Wednesday, March 23, 2011
A couple of weeks ago I decided to take the kids for a couple of days of skiing and indoor water park fun at Boyne Mountain, in Northern Michigan. They Boyne Mountain complex offers a variety of lodging choices in different buildings on the property, but we decided on the Mountain Grand Lodge for many reasons.
When I first began looking for lodging I saw a listing for a room about $50 cheaper than the Mountain Lodge, and was tempted. But in the photo on Boyne’s website, the room looked tired and outdated, which was confirmed by a quick trip to a popular travel review site. Also, the map showed the building to be out of the way of pretty much everything, and there was no restaurant on-site. I went with the Mountain Grand Lodge.
The Mountain Grand Lodge was designed to resemble an inn in the Swiss Alps – apt, if unimaginative. There was pine everywhere, from the fireplace mantel in the main lobby to the television armoire in the room. The walls of the long hallways were hung with antique skis and poles, and most artwork depicted skis and skiers.
Our room was comfortable and simply designed, with a view of the mountain. There was a kitchenette area with a mini-fridge microwave, coffeemaker and sink. Some rooms had balconies.
The lobby featured a tall stone fireplace, with comfy chairs arranged around it and a library off to one side. Across from the fireplace was the restaurant and bar, where we had breakfast each morning. At night I heard live music coming from the bar. Around the corner were the gift shop and a little café, and the spa wasfurther down that hallway.
My kids LOVED the indoor / outdoor spa pool. I thought it was pretty cool too, since I’ve always wanted to try the outdoor hot springs in Iceland or the outdoor pools in Sweden. The pool was heated, and I was warm enough as long as I kept swimming. The hot tubs were nice and hot, but running in the freezing air from the pool to the hot tub was brutal. We had a lot of fun, but my daughter had a wicked cold all the next week, so maybe it wasn’t such a good idea as it seemed at the time.
The fact that the Mountain Grand Lodge is connected to Avalanche Bay, Boyne’s indoor water park, was a major factor in my decision to stay there. I didn’t want to leave the water park and have to bundle up my children and head out into the freezing temperatures with wet hair, or stroll around the snowy complex in towels, like these fellows. We could walk to the park from our room in sandals and cover-ups, and leave the same way.
Mountain Grand Lodge & Spa
Friday, March 18, 2011
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
Wednesday, March 02, 2011
While I usually travel with my children, I also take trips without them from time to time, while they party at what we call "Grandma Camp." One thing I like to do is make a video each day that I'm gone and email it to them, so they can see me and the places I'm visiting. Here's one that I made while visiting ancient Ephesus, in Turkey, with my sister in the summer of 2009. I filmed it with my digital camera, so the quality isn't that hot.
Thinking warm thoughts - Spring is coming!