Michigan is rich in skiing history. Norwegian immigrants, who viewed skiing as a way of life, brought skiing to the state of Michigan in the 1800s. The first ski jumping competition was held in Michigan on February 23rd, 1888. The first winter sports park which later became Hanson Hills was opened in 1920s. Mont Ripley became the first ski resort opening in the 1930s. Today there are approximately 37 ski resorts in Michigan to pick from. Let’s look at the 10 best ski resorts in Michigan.
Michiganders are passionate about their sports and skiing is no different. Most Michigan ski resorts are characterized by shorter vertical drops. They can get a lot of natural snow due to the lake effect snow coming off of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. Powder days are not that uncommon. You’ll find decent crowds at almost every Michigan hill during the winter months whether it is one of the local southern Michigan hills or the big resorts such as Boyne Mountain.
The 10 best ski resorts in Michigan
Here is the list of the top 10 ski resorts in Michigan in no particular order.
If it’s been snowing a lot, Nubs Nob is the place to enjoy a powder day skiing in the Michigan Lower Peninsula. A couple of years ago it snowed the morning of the Boyne 6 for 1. Boyne almost immediately skied out due to the crowds at 6 for 1. We got zero fresh tracks out of a very solid snowstorm. The next day we went to Nubs Nob which had not been skied since everyone was at Boyne the day before. We had fresh tracks all over the place in the glades. The Arena Glade was barely skied. We had tons of fresh track runs even with a late start to the day.
See our full review of Nubs Nob here.
Nubs Nob, located in Harbor Springs, Michigan, features the best tree skiing around the Great Lakes. It is located in the lake effect snow zone, therefore, it gets around 140 inches of snow a year.
There are several marked glade runs as well as several unmarked hidden runs. Don’t be afraid to follow tracks you see heading off into the woods away from the marked runs. The glades can be really really excellent on a powder day. If it has snowed recently the Arena Glades and Tower Glades are well worth the rope tow or hike to ski.
Where to stay
There are no slopeside hotels or accommodations at Nubs Nob. It is easy to find rooms in nearby Harbor Springs and Petosky.
Getting here is a relatively easy 4-5 hour drive up I-75 from Detroit.
Nubs Nob – Highlights
- Drive Time from Detroit: 4 hours 9 minutes
- Driving Distance: 280 miles from SE Michigan
- Day Ticket Cost: (Saturday 2019/2020): $88
- Vertical Drop: 427 feet
- Skiable Acres: 248 acres
- Lifts: 9 chair lifts, 1 rope tow
- Runs: 53
- Glades and tree skiing
- Less crowded on powder days
- Rope tow and hike access glades preserve the powder
- Short vertical drop
- Day ticket price
- No at resort lodging
Mount Bohemia has gotten a lot of press lately with a review in Unofficial Networks. It is the most well known ski resort on the Michigan upper peninsula. It has a special character in that is features no grooming or snowmaking and no beginner terrain. The main attraction to Mount Bohemia is the wonderful glade skiing and a large amount of natural snow.
You can read my full review of Mount Bohemia here.
Conditions at Mount Bohemia can be anything. Our last trip to Mount Bohemia was full-on shiny glaring ice on all the nonglade runs for half a day and then a dumping of snow happened to give us powder runs for the second half of the day. You can have the best and worst conditions imaginable both on the same day.
My favorite run continues to be middle earth for tree skiing and the runs off the backside chair for non-glad skiing. Middle Earth has decently spaced trees and a reasonable pitch. It is fun without being terrifying.
The Haunted Valley is a lot of fun. The initial drop is very steep. My 2 friends along for the trip had a moment at the top trying to decide how to approach it. Eventually, they went tips down and got it done. Following Hidden Valley is a run I believe was called Parrot, to bring you back to the front side, which is a pretty laid back glade by Bohemia standards to finish the run.
The Cast of Mount Bohemia TV
Every trip to Mount Bohemia always has some character to it. On this trip, we spent some time at lunch at the North Pole Bar with Rick the bartender. I’m normally not a drinker while skiing but a Keeweena Widowmaker just seemed appropriate on this day. One member of our group took a lift ride with the “Kitchen Hippy” if you have watched Mount Bohemia TV.
Where to stay
We have not stayed at the on mountain lodging yet at Mount Bohemia. It looks like it would be a really good time with the large hot tub and bars. There are many hotel options in Houghton and Calumet for those wanting to stay off the resort.
Mount Bohemia is way up there. It is on the thumb tip of the upper peninsula for those who like to use the Michigan hand map. It is a 9 and a half hour drive from South East Michigan if you don’t have any weather delays.
It is some of the best skiing in Michigan and one of the most unique places to ski in North America making it worth the drive.
Mount Bohemia – Highlights
- Drive Time from Detroit: 9 hours 26 minutes
- Driving Distance: 582 miles from SE Michigan
- Day Ticket Cost: (Saturday 2019/2020): $74
- Vertical Drop: 900 feet
- Skiable Acres: 620
- Lifts: 2 chair lifts
- Runs: 105
- Taller vertical drop (900 ft)
- Very challenging glade runs even by out west standards
- Very unique atmosphere (yurts, north pole bar, etc…)
- Variable conditions. It can be really really good or really really bad
- Distance (50 minutes from Houghton)
- No groomed runs to take it easy at the end of the day
Big Snow Resort (Indianhead & Blackjack)
Big Snow Resort consists of 2 mountains. Indianhead and Blackjack. The 2 mountains are visible from each other and are only a short shuttle bus ride apart. 1 lift ticket can be used at both places. The shuttle leaves on the hour or half-hour depending on which mountain your at. The resorts are similar but have enough differences in flavor to be worth skiing both.
One thing to note. They run the chair lifts here very fast for non-detachable chairs. I can’t remember the last time that I got such a launch feeling when the chair scooped us getting on. Bring your A-Game here for loading on to the chairs. It helps to make the lift ride shorter. We all got knocked in the head and various other places by the chairs while loading here.
We skied Indianhead on a Sunday morning not too long after opening. We mostly had the resort to ourselves that day. Indianhead has a pretty decent vertical drop. Longer than is typical in the lower up. They do an excellent job of grooming. After the short runs the day before, at Pine Mountain, we really appreciated some longer run that we could really open up on.
There was a nice variety of ungroomed mogul runs around. We saw several places that looked promising for glade skiing had the snow conditions allowed it.
After a few hours, we hopped on the shuttle to go over to Indianhead. We ate lunch in the Cafeteria. They have one of the better cafeteria burgers I’ve had at a ski resort and one of my friends said the soup was really solid also.
The runs at Blackjack tend to be a bit steeper than Indianhead. You can really get your speed on here. The crowds were very light, especially considering it was a weekend. We really enjoyed a lot of go-fast runs here.
Where to stay
There are a couple of on mountain lodges at Big Snow. The nearest town with hotels is Ironwood about 14 miles away.
The Big Snow resorts are almost on the border of Wisconsin. These are great places to ski if you live in the Michigan Upper Peninsula or Wisconsin. If you are from the lower Peninsula, Big Snow makes a good resort to mix in on a multi day ski resort tour of the Michigan Upper Peninsula.
See more about skiing the Michigan Upper Peninsula here.
Big Snow Resort – Highlights
- Drive Time from Detroit: 9 hours 8 minutes
- Driving Distance: 579 miles from SE Michigan
- Day Ticket Cost: (Saturday 2019/2020): $65
- Vertical Drop: 638 feet
- Skiable Acres:
- Lifts: 9 chairs, 2 T-bars, 1 poma, 2 rope tows, 1 magic carpet
- Runs: 56
- Taller vertical drop (638 ft)
- Variety of runs
- Steep fast groomed runs
- Chair lift loading speed
- Closest off resort place to stay Ironwood 14 miles away
- Distance (Wisconsin border)
If someone asked you what is the most famous Michigan ski resort you would most certainly say Boyne Mountain. Boyne Mountain Resort is without a doubt the most well known ski resort in Michigan. It was featured in Warren Miller films going back to at least 1985 in The Steep and Deep. Their ski school was run by the famous Stein Eriksen for several years starting in the 1950s. No place in Michigan has more ski history to it than Boyne Mountain.
The 6 for 1 and Spring Carnival
Boyne Mountain features the only 6 pack (6 passenger highspeed chairlift) in the midwest. As a tribute to it, they have an annual 6 lift tickets for the price of 1 every December. Other notable events include the Spring Carnival held each St Patrick’s Day weekend that includes an on mountain costume party, the Foggy Goggle hot tub party, live bands at night and a pond skimming contest.
The terrain features some of the steeper groomed runs in the lower peninsula. The runs under Mountain Express, Meadows and Superbowl offer a nice consistent pitch with decent duration. Although the vertical drop is less than their sister resort Boyne Highlands, the pitch is much steeper for the full duration of the run at Boyne Mountain.
They have the most expensive day ticket price in Michigan at $100 at the ticket window. They offer decent discounts online. The Ikon Pass gives 5 days at Boyne Mountain which may represent a better value if you plan on skiing out west.
Where to stay
There are plenty of lodging options at Boyne Mountain. There are the famous Mountain Grand and Clocktower Lodges. You can also find a large variety of condos and houses on VRBO and Airbnb there and nearby Boyne City.
It is only a 3.5 hour drive from Detroit so it represents an easy day trip as well.
Boyne Mountain Resort – Highlights
- Drive Time from Detroit: 3 hours 27 minutes
- Driving Distance: 241 miles from SE Michigan
- Day Ticket Cost (Saturday 2019/2020): $100 (at ticket window) $75-$90 online
- Vertical Drop: 500 feet
- Skiable Acres: 415
- Lifts: 10 chairs, 1 magic carpet
- Runs: 60
- Base Lodge and Village
- Events (6 fot 1, Spring Carnival)
- Steep terrain
- Most expensive day ticket price
- Limited vertical drop
I’ve skied Marquette Mountain a couple of times now. It has really grown on me as one of my favorite places to ski in the upper peninsula. It is a must ski for any trip involving going to the Michigan Upper Peninsula.
The grooming here is really excellent. They really know how to put down a good corduroy for all your high-speed carving desires. The runs are wide, open and smooth with not much crowding allowing you to really go fast. I really enjoyed digging a lot of high-speed trenches on the groomers while skiing here.
They have some glade runs scattered about the mountain. The trees are nicely spaced and the runs aren’t too steep. Most skiers will be comfortable heading into the trees here.
On our last trip, we discovered a nice small cliff area just above where the racing runs are at. There is a nice picnic area and fire pit set up in the woods about it. One of the members of our group decided to give one of the small drops a go.
Where to stay
There are many hotel options in Marquette that can be found on any popular travel website. Because it is a university town they have most of the chain hotels and restaurants.
Marquette is in the upper peninsula that doesn’t have much in the way of highways. It is a few hours west of the Mackinac Bridge or a few hours east if you are coming from Wisconsin.
Marquette Mountain – Highlights
- Drive Time from Detroit: 6 hours 44 minutes
- Driving Distance: 445 miles from SE Michigan
- Day Ticket Cost: (Saturday 2019/2020):
- Vertical Drop: 600 feet
- Skiable Acres: 169
- Lifts: 35
- Runs: 3 chairs, 1 rope tow
- Very good grooming
- High-speed cruiser runs
- Glades and cliffs and other challenges scattered about
- Chair lifts run very slow especially the double
- Average length runs, not super long
- Walk to the chairlift from the parking lot
Boyne Highlands is the sister resort of the more famous Boyne Mountain. It is located 30 miles north of Boyne Mountain in Harbor Springs, Michigan. Boyne Highlands does not have as much development at the base area as Boyne Mountain. It tends to be a less steep mountain overall. It has more vertical drop so the runs are much longer.
See our full review of Boyne Highlands here.
Boyne Highlands has similar corresponding events as Boyne Mountain including a spring carnival and a 4 for 1 day. The most famous Boyne Highlands event is the Zoo De Mack bike ride that happens in May every year.
The area where Boyne Highlands shines is in it’s wide open well groomed cruising runs. Although the vertical drop at Boyne Highlands is more then the rest of the lower peninsula it tends to be at a modest pitch. The majority of runs at Boyne Highlands that are marked as Black Diamond are really more towards blue in difficulty.
Tyler’s Tangle Glade Chute
This one run is my single favorite thing about skiing Boyne Highlands. At the top of Amy’s lift is a small, really tight steep chute with some rocks and logs to avoid. It is steep and technical. It is the most difficult run I’ve found in Michigan outside of going to Mt Bohemia or Buddha Bowl at Mont Ripley. This run isn’t marked on the trail map other than being in the glade. There is no trail sign at the top of it. It runs from the top of Amy’s lift down to Stephen’s Pass.
See a good list of black diamond runs in Michigan here.
Boyne Highlands is tied with Boyne Mountain for having the most expensive day ticket price in Michigan at $101 at the ticket window. They offer decent discounts online. The Ikon Pass gives 5 days at Boyne Highlands which may represent a better value if you plan on skiing out west.
Where to stay
There is an on-mountain lodge as part of the base lodge complex. There are also several condo options on resort grounds. You can find out more about the on-mountain lodging here. There are a bunch of hotel options in Harbor Springs, and Petosky. You can head over to Priceline or Expedia or any other travel site and look for discounts. There are also many rentals available on VRBO and AirBNB in the surrounding area.
Boyne Highlands is 4.5 hours north of Detroit in Harbor Springs. Take I-75 to the Indian River Exit. Take Rt. 68 to US 31 to Rt 119 to get to Harbor Springs. It’s fairly straight forward to get to Boyne Highland. There is plenty of parking and it is flat unlike the steep lot at Nubs Nob.
Boyne Highlands – Highlights
- Drive Time from Detroit: 3 hours 57 minutes
- Driving Distance: 270 miles from SE Michigan
- Day Ticket Cost: (Saturday 2019/2020): $101
- Vertical Drop: 552 feet
- Skiable Acres: 435
- Lifts: 8 chair lifts, 1 magic carpet
- Runs: 55
- Tallest vertical drop in lower peninsula
- Wide open blue groomed runs
- Most difficult run outside of Mt Bohemia
- Most expensive day ticket price
- Not very steep
We ski Mont Ripley every time on the way or way back from Mount Bohemia. This place has some steep really fun runs. I’m convinced this is the most hidden, underrated place in Michigan. It is also the oldest ski resort in Michigan for those who like trivia.
Mont Ripley is a relatively unknown small mountain in Houghton, Michigan owned by Michigan Tech University. It may be small looking but has very steep and challenging runs for its size. We gave it a try a few years ago on the way to Mount Bohemia after arriving in Houghton before it closed. We had punches on our White Gold Cards and decided to put them to good use.
Husky Bowl feels like an honest to goodness out west bowl. The glade runs are steep. You’ll see cliff warning signs at the top of Buddha Bowl. They do groom and make snow so it offers an alternative to Mount Bohemia that is still really challenging but a bit more civilized, slightly. This place should definitely be included in any trip to ski the Michigan Upper Peninsula.
Where to stay
There are plenty of hotel options in Houghton due to it being the home of Michigan Tech University. Houghton is a good central place to stay if you want to ski some of the other places in the UP as well such as Big Snow Resorts and Mount Bohemia.
Houghton is way way way out there in the upper thumb. Expect 9-11 hours driving time from SE Michigan. Once you cross the Mackinac Bridge don’t expect to see another highway the rest of the way there. It makes more sense to ski a group of Upper Peninsula ski resorts in one trip hitting a different place each day.
Mont Ripley – Highlights
- Drive Time from Detroit: 8 hours 37 minutes
- Driving Distance: 543 miles from SE Michigan
- Day Ticket Cost: (Saturday 2019/2020): $52
- Vertical Drop: 440 feet
- Skiable Acres: 112
- Lifts: 21
- Runs: 2 chairs, 1 T-Bar, 1 rope tow
- Very steep and challenging runs
- Nicely maintained cruiser runs
- Out west style bowl skiing
- Doesn’t open until 3pm on weekdays
- Only a few lifts
- Beginner run only serviced by a T-Bar
Caberfae Peaks is located in Cadillac, Michigan. They represent the best value in Michigan skiing. They have a weekend season pass rate of $99. The only cheaper pass you can get in the state is Mount Bohemia’s season pass. Cadillac is a lot closer for most people than the upper thumb. This resort frequently has online ticket discounts on Liftopia. Their cafeteria has a daily special known as the Cabby special that is $7 for a meal.
See our full review of Caberfae Peaks here.
Caberfae Peaks resort still manages to upgrade their snowmaking, add lifts and upgrade their lodging. This is one resort that really gets it when it comes to providing value to skiers and keeping it affordable for most people.
Caberfae Peaks has a good variety of terrain from the regular blue groomers to their “backcountry” section which includes non groomed terrain and a few glade runs. This is my second favorite place to enjoy a powder day in the lower peninsula after Nubs Nob.
Where to stay
There is an affordable slopeside lodge that features an outdoor pool and hot tub open in the winter. There are plenty of hotels in nearby Cadillac, Michigan.
Caberfae Peaks is about a 3 hour drive away from the Detroit area making it not too far away for anyone in Southern Michigan.
Caberfae Peaks Resort – Highlights
- Drive Time from Detroit: 3 hours 10 minutes
- Driving Distance: 212 miles from SE Michigan
- Day Ticket Cost (Saturday 2019/2020): $59
- Vertical Drop: 485 feet
- Skiable Acres: 200
- Lifts: 4 chairs, 1 magic carpet
- Runs: 36
- Inexpensive lift tickets and season pass
- Variety of terrain
- Good intermediate groomer slope for learning
- Short vertical drop
- Crowds on weekends
Crystal Mountain is located in Thompsonville Michigan. Crystal has a nice base village with several lodging and restaurant options. Crystal is not one of the taller mountains the lower peninsula with a vertical drop of only 375 feet. What it lacks in vertical it makes up for in variety.
This resort clicks off the boxes for almost any type of skiing you could want. They have low stress wide groomed runs. Some steeper groomed runs under Buck Quad and Loki Quad. Crystal has several glade runs of varying difficulty and enough lake effect snow to make them skiable for most of the winter. They have some terrain park features for those who like to spend their days in the park.
It is a good place for beginners to intermediates looking to improve their skills. They have a highspeed lift that serves there beginner and intermediate groomed runs. This allows you to maximize your skiing time rather than lift riding time when you are trying to learn.
Crystal has a small out west style bowl with the run Gorge. This is the only bowl feature anywhere in the lower peninsula of Michigan.
The lift tickets are not the most expensive ticket in the state at $79 for a day ticket. They are in the upper third. They are not part of any multi-resort season pass.
Where to stay
Crystal has several on resort lodging options at the base. The closest towns with hotels are Traverse City and Cadillac. Both are about 20 miles away from Thompsonville. There are also many Airbnb and VRBO listings in the surrounding areas.
Crystal Mountain is a fairly straight forward 3 and a half hour drive from South East Michigan.
Crystal Mountain – Highlights
- Drive Time from Detroit: 3 hours 31 minutes
- Driving Distance: 247 miles from SE Michigan
- Day Ticket Cost: (Saturday 2019/2020): $79
- Vertical Drop: 375 feet
- Skiable Acres: 102
- Lifts: 6 chairs, 2 magic carpets
- Runs: 58
- Base village
- Variety of terrain
- Short vertical drop
- Pricey day ticket
Pine Knob is located in Clarkston Michigan. In the summer it is DTE Energy Music Theater. Pine Knob is a bit shorter and smaller then it’s slightly more north cousin Mt Holly. It is my favorite of the small 300 feet and under vertical drop hills that exist around Detroit and Kalamazoo. It has a good variety of terrain for the size hill it is as well as a nice base lodge with complimentary ski check (please be nice and tip the attendees).
The Wall is an actual true black diamond advanced run. It allows a couple of advanced steep turns before getting to the bottom. This is my favorite feature of Pine Knob and the reason I like to ski it more than the other small local ski hills in Michigan and why it earns it’s place in this top 10 list of Michigan ski resorts.
For beginners, Pine Knob has a fairly wide learning area with a chair lift. The quicksilver run and 2 chairs are another nice long smooth easy blue trail suitable for beginners learning to parallel.
Pine Knob is a short drive up I-75 for those of us living in the Detroit suburbs.
Pine Knob – Highlights
- Drive Time from Detroit: 32 minutes
- Driving Distance: 30 miles from SE Michigan
- Day or Evening session Saturday lift ticket price – $47
- Vertical Drop – 300 feet
- Skiable Acres – 80 acres
- Lifts: 6 chairs, 4 rope tows, 1 magic carpet
- Runs: 17
- Best advanced terrain run
- Closer distance to Detroit
- Slow lifts
- Feels like you are skiing on an artificial landfill
- Very expensive season pass and day tickets
As I write this our winter has been cut a little short by the Corona Virus outbreak in the US and all skiing has ended a few weeks soon. Its time to think ahead and plan some skiing for next winter which will be here soon enough.
You might also like:
- Michigan Upper Peninsula Skiing (4 Great Days, 5 Ski Resorts)
- The Best Skis For Michigan Skiing Helpful Guide
- Mount Bohemia Ski Resort. The Best Michigan Skiing
- Hiking At Sleeping Bear Dunes. Challenge Yourself With The Dune Climb
- The 12 Best Advanced Ski Runs Michigan Has To Challenge Expert Skiers
- The Michigan White Gold Card – Michigan’s Best Skiing Value 32 Days Skiing For $299
About the author
My name is Doug Ryan. I am an adventure sports fan and an avid skier, sailor, mountain biker who also enjoys paddle boarding, kayaking, wakeboarding, waterskiing, and travel. I take any chance I can get to get out in the snow or water. I actively run an adventure sports meetup where I get asked many questions. I decided to start Gear Craver as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for adventure sports their gear.