Michigan: Western UP Riding

Talk about riding in the Midwest, and arrange meet-ups.

Michigan: Western UP Riding

Postby John » Sun Mar 06, 2005 10:53 pm

This weekend I made a trip to western Michigan -- the far west of Michigan, that is.

I went riding at two different resorts, Indianhead (www.indianheadmtn.com) and Big Powderhorn (www.bigtpowdernorn.net). For those of you unfamiliar with Michigan, both are in the state's Upper Peninsula. They are closer to Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota (5 hours) than to Detroit (10 hours). Michigan's "big time" ski areas (the Boynes, for example) can be reached from southeast Michigan (the state's population center) in less than half the time it takes to get to the far end of the state--roughly 600 miles from Detroit, for perspective.

(If you want to bring up a Mapquest map, use Wakefield, MI for your destination.)

Anyway, here's my quick take on the two resorts:

- Unusual in ski areas in that its parking lot as at the top of the mountain. I think that's a plus, though I'm not sure why.
- It was crowded, from the lift ticket line to the slopes. I thought this was a bit unusual, given the small population of the county (under 20,000), its isolation from major population centers, and lack of world-class terrain. Then again, it was a Saturday.
- My wife rented skis. She thought they were fine (Rossis) and superior to the package she rented at Powderhorn the next day. (Those, she says, were banged up and not as sharp.)
- It's equal to Aspen in at least one sense: the food (on-mountain) costs about the same. No wonder 90 percent of lunchtime diners I saw were eating sack lunches.
- The management advertises 22 trails, but I considered 5 or 6 of those to be "off-limit" to me, as they were served only or primarily by a t-bar or poma lift.
- Beautiful day!
- The difference between destination resorts and non-destination resorts may be in large measure the result of size. In other words, the pitch angle on a few of the trails was as step as I have seen in some blue or black trails in Colorado--though for only one-tenth of the duration.

- It was supposed to rain and snow the day I was here. It didn't. Hurray for errors in meterological predictions.
- Unlike Indianhead, it had no quad or even triples. It was all doubles. On the other hand, it had no pomas or t-bars. That's more than a fair trade.
- It felt much less crowded than Indianhead. At Indianhead, I often stopped at the side of a trail to wait for a thundering herd of skiers and riders to pass me on some of the green runs. I'm not the slowest person on the mountain, but I also prefer to not feel like I'm driving in the Indy 500.
- In general, the lifts seem to be more spread out than at Indianhead, and the runouts leading to the lifts seem to be flatter than at Indianhead. So you have to be more careful in planning your routes, at least if you're riding on a board and not on skis.
Last edited by John on Tue Mar 21, 2006 4:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby dcalc » Mon Mar 07, 2005 8:19 pm

Hi John,
I go to all the "resorts" in the Western UP, and IndianHead and Big Powerhorn are my LEAST favorite of the bunch. I prefer the Porkies and Blackjack. Both are less crowed and although smaller have a better variety of terain (just a bit less of it).
Every run at Indianhead felt the same to me - just a bit steeper or wider. The only exception was a newer green run (it's a bit out of the way) which was cut through the trees - which was nice but short for a green run up there. I do agree that there are few (albeit short) steep runs at Indianhead that I wouldn't attempt at this point in my boarding career.
I like Powerhorn a bit more, but still would choose Blackjack and the Porkies or it.
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Postby John » Mon Mar 07, 2005 8:34 pm

AFTER I got home I remembered an e-mail that you had sent me a few months ago. And sure enough, you had mentioned Blackjack favorably. Yep, maybe I should have looked at that before I left! Maybe I would have liked Blackjack better.

The original plan was to visit the Porkies, but I had only one and a half days. That seemed too long for the Porkies, but too short to get over to Big Powderhorn / Blackjack / Indianhead for a morning session before I turned around and went back home. How do the Porkies feel for size compared with the BP / BJ / IH trio?
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Another resort

Postby danvaught » Tue Mar 21, 2006 3:15 pm

If you are traveling north from downstate (what we yoopers call anything south of the Mackinac Bridge) on I -75 , there is a great resort in Canada, just north of Sault Ste Marie, MI. I would say that makes it about 6-7 hours from the Detroit area. The resort is called Searchmont. There is also another very small ski hill called Buttermilk, about 10 miles from Searchmont. This is where I learned to board. It's a very mellow hill. Both are very reasonably priced.


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Joined: Tue Mar 21, 2006 2:26 pm
Location: Sault Ste Marie, MI

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