Learn to Ski in Michigan: $60 Starter Package, Plus 7 Great Places to Go in 2024

Learn to Ski in Michigan

Learn to Ski in Michigan

Heading to a ski hill for the first time when you want to learn to ski is an intimidating experience if you’ve never experienced that world before. But if you can master it, it’s one of the best winter activities in Michigan.

As a person that didn’t learn to ski until age 40, I’m here to encourage you and share tips to get your family started on the slopes.

January Learn-To-Ski Deals in Michigan

$60 Beginner Package – Discover Michigan Skiing

Ski areas around Michigan, including Shanty Creek and Boyne Mountain, have partnered with Michigan McDonald’s restaurants to offer an affordable introduction to the sport of skiing and snowboarding. 

For people 7+ years for skiing; 10+ years for snowboarding

– Choose to downhill ski, cross-country ski or snowboard
– The price is just $60 per beginner session
– Includes Includes ski or snowboard rental, beginner lesson, lift ticket or cross country pass
– Program runs through Jan 31, 2024

Registration required.

Bonus: Everyone who completes the Discover Michigan Skiing program will receive a packet of ski information in the mail next fall, including a coupon valid for $20 off the purchase of $100 or more in ski-related merchandise at the participating MSIA retail ski shops listed on their website.

See participating ski locations.

“Learn to Ski” FAQs

How Long Does it Take to Learn to Ski?

On average, you’ll be able to stay up on skis, navigate the chairlift, control your stops and turns, and master the easy (green) hills by the end of your first day of skiing.

It will take a few more days of skiing before the moves become more familiar and you develop a level of comfort with the sport.

Additional time and practice is needed for most people to progress to harder terrain.

At the minimum, give yourself a solid day to learn to ski.

If you can spend several days in a row learning to ski, you will be amazed at how quickly you get familiar with the equipment and the sport.

When Should Kids Learn to Ski?

Kids as young as age 1 or 2 have been known to ski and snowboard, but for most children, the best age to learn to ski is 4 to 5 years old.

Starting kids at this age, while they are flexible and somewhat fearless, helps them master the moves more quickly than starting at an older age.

Most resorts and ski hills offer lessons or ski school for kids at this age, and for older kids as well.

Any kid over age 4 is a good candidate to learn to ski, even at age 8, 12, 15, or older. Even adults can learn to ski.

Can You Learn to Ski Without Lessons?

You can, but I do not recommend it.

Ski lessons are expensive, but they are worth every penny.

Having a professional teach you how to control yourself on the slopes, navigate the chairlift, and fall without injuring yourself is important.

Schedule lessons for all beginners well in advance of your trip and you will have the best experience.

Skip the learn to ski lessons and someone in your group will likely get hurt or leave the trip with a crazy story, scarred for life, never want to ski again.

Best Places to Ski in Michigan

1) Treetops Resort

3962 Wilkinson Road, Gaylord, MI 49735

About Treetops Resort
Established in 1954. Located in northern Michigan.

Treetops Resort is home to ski hills, golf courses, restaurants, a spa & salon, and numerous lodging options.

In the winter, they offer a big variety of cold-weather activities.

Why Learn to Ski Here?
Treetops offers a variety of lesson packages that come with rental & lift tickets, plus they have a great beginners area.

Ski Lesson Details
Family Private lesson: This 1.5-hour lesson allows you (and up to 5 additional family members) ages 7 and up to enjoy quality time together on the snow while advancing your skills. These lessons typically cater to the youngest/least experienced member of the group, but our instructors will provide instruction to all. This addition to Snowsports School is a memorable experience for new skiers and families that need a refresher before hitting the slopes. Starts at $460+ for a family of 4. Includes rental & lift ticket.

More lesson packages available on their website.

2) Otsego Resort

696 E M-32, Gaylord, MI 49735

About Otsego Resort
As far as ski resorts in Michigan go, Otsego Club in Gaylord, MI is the place to go for short lift lines, alpine village vibes, and some of the best affordable skiing in lower Michigan. Plus, they have the ski-in River House, an epic ski cabin restaurant tucked in the valley.

This formerly private ski facility is now open to the public.

Ostego Club offers dining, alpine log-style ambiance, conference facilities for 500, 36 holes of Championship golf on the Tribute and the Classic golf courses.

Amenities also include an outdoor summer pool, lighted tennis courts, and a 1200 acre wildlife preserve.

Why Learn to Ski Here?
Otsego has great instructors and the slopes are great. Reasonably priced.

Ski Lesson Details
Ostego Club offers private lessons only.

These one-hour lessons run every hour on the hour from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm on scheduled operating days. $70 for the first person, $40 per additional person.

Call for information and availability about Ski School.

3) Shanty Creek Resort

5780 Shanty Creek Road, Bellaire, MI 49615

About Shanty Creek Resort
Shanty Creek Resorts in Bellaire, Michigan is a large northern Michigan ski resort set on nearly 5,000 acres.

The resort is broken into three distinct villages: Summit, Schuss, and Cedar River. Each village offers lodging, dining, golf, downhill skiing, and cross-country trails.

Their mountain & village setup makes this one of the best-value ski resorts in Michigan.

Why Learn to Ski Here?
Sundays at Schuss are special. From noon to close you get a full-access lift ticket, rental equipment, and a station-by-station lesson for just $47.

Starting December 10, we encourage you and your friends and family to spend some quality time on the slopes*. From noon to close you get a full-access lift ticket, rental equipment, and a station-by-station lesson for just $47. Not valid December 24, 31 (2023), January 14, and February 18 (2024). Last day will be March 17, 2024.

Ski Lesson Details
With industry-respected leadership from Michigan Snowsports Industry president Steve Kershner and Michigan Ski Coach Hall of Fame member Rick Vantongeren, our certified PSIA and AASI instructors provide individual and group lessons for all abilities in all disciplines.

Choose from Private Lessons, Group Lessons, and specially-designed programs for children ages 5-12. For beginners to advanced, including race clinics and cross-country skiing.

4) The Highlands at Harbor Springs (Formerly Boyne Highlands Resort)

600 Highlands Dr, Harbor Springs, MI 49740

About The Highlands at Harbor Springs (Formerly Boyne Highlands Resort)
Michigan’s largest ski resort and the highest vertical terrain in the Lower Peninsula!

The Highlands at Harbor Springs is a family-owned, four-season ski resort offering the most skiable acreage in Michigan. It's a perfect destination for beginner and intermediate skiers.

With many special events and a great laid-back vibe, the Highlands is a family favorite.

Why Learn to Ski Here?
They have the longest bunny hill in Michigan.

Ski Lesson Details
The Highlands offers ski and snowboarding lessons for all age groups and skill levels.

For decades, their famous Austrian-American SnowSports School has helped skiers and riders of all ages and all abilities to embrace new skills in a supportive, constructive atmosphere.

Advanced reservations are required for all lessons - no drop-ins. (Also book rentals in advance.)

Child group lessons - choose from AM lessons - 9:30 AM - 12 PM or All-Day lessons 9:30 AM - 3:30 PM; lunch is provided for all-day lessons. Lessons designed for ages 4-14. Choose from age range 4-6 or 7-14 when purchasing tickets.

Small Fry Try lessons are perfect for little ones who are new to skiing or snowboarding and do well with one-on-one instruction. This 45-minute lesson is ideal to introduce the student to the sport in a fun and engaging way. Designed for skiers ages 2-3. Lessons offered daily at 12:30 PM. Reservations required.

Private lessons are available for ages 4+.

Adult group lessons are available for a maximum of seven individuals per group. Ages 15+.

Lift tickets and rentals are not included.

5) Caberfae Peaks

1 Caberfae Lane, Cadillac, MI 49601

About Caberfae Peaks
New lodging and a renovated lodge are waiting for visitors at Caberfae Peaks in Cadillac.
They claim to offer the best skiing and snowboarding value in the state of Michigan.

Caberfae Peaks offers huge vertical drops with consistently great snow.

Why Learn to Ski Here?
The Snowsports School at Caberfae has a great reputation for teaching newbies how to ski or snowboard.

They have great rates so staying onsite for several days will help you and your family lock in your newly learned skills.

*Note: The Caberfae bunny hill is great for beginners. Be aware that their beginner (green) terrain is steeper than at other ski resorts.

Ski Lesson Details
Skiers of any age (4 and over) can take lessons at Caberfae.

55 minute beginner group lesson for people ages 8 and up. (7 and under are recommended to take a private lesson.)

One hour private skiing or snowboarding lessons are available for any age.

Lessons do not include lift tickets or rentals.

The Cabby Kids program (3-hours) is for kids ages 5 to 8 and includes lift ticket, rental equipment, helmet rental, snack break, and hot chocolate. Kids play games that are ski and snowboard specific, in a safe, fun environment. The instructors work with the kids on mountain safety, skating, turning, stopping and riding the magic carpet with a focus on fun, safety & learning!

The Cabby Carvers program (3-hours) is for kids ages 9 - 12. Kids will explore the mountain and learn the skills of the hill including safety, skating, turning, stopping, and riding the chair lifts, all while keeping them safe. The lesson will be semi-private with an instructor in a safe, fun, learning environment. Children in Private kids lessons will learn at their own pace and individual skill level.

Lift ticket, equipment rental, helmet rental, two snacks, and lunch are all included in the price.

6) Crystal Mountain

12500 Crystal Mountain Dr., Thompsonville, MI 49683

About Crystal Mountain
Families love Crystal Mountain Resort in Benzie County.

This 1500 acre golf, ski & spa resort destination is just over a two hour drive from Grand Rapids, MI, or approximately 30 miles southwest of Traverse City, MI.

The skiing is good, the staff is friendly and accommodating, and the amenities consistently provide what families need to relax and have fun together.

If you’re looking for a Northern Michigan family ski vacation, Crystal Mountain should be on your list.

Why Learn to Ski Here?
Crystal Mountain staff and family-friendly facilities are some of the best in Michigan. Anyone who takes lessons at Crystal mountain will likely come away very satisfied.

Ski Lesson Details
Crystal Mountain Resort offers a wide variety of skiing and snowboarding lessons - including cross-country skiing.

Opt for private, semi-private or group lessons.

Private Lessons include:
- The Basic Lesson - recommended for ages 3+. 50-minutes lessons offered daily 9 AM - 4 PM. Lessons can be private or semi-private. Lift ticket and ski rental are not included and must be purchased separately. Cost is $85/person M-Th; $95/person F-Sun; Peak Dates are $105/person (dates include Dec 26-Jan 6, Jan 13, 14, 20, 27, Feb 3, 10, 17 & 18, and Mar 2). Advanced reservations required.

- The Builder Lesson - tailored to fit your personal goal. 110-minute lessons offered daily on the hour between 9 AM - 3 PM. Lessons can be private or semi-private. Lift ticket and ski rental are not included and must be purchased separately. Cost is $135/person M-Th; $145/person F-Sun; Peak Dates are $155/person (dates include Dec 26-Jan 6, Jan 13, 14, 20, 27, Feb 3, 10, 17 & 18, and Mar 2). Advanced reservations required.

- The Best Lesson - to get you skiing or snowboarding with confidence! 170-minute lessons offered daily at either 9 AM or 1 PM. Lessons can be private or semi-private. Lift ticket and ski rental are not included and must be purchased separately. Cost is $165/person M-Th; $175/person F-Sun; Peak Dates are $185/person (dates include Dec 26-Jan 6, Jan 13, 14, 20, 27, Feb 3, 10, 17 & 18, and Mar 2). Advanced reservations required.

Crystal Mountain even has a Nanny McSki program! Kids ages 6 - 17 can spend the day learning to ski or snowboard - lunch included. Lift ticket and ski rental are not included and must be purchased separately.

7) Timber Ridge Ski Area

07500 23 ½ Street, Gobles, MI 49055

About Timber Ridge Ski Area
When the temperature drops, head to the historic Timber Ridge Ski Area, Southwest Michigan’s oldest ski hill. We’re a popular destination for skiing, snowboarding, tubing and other snow sports in the Gobles, MI area.

Why Learn to Ski Here?
They have great learn to ski or snowboard programs!

Saturday Learn to Ski or Snowboard:
This program is for ages 7 and up, includes a beginner lesson and lift ticket and rentals. Price is $65. This is a first come first serve bases, please purchase at 4 PM, lesson starts promptly at 5 PM, we meet outside the rental room ramp in the parking lot. Reservations required.

Kids Saturday Learn to Ski
Ages 5 or 6 and they are beginner lesson, they also include rentals, lift and lesson with a Childs instructor. This is a first come first serve bases, please purchase at 4 PM, lesson starts promptly at 5 PM. We meet outside the rental room ramp in the parking lot. The price for these lessons is $65. Reservations required.

Other lesson packages available.

Ski Lesson Details
They also offer private lessons and group lessons for ages 4-adult.

Private lessons are $75/hour. New for 2023-24, there will be at $10 non-refundable booking fee. It will be applied toward your upcoming lesson.

Group lessons are for ages 7-adult and are $40/hr. Rentals and lift tickets not included.

My “Learn to Ski” Story

I grew up in Michigan, up north in Traverse City

Snow was a way of life that I sometimes enjoyed, but mostly just tolerated.

My school had an ice rink where my friends and I skated every day at lunch. We had a sledding hill too. I took my roll-up sled to school with me on the school bus. I had a pretty sweet childhood!

People assume that, because I grew up in northern Michigan, surrounded by snow, that I also grew up downhill skiing. Surprise!

My parents weren’t into skiing and my friends growing up weren’t either.

And, I’m afraid of heights, so I didn’t push to learn.

It wasn’t till I turned 40 that I wanted to learn how to ski.

I wanted my three kids to know how to do this Michigan thing so they would be able to go on ski trips with their friends when the time came.

I wanted to be able to make these memories with my family.

It took letting my good friend Stephanie (her family lives and breathes skiing in the winter!) know I was finally ready to tackle my fear and learn.

She stepped up, patiently explaining away all of my qualms and fears and assuring me that learning to ski wasn’t scary if you put the right pieces into play.

Crystal Mountain Ski Resort in Michigan

Tips for Your First Ski Trip

Steph helped me realize that just because you’re skiing, you don’t have to freeze to death.

It’s amazing how good you can feel outside in Michigan in the winter if you just learn how to dress. (Sounds silly, but there really is a strategy here that you can apply to most all winter sports and activities!)

Tip #1: Skiing Success Starts With (Good) Planning

If you can plan a trip to Disney, you can take your family on a ski trip.

(Bonus – If you start skiing when the kids are young, most places let kids under age 6 ski free.)

There are a few logistics to work out before you go, but once you’ve got that figured out, you’re golden.

Checklists, advance reservations, and equipment roundups will make your ski trip so much more enjoyable.

In this series of videos, follow along as I learned how to pack for our first ski trip and what to expect as we finally become a ski family.

Tip #2: Calm Nerves by Taking Lessons

Nervous first-time skier?

I sure was, especially when thinking about the chairlift. (I did try skiing once when I was in middle school. My experience involved no lesson and a black diamond ski run. Plus, I managed to jump/fall off of the chairlift. No wonder I didn’t want to learn how to ski after that!)

Thankfully, Steph explained why I didn’t need to be afraid of the chairlift, adding, “Your friends, if they try to get you to start on the chairlift, they’re not your friends.”

She also talked me through how I would get my kids started skiing.

A few key takeaways:

You will not start on a chairlift – there’s something called a magic carpet (kind of like a people mover) that beginners start out on.

Ski instructors will teach you how to use the chairlift.

Crystal Mountain is a great place for kids and beginners to learn how to ski.

Take a lesson when you’re first starting out. Schedule kids for at least a half-day lesson (more on this in the video).

Do not let your spouse or significant other teach you how to ski.

Kids and adults usually take separate lessons.

The beginner area is filled with other people learning how to ski- they are in the same place as you and won’t make you feel rushed.

All of the advanced skiers will be on other hills.

Learn the French Fry and Pizza techniques in a lesson to get the basics down.

If you’re a beginner, call one of the ski resorts in Michigan and they will walk you through getting everything you want scheduled – the websites can be confusing for new skiers.

Tip #3: Use Skiing as a Time to Connect with Your Kids

We live in Michigan. We can either to fight winter or learn to embrace it.

That’s why, for my kids’ sake, I put myself out there and learned how to ski as an adult.

Skiing is really a whole-family activity. You can all ski together, no matter each person’s ability.

You can all ride the chairlift together, ski down separate hills, and meet at the bottom for your next ride up.

Chairlift chats with your kids and teens will likely be some of the highlights of your trip to ski resorts in Michigan.

Plus, Steph promises that even “cold” people will be comfortable skiing as long as they’re properly dressed.

Watch this segment for more:

Tip #4: Follow a Packing List for Your Ski Trip

Prepping for our first time skiing in Michigan made me realize that I have a lot to learn when it comes to dressing for outdoor winter fun.

Just slapping on snow pants, mittens, and hats, might be fine for school recess, but it won’t keep you or your kids warm for a long day on the ski hill.

Learning how to be warm and have fun in the snow makes winter so much more enjoyable.

Watch this segment to see what made her Ski Essentials list and hear why everyone should wear a helmet and beginner skiers don’t need poles.

And… learn all about how her family uses cinch sacks to stay organized.

Printable Ski Trip Packing List

Tip #5: Learn How to Dress for the Winter Weather

This section has more packing tips, plus Stephanie explains how to layer your clothing and really dress for outdoor Michigan activities.

What’s covered in this video:
– What to put in your cinch sack
– How to label your gear
– How to layer your clothing (no cotton next to the skin – synthetic or wool socks, synthetic long underwear for your base layer.)
– Waterproof gloves with zipper pockets for hand warmers. (Tip: Use nail polish to put your last initial on the gloves – this will help you tell the black gloves apart.)
– What kind of snow pants you’ll want for skiing
– How to best dry wet ski gloves
– A balaclava will help keep your face and neck warm – or get a neck warmer (neck up).

Tip #6: Know What to Expect at the Ski Rental

When it’s your first time skiing in Michigan, either at a ski hill or one of the ski resorts in Michigan, you need to plan enough time into your schedule to get rental gear.

Plan on longer than you might expect for ski rentals – you’ll need to try on sizes, swap sizes, and get everyone fit for equipment. There may be lines.

Identify yourself as a first-time skier and the rental people will give you extra assistance. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with the boots – they are awkward for first time users.

Provide (your true) height, weight, shoe size and skier experience level to get appropriate equipment.

It’s a good idea to reserve equipment ahead of time, especially if skiing in Michigan during a holiday or school break.

If you’re staying at a resort and renting ski equipment, check to see if you can get fitted for your rentals the night before you start skiing. It’s a nice perk that lets you get out on the slopes earlier the next morning.

Watch this video segment to see: how ski rental works, how to put your skis together for easy carrying, and how to clip your boots into the skis.

More Winter Fun

1 thought on “Learn to Ski in Michigan: $60 Starter Package, Plus 7 Great Places to Go in 2024”

  1. I think this was great. After 47 years of teaching, you seemed to have summed it up well. The only issue I have is your summation that a beginner is going to get to use the chairlift the first day…that depends on a lot of factors. Some stay on the magic carpet hill for a long time to get their mental confidence solidified. And some students need to regress to take a deep breath and relax and be happy. Other than that , it was great. And thanks for the accolades for Shanty Creek where I now teach on weekends.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *