Chet wordmark with orange bowtie Chet wordmark with orange bowtie

Crystal Mountain

Alison and I think of vacation in the same way. While some people prefer new adventures and exploring new cities, we like to go to the same places to do the same things. We’ve just returned from our third annual trip to Crystal Mountain ski resort in northern Michigan, and this year brought us plenty of new adventure.

Road trips with four small children always take longer, with the little ones needing more breaks along the way. Like all things with children, they reach new milestones without mentioning them, and this trip was no different. This was the first time we made our two-day drive in a single day. It was a long day, and we took four breaks for food/fuel/bathrooms, but we made it. I don’t know if we’ll attempt it again, but at least we now know that road trips in the future will be much less chaotic.

Although the La Niña weather pattern this winter has left Michigan with below-average snow, the temperatures were good for artificial snow making. Most of the trails at Crystal Mountain were open when we arrived, much to our delight.

Cottage at Crystal Mountain Cottage at Crystal Mountain upon our arrival. Note the total lack of snowpack

In previous years, we’d spend at least all of Monday in the Mountain Adventure Zone (Crystal’s bunny hill) getting familiar with our skis again before heading up the mountain. Each year, though, our time in the Adventure Zone gets shorter and shorter. This year, Benedict and Felicity needed three runs before they were ready. In less than an hour, we were up on the mountain enjoying skiing.

The children and I took lessons throughout the week, looking to build our skills. My two-hour lesson was great, and I had the confidence to start doing Blue (moderate) runs. Benedict and Felicity also took lessons. Felicity grew from a solid solo skier to an adventure skier! After her lesson, on every run we took, she’d always try to find some terrain on the edges of the trail to ski over. Benedict did a Blue run last year at the end of vacation and he remained very confident in himself (and addicted to ski speed). He insisted on doing all Blue runs the entire week. He took two lessons and even did his first Black Diamond. Whew.

Child and ski instructor Lucy on her way to the Adventure Zone with her instructor

Lucy was very reluctant to take her lesson… until I snapped her into her skis. As with all things Lucy, she was very coy about her abilities around her family, and a stand-out in front of strangers. She got very high marks from her instructor and, after the lesson, confidently went down runs on her own without the backpack/leash! There was a minor incursion with a log that temporarily set her back. But after a few more runs with supervision, she was willing to go solo again.

Child looking at ski lift Veronica dreaming of future rides on the ski lift

Last year, Veronica didn’t even want to stand in her skis. This week, she had them for the whole week. She took a group lesson and, despite her early protests, I saw her from afar going down the Adventure Zone with her hands on her knees.

Child looking out window at fresh snow fall Benedict looks out the window at the fresh snow fall

Snow was only forecast for one day during the week, but lake effect snow showers passed through regularly. Alison and I got to ski as one of those bands passed through the area, dropping frozen, thick, perfectly formed snowflakes. I think that was the first time I’d seen a natural snowflake look exactly like the pictures.

Fresh snow on tree and cottage Fresh snowfall on a cottage at Crystal Mountain

Early Thursday morning, a true snowstorm rolled through the area, finally blanketing the entire resort. Instead of skiing first thing, we got on our snow gear and walked around. The kids threw endless snowballs at each other, built a snowman, and stood under trees, shaking them until the branches gave up their snow. Our trip was about more than skiing, it was about winter fun. They experienced the wonderment of snow.

Kids playing in fresh snow Kids playing on a snow covered bridge. The bridge’s top was relieved of its snow for the making of snowballs

No one was injured during the week, there was a good mix of solo and group skiing, and we all got to go down our favorite trails several times. There was even a long session of night skiing! Throughout the week, we were challenged as we played on the mountain, and we never got bored.

Ski lift on a snow covered mountain Loki Quad ski lift at the bottom of Crystal Mountain

Driving home, we had to take a detour through suburban roads that cut through hill country. There was snow on the ground, and when the children looked out the window, they asked with delight, “Are we back at Crystal!?” No, we’re not today, but we will be next year!

All Posts