By MIKE NORTON My wife Karen and I are of two different minds when it comes to snow. She approaches the subject as a motorist; I approach it as a frustrated outdoorsman. Needless to say, the two of us have very differently reactions to this on-again, off-again winter we've been having. She'd be content never to see another snowflake until next winter, while I'm scanning the weather reports looking for signs that we'll get a nice big lake-effect blizzard to put some decent base on the ground. As it is, things are great over at ski resorts like Shanty Creek, where the cold temperatures have allowed them to make enough snow to open almost all of their runs, but down here along the coast it seems to melt away as soon as it falls. Things are looking tempting toward the end of this week, so I'm hopeful about the coming weekend. (Ever the optimist, me!) But even if it's too warm to strap on the snowshoes, there are ways to entertain oneself - most of which involve matters of food and drink. On Saturday, for instance, the Downtown Traverse City Association will be holding its 17th annual Downtown Chili Cook-Off, where chefs from local restaurants serve up savory helpings of chili from their own secret recipes as they compete in eight different categories (one- and three-alarm chili, white chili, vegetarian chili, no-bean chili, seafood chili and ethnic chili) as well as the coveted People's Choice Award. Hold it a minute - isn't chili ethnic by its very nature?
- Good old chickadee: A More Faithful Winter Friend than this Darn Snow!
There are a lot of chili cook-offs going on this time of year, since chili makes the perfect winter warm-up, but the Traverse City one is a biggie. Over 1,000 people show up each January at the Park Place Dome to sample the various chilis and vote for their favorites. The Cook-Off will be held from 11:00 a.m. to 3 p.m., and all proceeds from the event help support such popular free downtown events as Friday Night Live, and the Halloween Walk throughout the year. For more information call (231) 922-2050 or visit www.downtowntc.com. And even though cold-weather experts are always warning us that alcoholic beverages don't really warm you up, there's something about the red-cheeked flush and cheerful bonhomie of a shared snort among friends that perks up the dreariest day. Out in my neck of the woods, the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula and some of our restaurants and other businesses are once again putting on their annual Winter Warm Up. Guests who show up at any of the OMP wineries on Saturday can purchase a souvenir mug (it costs ten bucks) that serves as your "ticket" for the rest of the day for yummy warm comfort food and drinks at the wineries and special promotions at participating restaurants. Great treatment for those winter blues! If you want to learn more call 231-223-9303 or visit www.wineriesofoldmission.com
- A Sampling from the Chili Cook-Off
By the way, I just read an awesome review of the Old Mission Peninsula wine country by Linda Murphy on WineReviewOnline.com She says Old Mission is the single wine region that excites her the most right now. "The wine quality is superb, the cold-climate wine styles cannot be produced on the West Coast, and a tight-knit band of seven producers have been positively proactive in marketing OMP in states afar," she says. Check it out! Oh, and if you're more of a beer-and-ale person, Shanty Creek Resorts has got the perfect event going on both Saturday and Sunday. It's their Fourth Annual Beer and Boards Festival at Schuss Mountain, where you can combine a day on the slopes with an après-ski featuring some of Michigan's best known master brewers including New Holland, Bell's, Right Brain, Arcadia, Mount Pleasant Brewing, and more -- including, of course, the brewery at the boom of the ski hill, Shorts Brewing. And, oh, if you know the snow dance, START DANCING ALREADY!
- Winter in the Chateau Chantal Vineyard on Old Mission