Mackinac Island Ski Getaway
There's nothing like skiing down Mackinac Island's main drag in the sunshine, then cozying up for an island late winter night.
Mar 4, 2008 Lynda Twardowski
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owntown, the Victorian-style storefronts and fudge shops are dark; the cobblestone streets, now covered in snow, are vacant except for a few parked snowmobiles and my first human sighting, a fleece-bundled local pulling groceries on a red plastic sled. As per the season, lunch options are limited. I chose the Village Inn. Outside, it offers a ski rack; inside, an atmosphere heavy on warm yellow lights, wood trim and waitresses bearing hot toddies.
Over a maple plank of whitefish caught in Lake Superior that morning, I learn quickly that locals - busy with open-till-close card games and bar-side chatter - will leave you alone if you let them. But be warned: If you inquire about trails in a winter town of 500, chances are good you're asking a member of the Mackinac Island Ski Club, an exceptionally amiable and impassioned gang of skinny skiers who, come blizzard or shine, devote their pre-dawn hours to grooming the island's trails to perfection.
I get not only suggestions and directions but also an offer for a group escort. As we slap our skis flat on the street and step on, my guides tell me we'll start under the drooping white cedars on South Trail and head east for Arch Rock - the gateway, legend says, to Gitchie Manitow, great and good spirit, the Chief of all Indians.
Then we'll hit Sugar Loaf Rock - Gitchie Manitow's giant wigwam turned to stone - then climb the steps at Point Lookout and swoop past Skull Cave, the craggy hideout Ojibwe chief Minavavana sent English fur trader and friend Alexander Henry to hide during Pontiac's Rebellion in 1763.
We'll loop about the woods, scout for island wildlife, then we'll ski Rifle Ridge's undulating hillocks back to town. If I've got the guts at the end of the day, we'll careen down Garrison Road and Truscott Streets, precipitous mountain paths cleverly disguised as a pair of distinguished manor-lined lanes.
I pick up my pace, eager to see what lies ahead. I've seen it all before, of course, in summer - when the winds are warm, the grass is green and the streets are crowded. But never, ever like this.
Note: This article was originally published in January 2007 and was updated for the web February 2008.
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