweet and swaying Stag Hollow trail roll through gentle woodsy terrain; others, like the Flying Squirrel plummet with panache. Attempt these during the day; the night's reserved for an easy jaunt under Otter Run's lights and, at loop's end, a cool-down dip in Crystal's giant outdoor hot tub.
The crash pad: Call the Scottish-inspired Kinlochen your cross-country castle. It sits smack dab between Otter Run and Stag Hollow, which links you to all other trails, and offers cush one-, two- and three-bedroom condos. Each comes complete with a gas fireplace, full kitchen and at least one whirlpool tub.
Worth writing home about: Hawk Ridge, a steep but stupendously fun trail, courses through Crystal's Michigan Legacy Art Park, an outdoor sculpture oasis.
Book it: 800-YOUR-MTN or crystalmountain.com.
Bonus: Downhillers, you'll love Kinlochen, too. The Buck quad lift waits right outside the back door to carry you up the mountain. Want to be king of it? Try a stay at MountainTop Townhouses. They offer ski-out access at slope top.
The Skinny: Carve a quick trail through the woods to Nub's Nob base lodge, and then celebrate: You've still got 28K of groomed trails to go.
The Crash Pad: The cross-country carving starts outside every brand spanking new condo in Hamlet Village. You'll find the wee village sparkling all new-like between the runs at Nub's Nob.
Worth Writing Home About: Solid wood architectural elements abound in these high-end homes, plus grand rock fireplaces and deep whirlpool tubs.
Book It: 231-526-2641 or hamletvillage.com
The Skinny: Come winter, the hills and knolls at Michaywé resort's Pines Course are steeped in snow and 17K of exquisitely groomed opportunity.
The Crash Pad: You and nine of your pals can dip onto the main drag simply by slipping out the backdoor of your own private four-bedroom, three-bathroom home, which sits on the Pines' fourth green.
Worth Writing Home About: A gas barbecue grill on the back deck if you want to cook. If you don't, there's Michaywé's lakeside Inn the Woods restaurant - think: filet mignon, lobster fettuccine and chicken fajita pizza.
Book it: Oakland Hills House at 866-731-1887, pineconeaccommodations.com; Inn the Woods at 989-939-8800, michaywe.com.
Lynda Twardowski is travel editor at Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine.
Note: This article was originally published in January 2007 and was updated for the web February 2008.
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