Costumed skiiers participating in the Rat Race
Surely, you can ski faster than these guys.

Dive Into the Rat Race

No, not the one that involves pantyhose and sensible pumps. This one is all about skiing in a non-competitive, just-for-fun race in which you try to out ski rats—or rather “rats,” which are actually humans skiing in suits with whiskers-and-everything head gear. The rodents will emerge on the course around 2 p.m., and there are vermin in the race’s Senior and Junior divisions. It may sound like a scene from The Nutcracker gone very wrong, but also fun, yes? The event, hosted by the Swiss Valley Ski & Snowboard Area in Jones, Michigan (about 103 miles from Chicago), runs from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, January 8. Entry is $5; the winners get a cash prize. And since Snow Valley makes its own snow, there are no cancellation-due-to-weather worries. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen and extra socks. If you don’t have ski equipment, rentals are available. Should you want to ski normally, sans rats, Swiss Valley has 11 runs, with every slope lit for night runs.

GO The Rat Race at Swiss Valley Ski & Snowboard Area, 13421 Mann St., Jones, Michigan; 269-244-5635. For more information, click here.

While you’re in the area: Five miles from Jones, the 820-acre Dr. T. K. Lawless Park (Monkey Run St. off M-60 and Lewis Lake Rd., Cassopolis; 269-445-4456) has seven miles of groomed trails for cross-country skiers. There’s a $3 entry fee for non-residents and you must provide your own equipment—unless you want to stick to downhill inner tube sledding, in which case, tubes are provided. Should you prefer to just take a leisurely stroll in a climate-controlled environment, head for the Ice Forest (110 S. Washington St., Constantine; 269-435-6610,, a studio and art gallery roughly 10 miles from Jones. Here, the delicate art of scrimshaw (etching detailed pictures on synthetic whale bone), as well as Native American beadwork by Dustin Eiswald and oil paintings by Deb Eiswald, are currently on display.

Where to eat: Swiss Valley has both the Fireside Lounge for après-ski nourishment and a cafe for fast fare. The Fisher Lake Inn (19984 East M-60, Three Rivers; 269-279-7984) serves steak and seafood in a dining room with a huge fireplace overlooking Fisher Lake.

Where to stay: T & R “Inn” Between the Lakes (58656 Corey Lake Rd., Three Rivers; 269-244-5620, offers suites with Jacuzzis, a hot tub surrounded by floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows overlooking the woodland landscape, and full breakfast; rates range from $95 to $195 a night. The Voyager’s Inn Bed & Breakfast (210 East St., Three Rivers; 269-279-9260, is an 1898 Victorian refurbished with modern luxuries, including free Wi-Fi and a lavish, locally sourced breakfast; rates range from $89 to $99 a night.


Photograph: Courtesy of Swiss Valley Ski & Snowboard Area