Friday, March 18, 2011
Boyne Mountain, Michigan
We barreled down the ski hill that was a little too advanced for us, flying past the sign reading “Back to Lodge,” where everyone else turned. When we reached the bottom we found a few souls waiting at a rusty, old-timey chair lift, a stark change from the throngs at the five-person lift directly in front of the ski lodge. We rode it to the top and came down a different way, on a long, hushed trail winding among the snow-covered pine trees. Sometimes you find the best things when you’re lost.
Last week my kids had Thursday and Friday off of school, so it seemed the perfect opportunity to take a little trip. We settled on skiing and snowboarding at Boyne Mountain in northern Michigan, where we’d never been before.
This took a certain amount of courage on my part, because although I first strapped on skis a long time ago, I went only one time a year, tops, until I started going to the local ski bumps with my kids. So even though I’ve skied for 15 years I’m still a beginner. My knees aren’t what they once were (getting older is for the birds) and if I fall – which I try very hard to make sure doesn’t happen – it’s a major hassle to get up again. Last month as I got off a chair lift I stumbled and crumpled into a heap at the bottom and the operator had to stop the lift while I crawled off to the side where I could remove a ski and have my kids help haul me to a standing position again. I’m just glad they’re still too young to be embarrassed by me.
Because I’m not the hottest thing on skis, I tend to be overly cautious, and since Boyne has a reputation for being one of Michigan’s best ski spots, I had visions of cartwheeling down the hill like the guy from the old World of Sports opener. Just dated myself there.
All the hills we saw from our hotel window the night we arrived looked impossibly steep and I was nervous when we trudged out the back of the hotel, past the fudge and ski shops towards the ski area the next morning.
It turned out those were the black diamond and double black diamond hills. We walked to the far right end of the ski area to the Boyne Funland hill, which was a nice, easy green circle hill for the three of us. After we felt comfortable we were ready for a slightly more difficult hill and headed over to the big chair lift by the ski lodge. At the top we took a hill we thought was green, but turned out to be more challenging than we were prepared for. That’s how we found the network of peaceful, less popular green hills at the side of the mountain. Those were the longest trails I’ve ever been on, and I skied them with ease, chatting and laughing with the kids all the way down. We spent most of the afternoon there, and came back the next day. Though we did challenge ourselves on the more difficult hills a few times, those long stretches were easily our favorites.
Boyne Trail Map