Northern Michigan for skiers isn’t Colorado, but it’s a good local option

What we Midwesterners think of as ski mountains are nothing more than molehills to families who ski out west. But if you lack the time or cash required to take the family to Colorado or beyond, northern Michigan is a reasonable, affordable alternative.

During a trip sponsored by Pure Michigan Travel, I snowshoed, snow tubed, cross country skied, downhill skied and snowmobiled. The best of it: snow tubing. The worst of it: snowmobiling.

The tubing hill at Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire, Mich., features sturdy inflated inner tubes. There are four groomed runs with increasing levels of intensity, but none is particularly challenging. Best of all, there’s a pull rope that latches onto the tube. So, unlike tubing at the neighborhood sledding hill, snow tubing at Shanty Creek is all play and no work.

The ski instructors at Schuss Village, a part of Shanty Creek (the resort rents everything you need for any sport and a free shuttle takes guests from hotels to snow activities), were thorough and patient. The downhill runs top out at 450 feet, but are connected so skiers can ski a mile before arriving at the bottom.

Our snowshoeing adventure took place at the breathtaking Sleeping Bear Dunes. The park is equally beautiful dressed in snow as it is shimmering during the summer.

Finally, the snowmobiling. Stunningly, kids as young as 12 can drive their own snowmobile as long as they have passed a four-hour certification course. Blue Sky Rentals generally rents the machines and sends snowmobilers off with a trail map and a wave goodbye.

If you do go snowmobiling, stop for a bite at Peego’s next door to Blue Sky Rentals. The sandwiches were terrific (try the Sloppy Larry sub) and the pizza was even better.

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