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Michigan ski slopes get a head start on season, offer more students free passes

Looking over Lac La Belle from the chairlift at Mount Bohemia.
Wikimedia commons
Looking over Lac La Belle from the chairlift at Mount Bohemia.

With snowfall in much of Michigan in November, ski areas got an early start to the season.

“When it’s cold and snowy people go into the retail stores and buy things. So the retail sales were up early this year and our ski areas were able to open early. So yes it was a real, real good start,” said Mickey MacWilliams, executive director of the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association.

She says there are a little more than 100 days, on average, that Michigan ski areas are open each winter. 

Michigan ski areas have been investing to make improvements on the slopes.

MacWilliams says there have been major advancements in snow-making equipment.

“We can make snow, better snow, more nature-like snow at warmer temperatures than we used to be able to. So we’re adapting as we can to what the weather holds,” she said.

In an effort to make the hills more accessible for beginners, Shanty Creek reformed some slopes and added an easier-to-use “magic carpet.” Crystal Mountain added some slopes. Mt. Bohemia, in the Upper Peninsula, has expanded its lodging facilities.  

MacWilliams says Michigan ski areas typically get at least 2 million visitors each season.

For those who’ve never tried it, there is a discount program.

Michigan Snowsports Industries Association is also expanding its “Cold is Cool” program that offers ski and ride passports for 4th graders. This year 5th graders can get one too.

Students can get the passport and ski or snowboard up to three times for free at 27 ski areas across the state.

“We’d rather have them doing that than sitting inside playing video games,” MacWilliams said.

Parents do have to pay $15 to process the application. You can find more information here.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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