cross country skiing and snowshoeing in Michigan

You may not know this but Michigan is steeped in skiing history. Michigan is home to the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame and some of the first and largest ski jumping competitions originated there back in the early 1900s. While not many of us want to hurl ourselves off an Olympic regulation ski jump, getting out on Michigan's cross country trails is something everyone can enjoy.

The Michigan Snowsports Industries Association (MSIA) offers programs to help you ski affordably. Here is a rundown:

1. Kids in fourth and fifth grades can ski for free all across Michigan with the Cold is Cool Ski & Ride Passport. Twenty-seven ski areas have each contributed up to three trail passes and/or lift tickets for this passport booklet, so students can cross country and downhill ski all winter long, all over Michigan for free! An application is available online at goskimichigan.com. The association charges $20 to cover printing and shipping of the passport books.

 2. For those who don't know how to ski or snowboard and want to learn, January is the month. That's when ski facilities all across Michigan offer an exciting and affordable learn-to-ski program called Discover Michigan Skiing. Beginners receive a lesson, equipment rental and a cross country trail pass for just $20. To get started, a Discover Michigan Skiing voucher is needed. They are available at participating Michigan McDonald's restaurants or online at goskimichigan.com

 3. Ski areas across the state offer packages, special events and discounts that can be a lot of fun while helping to reduce the costs of getting out onto the slopes and trails. A page on the goskimichigan.com website called Events & Discounts is updated frequently and offers a wide assortment of options. Plus, the Ski Areas and Conditions page provides up-to-date snow conditions and direct links to ski areas all across the state.

So whether you are an experienced skier or just want to give it a try, there is something for everyone on the cross country trails of Pure Michigan.

For conditions report, special events and statewide programs, accommodations and more click goskimichigan.com/

Here are the association's places to cross country ski in Michigan:

Upper Peninsula

Big Powderhorn Mountain Ski Resort - N 11375 Powderhorn Road, Bessemer, MI 49911 http://www.bigpowderhorn.net/ 906-932-4838. This is an alpine ski area with 17 km of XC ski trails, rental equipment, and lodging.

Mackinac Island Mackinac Island, MI 49757 http://www.mackinacisland.org/ 800-454-5227. Mackinac Island is ideally located for those who are planning a weekend escape, family retreat, or romantic getaway. Because no automobiles are allowed on the island, you'll feel like you've been swept back in time. Once here, you'll be able to walk or travel by horse-drawn carriage to resorts, restaurants and other places around the island. Mackinac Island is the best place to escape the stresses of daily life. Take Interstate 75 to either St. Ignace or Mackinaw City. From the docks in these towns, you can catch a ferry to the island or by plane via Great Lakes Air in St. Ignace.

Mt Zion E-4946 Jackson Road, Ironwood, MI 49938 http://www.gogebic.edu/why-gcc/mt-zion.php 906-932-4231. Mt Zion is located on the campus of Gogebic Community College and is the oldest winter recreation complex in "Big Snow Country". Owned and operated by GCC, Mt. Zion is open to the public and has free XC ski trails. The complex also serves as a laboratory for the college's nationally recognized Ski Area Management Program.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park Michigan Highway 107, Ontonagon, MI 49953 http://www.porkiesfun.com/ 906-885-5209. This is an alpine ski area with 42 km of XC ski trails and snowshoeing. Two warming shelters and lantern-lit snowshoe trail. Rental equipment available.

Ski Brule 397 Brule Mountain Road, Iron River, MI 49935 http://skibrule.com/ 906-265-4957. This is an alpine ski area with 33 km of XC ski trails, snowshoeing, rental equipment, and lodging. Wooded and rolling terrain along the Brule River in a series of trail loops of varying lengths and levels. Alpine ski area lift ticket includes access to the XC and snowshoe trails.

North Lower Peninsula

Black Mountain Forest Recreation Area 11499 Doriva Beach Rd, Cheboygan, MI 49721 http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10365_58648-49439--,00.html 231-627-2811. The Black Mountain Rec Area has 30 miles of trails for XC skiers and snowshoers for every skill level. Special pathways have been constructed for the traditional diagonal skier and the skate-skier. Trails include a number of forest types including majestic pine trees and views of Black Lake and, under the right conditions, even getting a glimpse of Lake Huron. Four separate parking lots provide skiers and hikers access to the pathway loops which best suit their abilities or interests.

Boyne Highlands 600 Boyne Highlands Drive, Harbor Springs, MI 49740 http://www.boyne.com/boynehighlands/skiing-riding/lessons 231-526-3000. This is an alpine ski area with 10 XC ski trails for 35 km, snowshoeing, rental equipment, lessons, fat biking, and lodging. One lift ride included with trail pass to access upper trails. For the cross country center directly, call 231-526-3029 and to book for XC ski lessons 231-526-3056.

Boyne Mountain 1 Boyne Mountain Road, Boyne Falls, MI 49713 http://www.boyne.com/boynemountain 231-549-6000. This is an alpine ski area with 10 XC ski trails for 35 km, snowshoeing, rental equipment, lessons, fat biking, and lodging. One lift ride included with trail pass to access upper trails. Introduction to Cross Country Package is $50 (includes rentals, 30-minute lesson, and trail pass) offered at 11 AM on weekdays and 11 AM or 2 PM on weekends. A 2-hour guided tour for intermediate or better skiers includes the chairlift ride to the upper trails for $75 for one skier and $20 per additional skier. Call the Cross Country Center directly at 231-549-6088.

Caberfae Peaks Ski & Golf Resort 1 Caberfae Lane, Cadillac, MI 49601 http://caberfaepeaks.com/ 231-862-3000. This is an alpine ski area with 22 XC ski trails for 15 km, snowshoeing, rental equipment, lessons, and lodging. The Mackenzie Cross Country Ski Trail is on Manistee National Forest and Caberfae Peaks Resorts land providing marked trail loops of varying lengths and levels.

Cross Country Ski Headquarters 9435 North Cut Road, Roscommon, MI 48653 http://www.cross-country-ski.com/ 989-821-6661. A leading XC ski outfitter and ski area in Michigan since 1974 and a premier destination for XC skiing in Midwest. The Higgins Lake location is in the heart of Michigan, with 19 km of trails on site meticulously groomed for classic and skate skiing for skiers of all abilities and there are also miles of trails all around the region. XC Ski HQ is known for its friendly and experienced staff and retail operation. Trails are groomed for classic and skate skiing 5% hilly, 40% moderate, 45% flat. Rentals and lessons available. For a full page of info click Cross Country Ski Headquarters.

Crystal Mountain Resort & Spa 12500 Crystal Mountain Drive, Thompsonville, MI 49683 http://www.crystalmountain.com/ 231-668-6628. This is an alpine ski area with 14 XC ski trails for 40 km, snowshoeing rentals and tours, rental equipment, lessons, tours, fat bike rentals, and lodging. Michigan Legacy Art Park is a destination for XC skiers and snowshoers at with a 30-acre land preservation outdoor art exhibit that celebrates Michigan's history.

Hickory Hills 2000 Randolph Street, Traverse City, MI 49684 http://www.traversecitymi.gov/hickory_hills.asp 231-947-8566. Hickory Hills Ski Area is owned and operated by the City of Traverse City. There are 4 km of XC ski trails including 1 km of lighted trails for night skiing, and snowshoeing.

Midland City Forest 2840 East Monroe Road, Midland City, MI 48640 http://www.midland-mi.org/267/Cross-Country-Skiing 989-837-6930/989-835-7011. Midland City Forest is a 520 acre public park in Midland, runrun by the Midland Parks & Rec Department. Admission into the park is free. The 11 km loop of ski trails are designed for skiers of all levels. There is a .7 km trail that is lighted from dusk to 8 PM every night and snowmaking on the sled hill. There are two separate trails for mountain biking, a toboggan run, and an ice skating rink. The trails are groomed when there is enough snow and rental equipment is available for classic $10 for 2 hours or skating $15 for 2 hours at the Rental Shed just north of the Chalet. Walking or snowshoeing can be done on the Walking Trails. Ski lessons may be available separate of the operation.

Nub's Nob 500 Nubs Nob Road, Harbor Springs, MI 49740 http://www.nubsnob.com/ 231-526-2131. This is an alpine ski area with 4 XC ski trail loops and 21 km, snowshoeing, rental equipment, lessons, and lodging. Snow is plentiful in this part of Michigan and Nubs Nob gets snow early and often. Trails accommodate classic or skate skiers and on Wednesday nights there is a skill clinic and time trial series followed by free appetizers in the pub.

Shanty Creek Resorts 5780 Shanty Creek Road, Bellaire, MI 49615 http://www.shantycreek.com/ 800-678-4111. This is an alpine ski area with 60 XC ski trails for 30 km, snowshoeing, rental equipment, lessons, fat biking, and lodging. There are trailheads from 3 Shanty Creek resort villages. Separate trails for snowshoeing and fat biking.

The Homestead 1 Woodridge Road, Glen Arbor, MI 49636 http://www.thehomesteadresort.com/ 231-334-5000. This is an alpine ski area with 6 XC ski trails for 18 km, snowshoeing, rental equipment, lessons, and lodging. Bay View Trail is only steps from the resort village. Snowshoeing at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. (Photo on left)

North Central

Hanson Hills Recreation Area 7601 Old Lake Road, Grayling, MI 49738 http://www.hansonhills.org/ 989-348-9266. This is an alpine ski area with 40 km of XC ski trails and 5 km of snowshoe trails in loops from 2 km to 12 km on trails that are 60% hilly, 30% moderate, 10% flat. Trails are groomed for classic and skate skiing. Rentals and lessons are available.

Otsego Club & Resort 696 M32 East Main Street, Gaylord, MI 49734 https://www.facebook.com/otsegoclub 989-732-5181. This is a private alpine ski area with 10 km of XC ski trails, snowshoeing, and lodging. Membership is required to use the facilities.

Treetops Resort 3962 Wilkinson Road, Gaylord, MI 49735 http://treetops.com/?nck=msia 855-318-0678. This is an alpine ski area with 3 connected XC ski trail loops for 9 km, snowshoeing, and lodging. The Skiable Feast Getaway Package offers a 6 km winter gourmet adventure on 6 km with 5 buffet food stations on 7 dates during Jan-Mar for $89 per person.

West Central

Muskegon Winter Sports Complex 462 North Scenic Drive, Muskegon, MI 49445 http://www.msports.org/ 231-744-9629. There are 16 km of trails (including 2.5 km of lighted trails) for XC skiing and snowshoeing with rental equipment and lessons available. The majority of the terrain is gentle and winds through the woods, along the dunes, Lost Lake bog and nearby Lake Michigan allowing you to explore a variety of Muskegon State Park's natural features. The trails are groomed for both skate and classical skiing when conditions allow.