Tips & Tricks for Northern Michigan ski season 2013 including ski season pass deals, new ski equipment, ski apparel & snow! Read on for the snow excitement in Traverse City, Harbor Springs, Bellaire and more.
Twenty Boyne Low-E fan guns added for more and better snow. Rooms renovated in the Boynehof Lodge. Upgraded rental fleet with 230 Head skis and boots and 95 Burton “Learn to Ride” snowboards. A new PistenBully 400 winch-cat groomer to improve top-of-hill and late season conditions.
31 new Boyne Low-E fan guns for bigger, better snow. Expanding the spa (includes new mani/pedi salon, ladies). Rental upgrades with 90 Head skis and boots and 60 Burton “Learn to Ride” snowboards. Swimming pool rebuilt, food & bev service now poolside. A new PistenBully 400 winch-cat groomer on this mountain too! 50th anniversary celebrations—stay tuned!
Caberfae Peaks Ski and Golf Resort
Continuing with snowmaking upgrades of recent years and adding 14 low energy guns and 15 new towers. Also upgrading water and electrical systems to boost snowmaking capacity. Opening up side-country terrain for the out-of-bounds junkies.
Crystal Mountain Resort and Spa
Added a Buck Quad Chairlift and opened terrain with the Buckaroo slope and two glade areas (three new runs total). New winch-cat goomer will improve top-of-hill and late season conditions. $1 million in lodging upgrades.
30th anniversary of skiing celebrations. Renovated courtyard at Beppi’s added outdoor dining and gas firepits. Cooking classes and other events.
New high-tech Wintersteiger ski tuning machine ($25 tune-at-noon offer better than ever). Traded in for new PistenBully 400 winch-cat groomer (4 top o’ line groomers at Nub’s). Upgraded water and electrical to boost the snowguns.
New rental equipment from Volkl, Marker, Dalbello, Tecnica, K2, Burton and Scott. Open seven days a week(!), scheduled through March 31. Upgraded ski and snowboard school. More midday grooming on weekends. Lodging upgrades. Improvements to Monster Park and Big Air Launch Pad.
Treetops opens seven days a week (a first!) beginning at the holidays. Teamed with former Canadian Olympic snowboard freestyle coach Tom Hutchinson to run a world-class snowboard academy (including summer camp—glide on carpet). Airbag landing pad for trick practice. Upgraded jumps, rails, more.
You are fresh back from the National Ski Areas Association national meeting … what’s the main takeaway?
The industry is really circling its way back to what has always been how we introduce people to skiing. Most everybody who started skiing started with somebody else. They start with family or a friend or a school group. The industry is back to the realization that skiing is a social sport and very family oriented. Recent efforts are about encouraging that.
You see deals like “Bring a Friend to the Slopes,” or “Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month,” focused on time—and deals—to come out with somebody and learn the sport. When you have a passion for a sport, you want to share it. That’s what this is about.
Family and friends sounds like a very Midwestern way of doing business.
Absolutely. It fits very well with what we do in the Midwest. We essentially breed skiers for the whole country. We have small hills and we teach people how to ski from a very young age with their families and friends. They hone their skills here, get excited about their sport and want to increase their realm, so they head out West to ski a week a year.
Does the broader industry understand that, that we feed the nation’s ski slopes?
Sure. We just saw a major player, Vail, buy Mount Brighton [near Detroit] and another smaller hill near the Twin Cities in Minnesota. It shows that in Vail’s eye, there’s a lot of value in investing in the Midwest skier. And we welcome them to the neighborhood.
We keep hearing about the active Baby Boomer. What about that market?
Sure, a big emphasis. They have been a very active generation, and now as they age, they have the time and money to pursue their interests even more. One thing we are seeing is a surge in older skiers wanting to improve their skills. At Crystal, we have had a couple of senior ski instructors come to us to set up instruction for that group. And again, there’s that social aspect to it—a group lesson or even join a league. We have Lou Batory who’s 103 and is in a league.
Jeff Swanson, owner of Don Orr Ski ‘n’ Beach Haus in Traverse City, tells us what to expect in the gear we love this coming season.
On high-performance skis, the main advance is super lightweight materials like titanium and carbon fiber; at 20 percent lighter, new materials significantly improve flotation in soft snow. In the broader market, designers are making skis a smidge longer, though not as long as in days of yore. On comparable skis, expect 5 cm longer than a couple of years ago. The purpose: a bit more stable at high speed and better control and flotation in deep snow. And shaped skis with rockering (various camber configurations at tips, tails and center) is still taking command of ski design. Many possibilities: do some homework and investigate the configurations right for you. Also, expect more and more twin-tips on the slopes—they continue to eat into the terrain park market long commanded by snowboards.
The easy action and ski-ability of contoured and rockered skis have led boot makers to sell softer, more flexible, more forgiving boots (picture Alpine Touring boots) even for advanced skiers who have long favored very stiff boots. The results: in addition to delivering improved control, new boots are easier on the knees, easier to walk in, and easier to get on and off. And, yes, three-buckle designs (as opposed to traditional four-buckle) are giving excellent heel hold-down. Heat molded custom boot liners are expanding throughout the lines.
“The main trend is to own one,” our expert says—meaning adults are finally understanding that their heads can be hurt too, and they’re strapping on the headgear. Helping the trend: helmet designers continue to shave weight while adding comfort. Decoration? Anything goes. From electric day-glo to Army-drab green, search till you find your on-slope style.
Swanson is a fan of the Knee Binding, a design that allows boots to release in multiple ways, significantly reducing the chances of ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury in rearward-twisting falls—an injury that happens to thousands of skiers a year and is by far the most common injury related to skiing.
Board designers, anxious to bring growth back to their sport, are working to lighten boards and experiment with camber and rocker to make boards more responsive, controllable and spirited than ever before. Designers also continue to max out the art possibilities of that big snowboard surface—wild or mild, find the look that inspires you.
Northern Michigan’s ski resorts have rolled out myriad options of season passes. Here we give a sampler, a sip from a firehose, to get you excited. Check resort websites for all the possibilities.
Boyne Resorts: Unlimited adult pass $774 lets you ski at both the Mountain and Highlands and, super bonus for skiers who head west each winter, days of free skiing at Boyne’s western resorts, like Big Sky (day passes out West can be $100 or more). Good grades: kids in five-county area (Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Emmet and Otsego) get super deals on season pass. The best: 4.0–3.5 gpa = $49 season pass. boyne.com
Caberfae: Unlimited adult pass $198; weekends only, adults $99; Monday–Friday adult $99. Kids 8 and under: Unlimited $20. Kids weekend season pass just $10(!). (Prices increase after October 31.) caberfaepeaks.com
Crystal Mountain: Unlimited adult season pass $299 thru October 1, then $349. Deal we like, the 5/7 pass—ski unlimited Monday thru Friday and 5 p.m. till close Saturday and Sunday, $229 till October 1, then $249. Kids 6 and under, $25. crystalmountain.com
Nub’s Nob: Unlimited adult pass $526.50 until October 10, then $585. Bargain season pass lets you ski one full day or two 4-hour stints each week, excluding Saturdays, $238 till October 10, then $252. Unlimited pass for kids 6 and under, with adult, $25. nubsnob.com
Shanty Creek Resorts: Adult SuperPasses for unlimited skiing at both Schuss and Summit Mountains $369 October 16 until November 27, then increase to $399. SCR Favorite Card: $139 gets you unlimited skiing at Summit Mountain, midweek lift tickets at Schuss Mountain for $10 and other discounts. Good Grades: SuperPasses are $69 for 4.0–3.5 gpa; $119 for 3.49–3.0 gpa. CHECK IT!: Parents of honor roll students pay just $229 for SuperPass. shantycreek.com
TreeTops: The resort’s Fill a Triple deal gets you an adult unlimited season pass for $155 if you join with two other purchasers (offer runs through November). For kids with good grades, various prices, but the best is for 4.0–3.5: $40 unlimited pass. treetops.com
Sexy, renegade, elegant, rogue—ski fashion has always added interest and intrigue to the downhill scene, both on-slope and off. We check in with Brian Kautz, director of Shanty Creek Resorts’ ski shop, to see where the look is veering this season.
Expanding on color proliferation in recent seasons, downhill fashion designers are going brighter yet. Lime green. Electric orange. Vivid reds. Not just solids, but big, bold blasts of color printed against duller backgrounds to make the color pop. Plaids also continue their run, tweaked this season with, yep, bright hues. And that slogan, “Put camo on anything and it gets better” ... Well, downhill fashion designers are listening … printed in bright colors, of course.
Goose down is the natural insulator of choice and growing in popularity. (Tip: Treat your goose down right. Read the care labels and follow to a T.) Columbia’s sleek and shimmery liner called Omni Heat works like a space blanket to reflect your heat back and keep you warm. Look for it in everything: jackets, hats, gloves … With today’s engineered clothing, there’s no reason to be cold on the slopes, Kautz says.
Ski fashion designers continue to rediscover the female form. Tighter fits made possible by responsive materials have all but replaced the boarder bagginess of the aughts. The down sweater is example: slim and snug, it’s a toasty layer under a big jacket in the cold; an ample outer on warmer days; an easy, light jacket in the aprés-ski hours.