Most Chicagoans driving to Northern Michigan for a ski trip draw the line at Boyne Mountain resort near Boyne City, about a six-hour drive (plus a one-hour time change) from Chicago. Sure beats going the extra 30 miles north to its sister resort in Harbor Springs, Boyne Highlands, right?
Maybe not. For those seeking a more substantial winter getaway with both a big mountain buried in all this ridiculous snowfall and unique experiences off the slopes, driving farther to Boyne Highlands can be what makes a really long road trip worth it.
Here’s why you should go this winter:
BIG, BAD MOUNTAIN: In terms of skiing in the Midwest, Boyne Highlands is pretty badass. Named one of the best underrated ski resorts in 2014 by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler, it is the biggest ski resort in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, with 55 runs, the area’s highest vertical terrain at 552 feet, and the only 13-foot halfpipe in the state. To understand how that compares to other Midwestern ski resorts, see Chicago’s “Ultimate Guide to Midwest Ski Slopes.”
MORE THAN SKIING: Typically, Midwestern ski trips amount to a quick weekend away spent almost entirely on the slopes, save for eating and drinking. At Boyne Highlands, plan to do more. First on your list should be the dog sled rides pulled by a lively team of Alaskan Huskies, some of which have raced in Alaska’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race ($85 for 30 minutes, $170 for one hour; ends for the season on March 8). Next, descend the mountain on a two-and-a-half-hour zipline tour with entertaining guides who lead you down seven lines and a 110-foot rope bridge ($64, ends with ski season on March 29). There’s more: horseback riding through a snowy forest, tubing, fat tire biking, ice skating, a spa, and snowmobiling nearby.
A MOUNTAINTOP DINING EXPERIENCE: Mountaintop dining experiences are not uncommon out West, but they for sure are in the Midwest, which makes the Aonach Mor Moonlight Dinner at Boyne Highlands pretty special ($72 a person). It starts with a hot chocolate and a sled ride pulled by a snowcat up the mountain, climbing runs you may have skied down earlier that day, and stopping at the top at the North Peak. Warm up by a bonfire, or enter the cozy dining room illuminated only by candles, where an acoustic guitarist takes requests, and a set menu includes beef tenderloin au poivre and chocolate fondue. One the way down, kids can ride in the snowcat. March 7 is the last time you can do the Aonoch Mor dinner—and it’s enough of a reason in itself to visit the resort.
MORE SNOW THIS WEEKEND: Currently reporting a five-and-a-half-foot base, the latest forecast calls for anywhere from two to six inches of snow on Saturday. Highs will be in the upper 20s—not wildly warm, but still comfortable for skiing.
If you go, find rooms from $157 a night that include breakfast for two. Larger groups should book an Alpine Village condo with two to four bedrooms and a full kitchen from $313 a night.
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