With the Farmers’ Almanac forecasting a winter with below-average temperatures for the Great Lakes Region, many of Michigan’s ski resorts are adding millions of dollars of improvements to their facilities.
“It’s important to our tourism industry that we maintain our ski areas,” says Mickey MacWilliams, executive director of the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association, a group that promotes and markets snow sports in the state. “Michigan’s tourism industry is an $18.7 billion industry, and winter is almost one third of that.”
Following a successful ski season last year, more ski areas have invested in upgrades for the coming season, she adds.
Close to home, Mt. Brighton Ski Resort in Brighton is undergoing $10 million in renovations, including a complete overhaul of the resort’s snowmaking system, new chairlifts, and a new terrain park designed by Snow Park. The work, which began in June, were the result of the resort’s sale last December to Colorado-based Vail Resorts Management Co.
This acquisition is a big deal for the state, MacWilliams says. “No matter where you are in the state, you’re within a two-hour drive of a ski area. But to have a large entity like Vail, which has ski areas all across the country, invest in Michigan, it shows that we’re important to the industry.
“A lot of people start skiing in Michigan and then will go on vacations in Colorado or Utah. But they’re bred right here.”
Additonally, MacWilliams says Boyne Highlands in Harbor Springs and Boyne Mountain in Boyne Falls have received nearly $3 million in upgrades, and Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville has invested $4 million in improvements for the upcoming winter season.
To encourage earlier interest in the sport, the association offers a “Cold is Cool Passport,” which allows fourth graders to ski for free throughout Michigan. “We want our youth to get out on the slopes and enjoy them,” MacWilliams says.
The association also offers a White Gold Card, which entitles cardholders to several services, including the option to ski one time at each of the 32 participating ski areas during the 2013/14 ski season. The card is priced at $199.
“If you paid for a life ticket at each of these ski areas and paid for the services that come with the card, you would be spending over $1,200,” says Steve Kershner, chairman of the MSIA.
For more information about the passport or White Gold Card, visit goskimichigan.com.