The Petoskey Area of northern Michigan transforms from a summer playground with Petoskey stones and beaches to a winter wonderland as soon as the chillier air begins moving in. When the snow begins to accumulate this land “Up North” embraces a season full of skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ice skating, and every other winter sport you can imagine. So grab your coat and hat and gloves and lace up a sturdy pair of boots. It’s time to get outside in Michigan for the winter.
You’ll find Petoskey, and its Gaslight District, along the great lakes and the shore of Lake Michigan near Little Traverse Bay. It runs a 30-mile course that begins at Boyne Falls and Boyne City and moves northward through Charlevoix, into Petoskey, and then Harbor Springs. This region is in what’s known as the “mitten” of Michigan because of its shape. (Click here to see all Petoskey, Michigan Homes for Sale)
Click here to see summer activities in Petoskey, Michigan. During the summer this part of the country is a vacationer’s paradise with water sports on the lake, fantastic golfing, and outdoor parks and trails. As beautiful as the summer is, the winter in the Petoskey/Bay Harbor region is magical.
Late fall and early winter usher in the crisp air and bright blue skies. The Gas Light District has serious winters with an average snowfall of 111 inches and homemade maple syrup. And once the snow falls it begins to blanket the area in the things winter dreams are made of. Crisp runs on freshly groomed snow. Moreover, the power of a snowmobile as it skips along a powdery trail.
The quiet and the solitude that comes from slipping on a pair of snowshoes and navigating the terrain like our ancestors of old. Furthermore, the simple majesty of taking a horse down a quiet, snow-packed trail. The mark left by ice skates on an icy rink. There’s hardly a community anywhere that embodies winter sports more than Petoskey and its wonderful bayfront park.
Sound like your idea of the best vacation ever? Here’s more on all the wonderful winter outdoor activities you can find “Up North” in the Petoskey region of Northern Michigan.
Let’s begin with skiing. Petoskey is a mecca of downhill snow skiing and cross-country skiing. Fans flock to the more than 160 ski slopes in the region. Many of the slopes are located around the three large resorts in the area.
World-class Boyne Highlands is one of three main winter resorts. Boyne Highlands has 55 runs, including Michigan’s longest. Lifts provide easy access to the action. 35 kilometers of cross-country ski trails lead through the Highlands’ snowy forest. Fat-tire bikes grip the snow, and Sno-Go bikes combine biking and skiing. Sno-go rentals include lessons.
There are horseback riding and snowshoeing trails. Tubing and ziplining are available. Boyne Highlands zipline rises 1325 feet and travels at 20 to 25 mph. Boyne Highlands offers night adventures with SnowCat rides as the snow is groomed. If you’re exhausted, relax with a bonfire and s’mores.
Boyne Highlands also offers its SnowSports Academy for skiers and riders of all levels. The Academy teaches Terrain Based Instruction in private and group settings.
You can stay on the property at Boyne Highlands in the midst of all of the winter sports fun. The main lodge is designed in the style of a majestic English country estate. Dotted throughout the grounds are cottages, townhomes, rental homes, and a separate Inn. The Spa at Boyne Highlands operates year-round and offers services like massages and facials and manicures and pedicures.
Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls offers winter thrills. It has 35 km of groomed cross-country ski trails for beginners to experts. Skiing has 60 runs and 7 terrain bikes. Tubing down the slopes is also family-friendly. The rider and tube are lifted to the top of the four-lane run. Boyne Mountain offers fat tire and electric fat-tire bikes and Sno-Go part-ski, part-bicycle rides.
Horseback and snowshoe trails are available. Nine ziplines offer a 50-foot-high adventure on Boyne Mountain. On weekends, you can ride a SnowCat as the snow is groomed for the next day. Boyne Mountain has a beautiful outdoor rink for ice skating. Northern Michigan Escapes has a plethora of vacation rentals at Boyne Mountain Resort.
Boyne Mountain Resort also offers winter sports instruction through its SnowSports Academy.
There is lodging available in the midst of the rolling terrain of Boyne Mountain Resort. Moreover, there is the main lodge, plus additional lodges, villas, and mountain cabins. There are also restaurants and eateries on-site ranging from an apres-ski tavern to a coffee shop to a pizzeria. However, be sure to check out all of our Boyne Mountain Vacation rentals by using this link.
Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark is 88,000 square feet and open year-round. Inside, it’s always 84 to 87 degrees. The Big Couloir is a thrill slide that launches you from a trap door, down a steep climb, and into the water.
Rip Zone Simulator, Splasherhorn Waterfall, Lazy River, Super-G slide, Downhill Mat Racer, and Vertigo Cannonbowl spin you in a water slide tube. Boyne Mountain Resort’s Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark is open to non-guests. 12-month to single-day passes are available.
Nub’s Nob Ski Resort in Harbor Springs is named after Nubbie Sarns. He and his wife Dorie bought the property to open up a modest little mountain retreat for friends and family to ski on in the 1950s. It began with three trails and a double chairlift and as the years went by it continually opened new slopes and added new chairlifts.
The Fisher family bought it in the 1970s and they still own the resort and are committed to constant improvements as well as improving some of the best snow-making techniques around. Today the resort sprawls across 246 acres and features 43 slopes. 50 percent of the runs are for intermediate-level skiers but there are beginner runs and advanced runs as well.
There are no accommodations on the Nub’s Nob property for staying overnight, but there is a welcoming lodge with a cozy fireplace, a cafeteria that serves breakfast and lunch, and a brown bag dining room for skiers who bring something to eat with them. The Pintail Peak Warming Hunt features spectacular views of Little Traverse Bay and has restrooms and weekend food service.
There is a technology center on-site to keep your winter gear in tip-top shape. Family members who are too young to be out on the slopes can spend time on Nub’s Cubs Day Caretaking part in inside activities and even enjoying lunch together. Nub’s Nob is a home on the slopes for skiers and snowboarders and offers a ski school that has introduced more than one person to the joy of skiing. A pro tip here is to give the night skiing a try at Nub’s Nob.
Resorts aren’t the only places in the Petoskey area to take advantage of the crisp blue skies and the pristine snowfalls in the winter.
The Avalanche Mountain Preserve features more than 300 acres in Boyne City covered in trails. Moreover, the stars during the wintertime are the sledding hill, the ice rink, and the warming house. Cross-country skiers love to glide through here and Michigan Blue magazine named the hill here the best sledding hill in Michigan.
There is also snowmobiling, and fat-tire biking on the trails. The Avalanche Mountain Preserve is run by Boyne City and there are some sleds and ice skates available to use at no charge you might be able to scoop up a complimentary cup of hot chocolate as well.
For a peaceful winter walk just steps from downtown Petoskey, consider a stroll through the Bear River Valley Recreation Area. The city recently spent $2.4 million dollars to improve this natural area. There is a 1.5-mile trail that is usually not that busy in winter but does require snowshoes to get through.
One of the gems of this region has to be the Petoskey Winter Sports Park. The Petoskey State park features a spacious sledding hill and outdoor ice skating and a hockey rink. There are a limited number of ice scooters available for rent to help teach beginning ice skating.
Furthermore, there are slopes for skiing or snowboarding as well as even a designated spot for curling. And the best part is that access to this park is free. After an exhausting day outside you’re welcome to get toasty inside the warming hut which includes a fireplace, restrooms, concessions, an HDTV, and wireless Internet. Pro tip: Have your youngest sledders start from halfway down the hill.
Kiwanis Park in Harbor Springs features a beautiful hill for sledding and gentle slopes for beginning skiers and snowboarders. This is a favorite spot for parents and grandparents because they can stay in the warming hut and still have a great view of the kids in the snow.
Charlevoix’s Mount McSauba has been a favorite family winter sports destination since the 1950s. It offers six runs, four rope tows, and a great winger sports night scene with lighted skiing and a free-lighted sledding hill. There’s room here for downhill skiers, cross-country skiers, sledders, ice skaters, snowboarders, and snowshoe wearers.
Summertime in the Petoskey area is meant for golfing, but at Birchwood Farms Golf and Country Club in Harbor Springs, winter is meant for exploring the trails. Birchwood Farms grooms 8.5 kilometers of cross-country ski trails. Between the trails and the terrain, there is a route for everyone from the beginner skier to those looking for a leisurely outing or skiers looking for an intense workout. The best part is that winter sports are not for members only. In the winter months, Birchwood Farms is open to the public.
While resorts and parks in the Petoskey area have trails for snowmobiles, there are miles and miles of other trails open for riding. This region is considered a mecca for snowmobilers because of the extensive trail system and the quality of the snow. And many of the snowmobiling trails are located steps away from food and drink. While the majority of unaffiliated snowmobile trails run across land that is owned by the state of Michigan, there are spots that overlap with municipalities and those towns set their own rules for riding snowmobiles on paved roads.
If you are looking to cast that rod and reel through a hole in the ice atop Lake Michigan you can do that in the winter in the Petoskey area. For those who aren’t already versed in selecting a thick and safe spot, opening up the correct-sized hole in the ice, and setting up a shanty for warmth, there are companies with guides who are experts and will not only take you to ice fishing, they will bring all the equipment you need as well.
Companies like Sport Fish Michigan feature guides who usually grew up fishing the water of Lake Traverse Bay and will guide you in an enjoyable day that includes everything from shanties with heaters to the bait and the lures.
There are a few events each winter that brings sports enthusiasts to the Petoskey area.
The Nordic Ski Loppet happens every February. It’s a loose and casual 16-mile out and back cross-country ski outing on a single-track trail. In addition, it begins in Harbor Springs and ends in Cross Village with a huge buffet at the Crow’s Nest restaurant. While it is a 16-mile course it is not a race. Skiers move at their own pace and there is no official timing. All the participants use classic skis for this one and come dressed in their best Nordic ski wear.
The Harbor Springs Snowmobile Club sponsors the Moose Jaw Safari every year on the third Saturday in January. Participants head out for a 30 miles ride along picturesque groomed trails, make a few stops and then end up with famous bean soup for lunch at the finish. The 2020 edition of the Moose Jaw Safari was the 55thannual edition.
This annual event can trace its origins back to the 1920s when the region had already become known as a playground for winter sports. The first Winter Carnivals featured broomball tournaments, speed skating, hockey, and even fox hunts. Today the tradition is still going strong each winter in an active downtown business community. Favorite events include the cardboard sled building and live ice carving.
You might only participate in winter sports activities occasionally. Or maybe your next visit to Petoskey will find you experimenting with sports you have never tried before. Additionally, maybe you are coming in on an airplane and don’t want to have to travel with skis and boots. You can wait until you get to Petoskey to get outfitted with your snow sports gear.
You can rent skis, boots, and snowshoes at The Outfitter of Harbor Springs. And, you can rent by the day, by the week, or by the season. Bearcub Outfitters in Petoskey will rent you downhill skis or cross-country skis, snowboards, and snowshoes.
If you ever want to catch a glimpse of the snow coverage and what the winter scene looks like, you can click on the webcam page at Petoskeyarea.com and take a look at Boyne Highlands, Boyne Mountain, and Nub’s Nob.
All that activity on the slopes, hills, and rinks can make a winter sports enthusiast hungry. And the Petoskey region doesn’t disappoint with its wide array of dining options that are open all year round. Some of the highly-reviewed favorites include Chandler’s A Restaurant in Petoskey with a menu that emphasizes ingredients from Michigan. Diners also like Vintage Chop House and Wine Bar in Petoskey for its classic steakhouse menu and ambiance. And Villa Ristorante Italiano serves up classic Italian favorites in a cozy dining room in Petoskey.
Other popular dining destinations in Petoskey include Palette Bistro with its Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, small plates, wood-fired brick oven, and views of Little Traverse Bay. The buzz about The Side Door Saloon is all about the burgers but reviewers also love the blackened whitefish sandwich. POUR Kitchen & Bar has a bit of an urban edge to its dining room and a menu full of local, seasonal, and creative items.
The Petoskey area has some interesting wineries and breweries as well. Maple Moon Sugarbush and Winery is America’s first and only maple winery. The shop has wine and cider tastings and a large assortment of treats made with maple. The Mackinaw Trail Winery and Brewery is a family-owned company that makes its own wines and beers from crops that are processed on-site.
Walloon Lake Winery is a family-run boutique winery and tasting room that strives to make the best wines from cold-hardy grapes. Burnt Marshmallow Brewing is a nano-brewery that makes beer from ingredients grown on its 190 acres along with other local ingredients.
Check ahead because some restaurants’ wineries and breweries operate on different schedules in the winter than they do in the summer.
Petoskey’s North Perk roasts its own coffee. It has free Internet, bookshelves, and card games. Populace Petoskey serves specialty coffee drinks and fresh-baked goods.
Petoskey, Northern Michigan, is a winter sports paradise. Lake Michigan’s rolling peaks and valleys are beautiful “Up North.” More than 100 inches of snow blankets this region every winter, making it ideal for downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, biking, sledding, and snowmobiling.
Petoskey’s winter temperatures support outdoor ice rinks for skating and hockey against a stunning backdrop. Ziplining offers adventure in the blue sky. When the lake ice thickens enough for fishing, adventure awaits.
Petoskey has three large resorts with outdoor winter sports programs and an indoor water park. Free public parks have hills, ice rinks, and warming houses. Trails crisscross the region. Some are snowmobile-friendly. Others are good for snowshoeing.
Petoskey is for snow lovers who can’t wait to get outside and play. In addition, you may want to check out the winter activities in East Jordan, Michigan using this link.
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