Michigan’s lush winters are celebrated by residents, who enjoy a myriad of activities and events in the abundant snow. Serene, silent landscapes of fresh white powder are the setting for what may be the state’s most enjoyable season of all.
Downhill skiing enthusiasts will find fantastic slopes and all the amenities of the sport just a short drive away. Bittersweet in Otsego is the home of Sweet Express, the highest vertical drop in southwest Michigan, with a new high-speed quad chair lift. There are 16 other runs, six chair lifts, six rope tows, night skiing and racing for more experienced adults and juniors. Classes are available for skiers at any level.
Timber Ridge Ski Area in Gobles is a Rossignol Race Center with 15 slopes, four chair lifts, five surface tows, night skiing and beginner through advanced lessons. Special events include Snowcross in January and February, WinterFest in February, Awesome Air Competition, and Mogul Challenge. Terrain Park is the place for snowboarding, and there is also a tubing hill. Bring your own board or tube, or rent them here.
Swiss Valley Ski Area in Jones has 11 ski runs, two quad chairlifts, one triple chairlift, four rope tows for the beginner area, and night skiing. Offering the PSIA Ski School, a race program and a children’s program, Swiss Valley has something for everyone to enjoy. Snowboarding is another popular draw.
Tobogganing is one of the most exciting winter sports, and Echo Valley Winter Sports Park in Kalamazoo is the place to go for the best. Toboggans are free, and the eight toboggan runs provide thrills with speeds up to 60 miles per hour. Inner-tubing hills appeal to a different type of adventurer. The 43,000-square-foot outdoor ice skating rink is a favorite of many.
Arcadia Creek Festival Place Ice Rink opened in 2004 and offers free outdoor skating. Located near Kalamazoo Mall and the many sights and sounds of Central City, this is a winter site with great appeal.
Millennium Park in Portage is the home of an outdoor refrigerated ice rink that provides good ice for skaters’ enjoyment. Open skating, skate rentals and introductory skating classes draw many each season.
What would winter in Michigan be without hockey? The Kalamazoo Wings (popularly known as the K-Wings), a United Hockey League team, have been part of the winter sports scene here for more than 30 years. Wings Stadium Complex features three NHL-sized ice sheets: Wings Stadium, The Annex and The Cube. Fans of all ages love being part of the fast-paced excitement and competition on ice at the Wings’ games.
Cross-country skiing is another wintertime favorite, and numerous trails are available for skiers’ challenge and enjoyment. Prairie View Park in Kalamazoo offers cross-country skiing as well as sledding, ice skating, ice fishing and a warming shelter. Kalamazoo Nature Center has nature trails for cross-country skiing and winter hiking. Markin Glen Park near the Nature Center provides expert cross-country skiing trails.
Each January, Schrier Park in Portage hosts Winter Festival, giving everyone an opportunity to try cross-country skis and snowshoes. There are also classes for youths and adults and trails available for cross-country skiing.
Kal-Haven Trail State Park’s 30-mile trail runs from Kalamazoo to South Haven. Hikers, cross-country skiers and snowmobilers travel the route each winter. And watch out for the roller-skiiers on the Rail-to-Trail!
One of the best sledding hills in the region is at Oakland Drive Park in Portage. And for the very adventurous, ice boating takes place on Austin Lake in Portage. Imagine a sailboat with skis, add some high speeds, and you have a picture of this sport.
Those who prefer more traditional or more romantic rides can even enjoy a one-horse open sleigh at Bitter-Sweet Acres in Bloomingdale.