Out and About: Terrific Terrain to Snowshoe and Cross-Country Ski

WRITER | LISA BECKER CAMPBELL

Serene and scenic in wintertime, Traverse City is a picture-perfect environment in which to cross-country ski and snowshoe!

With seemingly endless trails, adventure awaits for all sorts of outdoors enthusiasts. The hardy and hale athletes may choose the 50K cross-country ski competition at the Vasa Festival of Races. Foodies, on the other hand, may decide to take in a wine and brewery tour on snowshoes. And there are many possibilities in between.

The 42nd Annual VASA Festival of Races, presented by Short’s Brewing Company and Chemical Bank, is slated for February 10–11. New this year, the direction of the course will be reversed!  The Festival welcomes cross-country skiers of all ages and skill levels – from the children’s junior race to the 50K – and is renowned for delivering a fun-filled adventure at all levels.     

The Traverse City Brew Bus offers snowshoe wine and beer tours throughout the winter on Old Mission Peninsula. The Old Mission Snowshoe, Wine, & Brew Trail begins roughly ten minutes from Traverse City and visits Bowers Harbor Vineyards, Brys Estate Vineyards, and the Jolly Pumpkin.     

With 35K-plus miles of Nordic trails, the Vasa Pathway in the Pere Marquette State Forest may be Traverse City’s premier destination for skiing and snowshoeing. The trailhead is located just three miles from Traverse City, and it boasts high-quality conditions, thanks to state-of-the-art grooming technology and maintenance by the volunteers of Traverse Area Recreation & Transportation (TART) Trails, Inc.

TART issues grooming reports at TraverseTrails.org/grooming/.  Reports are also available firsthand from skiers who have recently visited the Vasa Trail on the Nordic Ski Racer website.  NordicSkiRacer.com/ski-trail-conditions.   

The Pathway is a great destination for every age and level of ability because it features a series of loops (3K, 5K, 10K, and 25K) that offers a variety of challenges, from easy to difficult.

Also in the Pere Marquette State Forest is Muncie Lakes Pathway, which is groomed with a single track for classic skiing on the rolling terrain southeast of Traverse City.  The trail meanders past pristine small lakes and skirts the banks of the swift-flowing Boardman River, with overlooks of the Boardman Valley.

With spectacular views of both the east and west arms of Grand Traverse Bay, the Hickory Hills Ski Area is an idyllic destination just west of Traverse City. The city-owned and -operated family ski area features miles of groomed ski trails and paths that meander through meadows and upland forests.

Just to the south is Hickory Meadows, a 112.5-acre preserve of the Grand Traverse Conservation District with a groomed ski trail that travels through similar terrain.

The Pelizzari Natural Area, only two miles north of Traverse City’s busy US-31 corridor, has a 2.8-mile Nordic ski trail loop.

Leelanau County invites outdoor enthusiasts to ski its numerous trails, including the Wine Trail, which ramble among vineyards and orchards and boast spectacular views of Grand Traverse Bay.

Those interested in visiting these scenic destinations can rent equipment at several locations. For example, cross-country ski packages are only $15/day for juniors and $20/day for adults at Brick Wheels in Traverse City.  Snowshoes are $15/day.

Suttons Bay Bike and Grand Traverse Bike Tours in Suttons Bay offer myriad rental packages for snowshoes and classic cross-country skis. Don Orr Ski n’ Beach Haus in Traverse City offers rentals as well.

Answer the call to embrace winter in the Grand Traverse Region!