One thing that we get a lot of here in West Michigan in the wintertime – is snow. Especially right along the Lake Michigan shoreline, where lake effect squalls can cause drifts to build up in a hurry – but even the more inland counties certainly get their fair share. Pretty much everybody has a favorite local sledding hill – and knows where to head for ice skating or ice fishing. And kids spend hours outdoors building snowmen, engineering and constructing snow forts, throwing snowballs at anything that moves (and plenty of things that don’t), and trying to perfect the art of making a snow angel without ruining it when you stand back up.
The northern area of the Lower Peninsula is a particular hot spot for winter sports – with quite a few resorts catering to local and non-local skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers. But you don’t always have to go very far from home to find places dedicated to winter sports – there are many right here in our own area as well. I’ve rounded up a few suggestions – West Michigan is certainly a great travel destination no matter what the season! And with major freeways heading to both Detroit and Chicago, it’s an easy weekend – or even day – trip away.
- The Double JJ Resort (Rothbury/Muskegon) – is a year-round ranch with an indoor waterpark. Wintertime fun also includes outdoor activities such as tubing, dog sled rides, and horse-drawn sleigh rides. Horseback trail rides are also going on all winter. Snow tubing prices begin at $12/person – kids must be at least 42” tall.
- Echo Valley (Kalamazoo) – offers tobogganing, tubing and ice skating from December through February. Toboggan runs are coated in an all-season sledding surface that lets sliders hit up to 60mph before reaching the end. Overhead lifts allow all the fun, without the work of hauling the toboggans back up again. Tow ropes are also available on the tubing hill. Their 43,000 square foot outdoor ice skating rink is groomed and resurfaced regularly – bring your own skates or use theirs at no extra charge. Admission starts at $5/person (skating only) up to $12/day for either tobogganing or tubing ($18/day for both). Season passes are also available.
- The Muskegon Winter Sports Complex (Muskegon) – has one of the few luge runs available in the US, and is an Olympic training site for luge. They also offer over an acre of outdoor skating rinks and a 700ft skating trail, a free family sledding hill, snowshoe trails, and approximately 16 kilometers of lighted cross-country ski trails, taking you through woods, dunes and along Lake Michigan. Daily prices begin at $4/person for skating and $7/person for skiing (skate and ski rentals are also available) – up to $40/person for luge. They do offer season passes for skiing and skating.
- Pando Winter Sports Park (Rockford/Grand Rapids) – offers 6 downhill skiing and snowboarding runs, along with tubing and cross-country ski trails. Lift tickets are free for kids aged 5 and under and daily lift ticket prices start at $11 for older kids and adults. A paid downhill lift ticket is also good for 3 hours of tubing as well – a 3-hour tubing ticket normally starts at $11 for kids on weekdays. Season passes are also available. Smaller children (under 42” tall) tube on the Half Pint Hill for $5 each daily.
- The Cannonsburg Ski Area (Cannonsburg/Grand Rapids) – also offers skiing, snowboarding and tubing. Prices are $10/person for 3 hours of tubing, or lift tickets starting at $20/person (kids 6 and under are free). College students receive half off of lift tickets, and season passes are available. They also run various special offers such as “Ladies Day”.
- Bittersweet Ski Area (Otsego/Kalamazoo) – has 20 lighted ski/snowboard runs with lift tickets starting at $25/person (beginner hill only) during the day and $21/person (beginner hill only) at night. For kids aged 6 and under the rates are 50% off. Season passes are available. They also offer a terrain park.
- Timber Ridge Ski Area (Gobles/Kalamazoo) – offers 15 trails for skiing/snowboarding and a terrain park. Night skiing is available, as is snow tubing.