Michigan’s Western Upper Peninsula — The Ultimate Winter Getaway
Two hours east of Duluth, just across the Wisconsin border, lies a winter playground with a consistent 17 inches of annual snowfall, thanks to the lake effect snow of Lake Superior. Ironwood, Mich., is known for its vast wilderness, rugged terrain, stunning waterfalls, vistas and National Forest trails waiting for visitors to snowmobile, ski, snowshoe, hike, mountain bike — or just explore.
Along with over 3,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails, the area has emerged as a boondocker’s paradise for adventurous riders with long-track sleds to traverse the rugged terrain and deep powder the Upper Peninsula is so well known for. Snowmobile guides are available to navigate little-know forest trails and unplowed logging roads to take you to out-of-the-way places with untouched deep powder.
Skiing in Michigan’s Big Snow Country offers 245 runs across four Ski Resorts.
Ringing in the New Year at Big Powderhorn’s charming Bavarian-style ski village is a magical experience with the Torchlight Parade, fireworks and live music. The family friendly resort offers exceptional instruction programs, three ski in/out restaurants, bonfires and après ski entertainment at the Gun Barrel Lodge.
Indianhead and Black Jack now offer one lift ticket for both resorts, a shuttle between the two and a combined 56 runs. There is night skiing Saturday nights at Black Jack, and the fun continues off the hill with tubing at Black Jack plus guided moonlight snowshoe tours and a skating rink at Indianhead and the new Yeti Cave. And don’t forget the annual events, such as the Mountain Top Music Festival in March.
Whitecap Ski Resort, 10 miles west of Hurley, Wis., offers mountaintop views of the Big Lake and Apostle Islands 1,000 feet below. With three mountains in one resort, Whitecap has 43 runs, 400 vertical feet and a unique experience for all levels of skiers.
Ironwood is home to SISU Ski Fest on the 2nd Saturday in January. The 31K and 15K ski races begin at ABR trails and “Finnish” in Downtown Ironwood. The events include a 5K Fun Ski and snowshoe races. ABR 60 km of trails wind along the bluffs of the Montreal River. Wolverine Trails offer 24K of naturally rolling terrain through a hardwood forest, accessible from various trailheads, including one at the top of Big Powderhorn.
Copper Peak Ski Flying Jump, built in 1970, is the largest ski jump on the American continent. This 24 story, 300-ton steel structure claims a 364-feet vertical drop and a 35-degree in-run, providing for jumps with distance records stretching over 500 feet. Copper Peak is currently raising funds to bring international ski flying competitions back to the Gogebic Range.
Exploring the U.P. is often easier with a local guide; weekly snowshoe tours organized at Hobby Wheel Sports, moonlight snowshoe at Indianhead, weekly cross country ski at Wolverine Warming Hut and Back Country Guided Snowmobile Tours at Powder Hound Lodge. Guides offer knowledge of the area and get you to out-of-the-way places without having to search all day to get there. Plus, most are pretty interesting locals.
Off-season is also adventure-filled, with new mountain bike trails at Copper Peak, through the Ottawa National Forest, the Wolverine Trails and Wisconsin’s Winman Trails. Further off-season adventure awaits those hiking the North Country Trail, Porcupine Mountains and Lake of the Clouds, and kayaking Sylvania Wilderness and Lake Superior.
Is it any wonder that this rugged wilderness, once home to adventurous loggers and miners, has become the action sports and recreation place to be? Or better, when you guide leads you to the unblemished, pristine wilderness, the place you’ll have virtually to yourself.
It’s waiting. Explore!
Anne Atwood currently hosts guests at Powder Hound Lodge in Bessemer, Mich., where she lives with her husband Chris and two dogs, Yogi and Buddy. Along with writing, Atwood works organizing polar expeditions and Access Water Expedition Series. You can reach Atwood at email@example.com, Facebook or @powderhoundUP