It’s Easy for Kids to Learn to Ski in Michigan
Did you know there are over 35 ski resorts right here in our mitten state, and many of them offer discounts and specials just for families? In Michigan, “winter” is a verb and we all know that to enjoy the next several snowy months, we need to winter well!
That’s why this season my family and I are strapping on the skis and hitting the slopes – with our 16-month-old toddler! Are we crazy?! What’s the youngest you’ve taken a kid skiing? Have any tips for us?
5 Michigan Ski Resorts That are Fun for the Whole Family
1. Shanty Creek Resort (Bellaire, MI)
At almost 8 square miles, Shanty Creek Resort encompasses two distinct ski hills, advanced and beginner terrain parks, and a ton of different accommodation with all-purpose trails and 28 km of designated Nordic ski trails in between. It’s up in Bellaire, about two and a half hours from Grand Rapids, making it a (possible) day trip or an easy overnight trip.
It’s one of the few ski resorts I found that offers day care in case you parents want a chance to zip down the hills by yourselves for a few hours, or keep the little ones busy while you challenge the older ones to the moguls.
This season they’re offering kids 8 and under a free season pass (normally $29) when they take a learn-to-ski lesson.
“There’s a benefit in continuing to try,” Chris Hale, vice president of sales and marketing explains as the reason for encouraging kids to keep coming back to the slopes. Plus, the season pass is, “a badge of coolness to have on their coat when they go to school”.
There are plenty of activities beyond skiing, like fat tire biking, ice fishing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and – my favorite! – a six-lane tubing park.
Sweet Deals: On Super Sundays you can get a lift ticket, equipment rental and an optional station-by-station lesson for a reduced price – open to all ages, or you could take a day off work to sneak up for their Wednesday night deal when lift tickets are just $10.
2. Timber Ridge (Gobles, MI)
Timber Ridge Ski Area is right by Kalamazoo, making it an easy drive if you want to ski, snowboard or go tubing. There are private and group lessons available and special programs for kids.
The Timber Tykes program is a great way to introduce your kids to skiing (ages 6 to 12) or snowboarding (ages 8 to 12) in four weekly lessons for $100. Timber Wolves is available each weekend for kids 5 to 12. It includes lessons, lifts and a lunch for $65, or $70 with equipment rentals. Registration for Timber Tykes and Timber Wolves is required beforehand.
The Saturday Kids Ski program begins in January for kids 6 to 8, and offers an introductory evening lesson for $45 (includes lift, lesson and equipment). There’s also the Junior Development team for kids 5 to 14 to learn racing and technical skills.
But the thing I’m most excited about at Timber Ridge is the Minimax Slopestyle Competition event for kids 17 and under. Amy Schrab, general manager of Timber Ridge, describes this as a fun competition through the terrain park that lets kids “feel cool” – and maybe even look cool!
3. Mt. Holiday (Traverse City, MI)
I love Mt. Holiday as much for what it stands for, as for its actual skiing! This non-profit ski resort was re-established in the early 2000s by local business people and is now run by a volunteer board of directors who valued the local ski hill as a crucial part of the community – and didn’t want to see it developed into condos or hotels.
Nate Pupel, director of operations, explains, Mt. Holiday is a “community gem” that’s perfect for kids to go to learn or advance their skiing, snowboarding or tubing skills.
It’s located on the eastside of Traverse City, making it ideal if your family wants a winter getaway that includes the activities of TC, or access to a very chilly Lake Michigan.
Kids under four and seniors over 65 can ski for free, and student rates are $15 for lift tickets Tuesday – Thursday. There’s a three-day ski school offered for $40 that includes lift tickets and lessons ($55 if you need equipment).
You can also have your kid’s birthday party at Mt. Holiday! They take care of the food (did someone say bottomless hot chocolate?!) and logistics. That would be a birthday I’d never forget! “Our tube run is THE thing to do…a hoot and a half!” exclaims Nate.
Nate’s enthusiasm is contagious. When I ask if I should try starting my 16-month old on skis he doesn’t hesitate. “You should!” Alright then – see you on the hill!
4. Caberfae Peaks (Cadillac, MI)
Caberfae Peaks has an awesome mid-week accommodation deal for families. (In fact, after talking to them about it, I started planning a trip with my own family!) For $69 per adult and $10 per child, you get a stay at their hotel during weekdays (which includes a fire pit and heated pool) and lift tickets for the family!
Family Fun-Day Sunday offers lift ticket, equipment and an afternoon lesson (3pm to close) for a family of three for $59. As Pete Meyer, general manager of Caberfae, explains, this program is designed to, “break down the cost and learning barriers for skiing.” Make sure you print the coupon from their website first!
The Cabby Kids program is a full-day of fun for kids – and a full day alone for mom and dad! This $90 learn-to-ski and snowboard program includes lift tickets, equipment (helmet, too!), snacks, lunch and hot chocolate.
If you’re serious enough about getting your little one into skiing or snowboarding to splurge on purchasing equipment, Caberfae offers a complimentary season pass for anyone age 12 and under who are part of the buy-back equipment program run through Bill and Paul’s Sporthaus here in Grand Rapids. Make sure to bring your equipment voucher to the ski window when you get to Caberfae!
5. Cannonsburg (Cannonsburg, MI)
Of course, I had to include our local ski resort – Cannonsburg! Last winter, my husband and I spent many a snowy day alternating between holding our baby in the lodge and heading out to the hills!
Before we even get to the great ski deals available for kids at Cannonsburg, I have to mention the tubing. Did you know it’s the largest tubing facility in Michigan?! You can even book a party there! Just make sure all tubers are at least 42” tall.
Cannonsburg offers the Mountain Minnies program for young girls (ages 3-5) that aims to get them outside and having fun – all while building friendships! Each session is $25 and offers a unique theme, like fairy tales, science or sports. Register ahead of time.
There’s also the weekend Cannonsburg Kids program where kids 5 to 12 of all ski or snowboarding levels can up their mad dog skills, including terrain park and racing tips. Cost is $75 per day or 3 sessions for $200. Register at Cannonsburg in the Bear Creek Room.
Kids’ lessons are also available starting at $30 for group lessons.
Should my 16-month-old try skiing? Well, according to Danielle Musto of Cannonsburg, kids are welcome to start, “as soon as they can walk.” We’ll see you there!
There are so many great ski resorts for kids and families around – too many to mention all here. (Did someone say Mulligan’s Hollow?!) In fact, we are just plain spoiled for choice here in Grand Rapids. So let’s put on our mittens and get out there to start wintering well in the mitten!