By MIKE NORTON Once again, Traverse City is being treated to classic lake-effect winter weather - those bands of alternating sunshine and snow flurries that end up dumping loads of light fluffy snow all over the area. Beautiful stuff to watch from the living room window, to be sure - but even more fun to get out and enjoy! That's what we did. On Saturday, Liz and I headed over to Mt. Holiday to hang out with the skiers, snowboarders and other denizens of Traverse City's "east side" ski area. Mt. Holiday is a community-run ski area off Holiday Road just east of town, with 16 runs, two chairlifts, a tubing run and terrain park, a pleasant day lodge, and awesome views of East Bay, and it was really busy - with hordes of young snowsporters learning their moves and having a great time.
A Young Skier Pauses Outside the Mt. Holiday Lodge
Traverse City is really lucky in having two of these folksy community ski areas. The other one, our "west side" ski park, is Hickory Hills, a small municipal ski area nestled in a deep bowl of tree-topped hills less than five minutes from downtown. It has eight runs served by old-fashioned rope tows that hearken back to a time when skiing was simpler and just plain fun. On weekends and after-school hours, they're both bustling - but they're also both very welcoming to visitors (as long as you can find them!) Of course, our most popular full-service ski resort - the one that attract the most out-of-town visitors - is Shanty Creek Resorts, over in Bellaire, about 20 minutes away, and they've been doing all kinds of interesting things this season, with new runs, affordable lift tickets, and an exciting schedule of winter themed events and festival outings at Schuss Mountain and Summit Mountain.
Snowboarders Gather around a Rail at Mt. Holiday
Shanty has added three new runs on the north face of Schuss Mountain, bringing their total skiable runs up to 52. Two runs will weave skiers and boarders through the glades to the Red Lift, and a new all-natural terrain park located between Purple Daze and Village Way will offer enthusiasts another option for grinding their way downhill this winter also located on the north face of Schuss Mountain. For Nordic skiers, Shanty Creek will unveil a solar-powered lighted cross-country skiing trail at its Summit Village development. Once again the resort is offering "Michigan's most affordable lift ticket," the Summit Only package. For just $18 a day, it's also one of the best ski values in America and includes a ski/snowboard rental option for an additional $17 a day. This past weekend, they offered a funky discount called the Sardine Special, where an entire carload - no matter how many are squeezed into it - skis or rides for one price at Schuss Mountain. (They'll be doing it again on Jan. 18 and Feb. 5) But they've got lots of other specials; this is "Silver Streak Week" where senior citizens (62 and up) receive exclusive lodging and lift ticket deals. They've got a great many events coming up to, like the Jan. 22-23 "Beer & Boards Microbrew Festival," and the Feb. 5 White Pine Stampede - a major national 50km and 20km point-to-point cross-country ski race - paired with an interesting culinary adventure called Mid-Winter Chocolate Therapy, an afternoon of chocolate tastings, chocolate-making demos, wedding cake displays, chocolate and cupcake competitions, live music and chocolate spa treatments. To learn more about Mt. Holiday, check out their site at http://www.mt-holiday.com/ or their Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/MtHoliday. For information about Hickory Hills, go to http://www.ci.traverse-city.mi.us/hickory-hills-ski-area/ And for a look at what's going on at Shanty Creek, go to http://www.shantycreek.com/ or their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1245190438#!/shantycreek