Set to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day, Boyne Mountain in Michigan will host its annual Carnival Weekend. The activities, March 16-18, will culminate with the Slush Cup pond-skimming rite of spring skiing on that Sunday afternoon. On Carnival Weekend or anytime during the winter, Boyne Mountain stands out as one of the few true destination resorts in Midwest skiing. Although its 500 vertical feet is fairly average for Michigan, Boyne has additional resort amenities that few other Midwest areas can match.
Opened in 2005, the imposing Mountain Grand Lodge and Spa, along with the adjacent Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark, is far more expansive than the simple base-area cafeteria building of many smaller Midwest ski areas. Accommodations in the Mountain Grand range from hotel rooms to four-bedroom suites that can sleep up to 10 guests.
For families staying at the Mountain Grand, the Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark is especially convenient. Kids don’t have to leave the hotel to hit some waterslides at the state’s largest indoor waterpark.
“A lot of times there are two families, they all might not ski,” says Ed Grice, Boyne Mountain general manager. “But there are a lot of things at Avalanche Bay, like the zipline, that don’t necessarily take skiing skills. Non skiers can still come here and have a great time.”
The skiing and snowboarding, itself, has decent terrain variety for a 415-acre area. Although groomed runs dominate the experience, the unnamed glades just off the Superbowl chairlift add off-piste spice to the area for more advanced skiers and riders.
Adding to 140 inches of average annual natural snowfall, Boyne has long been on the cutting edge of snowmaking. In fact, an early snowmaking machine in the 1970s was called the “Boyne Snowmaker.” One of the industry’s global suppliers of snowmaking equipment, SMI Snowmakers, is based a few hours south of Boyne in Midland, Michigan.
The area’s history also extends to chairlifts. In 1947, Boyne’s founder Everett Kircher bought the world’s first chairlift from Sun Valley in Idaho and moved the parts by train to Michigan. Originally a single-chair, the double-chair Hemlock lift at Boyne still uses the upper and lower terminals of the original chairlift.
Ironically with such a relic still in use, Boyne’s lift system is very modern and even has a pioneering tradition. In the 1960s, Kircher built the world’s first triple-chair at nearby sister resort Boyne Highlands and the world’s first fixed-grip quad lift at Boyne Mountain. In 1992, Boyne Mountain installed the Mountain Express, the world’s first high-speed, six-place chairlift.
Thanks to the legacy of Kircher, who died in 2002, and his family who still owns the area along with larger resorts such as Big Sky Resort in Montana, Boyne Mountain can provide the tradition and experience that help justify calling a 500-foot hill a “mountain.”