Many Midwest ski areas have joined the general trend toward becoming year-round resort destinations. For one reason, it doesn’t make good economic sense to keep facilities shuttered during the summer months. While a golf course is the most popular warm-weather companion to a ski hill, the resorts also try to attract summer visitors with special events.
Along with its golf layout, Crystal Mountain in Michigan has an outdoor water park, alpine slide and even a paintball arena for its summer attractions. The annual Michigan Beer and Brat Festival gives an extra incentive to visit Crystal Mountain on May 26. A healthier annual event, the Betsie Valley Run on Oct. 7, includes a half-marathon, 10K, and 5K starting at the resort.
Michigan’s Boyne Mountain hosts a different kind of run, the Dirty Dog Dash, on June 9. The festive 3.1-mile obstacle-course race involves fire, water and lots of mud. The Warrior Dash, June 30-July 1, is a similar event at Afton Alps in Minnesota.
May is the time in Michigan for mushrooms, as in the Morel culinary delicacy kind, not the psychedelic experience kind. Located 16 miles north of Caberfae Peaks Ski and Golf Resort, the tiny town of Mesick, Mich., holds its annual mushroom festival, May 11-13. On the following weekend, Boyne Mountain hosts the Morelfest Wine and Dine on May 18 in conjunction with another mushroom festival in nearby Boyne City. If mushrooms aren’t your thing, the town of Harrietta, Mich., 5 miles north of Caberfae, puts on a blueberry festival, August 3-5.
Wisconsin’s Alpine Valley is widely known for the outdoor music theater next to the ski area. The venue was once a regular stop for the Grateful Dead. Phish and the Dave Matthews Band have taken up the mantle of making regular visits there. This summer, each plans to play two shows there with Phish, June 30-July1, and the Dave Matthews Band, July 6-7. KISS and Motley Crue also promise to stop there for a joint concert on Sept. 8.
Chestnut Mountain on the Illinois banks of the Mississippi River has an alpine slide that is scheduled to open on Memorial Day weekend. The resort’s summer highlight arrives June 30 in the form of the annual Summerfest outdoor-music festival. This year’s concert features Edgar Gabriel’s StringFusion.
Mountain biking is another summer alternative to skiing with races at several ski areas. The first stop on the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series is an event at Afton Alps on May 20. Riders can sign up for various races tailored to different skill levels or even a kids race. As part of the same series, the Buck Hill Birch Bump is on July 22.
All the summer diversions finally turn back to skiing with the Skitoberfest at Boyne Mountain on Oct. 6. The event celebrates the 2012-13 ski season which will be here before we know it.