WRITER | LISA BECKER CAMPBELL
West Michigan is home to a uniquely unparalleled winter playground for children of all ages: the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex.
Located among the pines in breathtakingly beautiful Muskegon State Park, the complex is home to five venues where young and old can actively embrace Michigan winters. All of the destinations are tailored for making treasured moments and memories, whether visitors are sledding on a bunny hill or flying at 30 miles an hour down an 850-foot luge track.
“The sports park in wintertime is really impressive,” says Gregory Sherburn, park supervisor of Duck Lake/Muskegon State Park. “We work hand in hand with the Winter Sports Complex, other agencies, and a dedicated group of employees and volunteers to manage the state park.”
The complex is operated by the Muskegon Sports Council, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, in partnership with the DNR, the Muskegon Luge Club, and the West Michigan Speed Skating Club.
Together they strive to honor the nonprofit’s mission of providing enjoyable, quality activities and programs at the park while upholding its strict environmental guidelines to protect its quality. Sherburn explained that the complex leases the space from the state of Michigan at no cost, and, in exchange, the complex “gifts” all of the structures they develop to the state.
The largest and most spectacular of these structures is the rugged yet sleek luge – one of only four in the US. Designed by three-time Olympian Frank Masley, the track is slightly shorter than the Olympic tracks in Lake Placid and Salt Lake City. It was designed specifically for general public use and those who have no experience, with the participant’s safety in mind. Following a brief Learn to Luge training session, lugers experience thrilling rides over six stealthy curves. The friendly competitions come complete with a medals ceremony.
For the more serious luger, there is a weekly program where participants can compete against fellow athletes at any skill level. Selected athletes will get an opportunity to slide on the Olympic Track at Lake Placid. A youth league is also available for children, whether they just want to have fun or want to train to become serious competitors. A smaller, universally accessible luge track is available for wheeled carts during the summer.
Other winter programs include snowshoeing, skating, and cross-country skiing throughout the natural park – amid woods, along the dunes, and beside Lost Lake bog and nearby Lake Michigan. All programs and activities have training and rental equipment available. Wintertime camping opportunities include yurt and rustic campground rentals.
The Muskegon Track Chair program allows folks with limited mobility access via off-road electronic chairs that can easily traverse trails, snow, sand, and up to eight inches of water. The chairs are available year-round – beginning at the sport lodge – at no cost, all thanks to Kali’s Cure for Paralysis Foundation.
Ice skaters can select their perfect pairing: a family skating rink, a hockey rink, or a lighted quarter-mile skating trail for speed skating. Figure and hockey skates are available in sizes from toddler to men’s size 14, along with hockey sticks, pucks, and helmets (which are required).
Cross-country skiers can navigate 15-plus kilometers of trails, groomed for both skate and classic skiing. They also offer the longest lighted trail in the Midwest. Personal and group cross-country ski lessons are taught by instructors certified by the Professional Ski Instructors Association.
The complex offers Fischer classic XC skis and skate skis, ski boots, and poles for rent, all of which are in new condition and well suited to skiers at any level.
Snowshoe trails are also a great way to see Muskegon State Park. The Lost Lake Trail winds around the luge park area and comprises rugged terrain and spectacular views of the lakeshore. The state park nearby offers at least three other trail systems that serve all skill levels – beginner through expert.
A bunny sledding hill provides fun for young children and their young-at-heart co-sledders at no charge. All ages are allowed, and those looking for a more extreme sledding experience can visit the nearby Sugar Bowl Dune.
Please contact the complex before planning a visit, as COVID has affected scheduling and availability.
Muskegon Sports Complex
462 N. Scenic Drive, Muskegon 49445
(877) 879-5843 / MSports.org