Menominee County

Fulfilling a Winter Dream – Hello West Michigan

I look forward to winter.  

There I said it. It’s not what you typically hear from Michiganders.  

When I talk to people interested in moving here, especially from warm weather states, the thing they’re usually most worried about is winter. Here at Hello West Michigan, we always suggest layered clothing, safety devices for the car, and a positive attitude. But my best piece of advice or thriving in winter: embrace a winter sport.  

If you’ve been around this blog for a while, you know my winter sport is cross-country skiing. I’ve been doing it since I graduated from college and a family member gave me an old pair of skis sitting in their garage. These last few winters, I’ve gotten even more into xc skiing, investing in new boots so I can go whenever I want, convincing friends to come with me and try it, and even visiting new destinations like the Cross Country Ski Headquarters.

But one of my secret desires since high school has been to go downhill skiing.  

I grew up on the east side of the state, which is very flat, but we did have a nearby ski hill, Mount Holly. Our high school even had a ski team. My mom skied at Mount Holly as a teenager with her sister, but it’s a hobby she left behind when she started dating my dad, a collegiate runner who wasn’t allowed on skis, roller skates, or any other instrument of broken legs. I always had an interest in the sport even though I had zero exposure to it.  

The year after I graduated from college, I was toiling away as a young professional when I saw a Facebook post from one of my former college teammates. She was from Charlevoix (a much hillier area of Michigan), had returned home after graduation, and working as a snowboard instructor at Boyne Mountain. As a member of the staff, she had $20 lift tickets to share with friends and she asked if anyone wanted to come visit her and ski. I eagerly volunteered.  

After driving up north on a Friday night in a crazy blizzard and being snowed in on Saturday, we finally made it to the ski hill on Sunday. I didn’t have any ski gear, but luckily my teammate’s family had a big closet of gear because they all worked at Boyne at one point. While we weren’t the same size (she was a 5’1” distance runner and I was a thrower on the track team), I squeezed into her dad’s gear. For the rest of the day, I got a lot of “what’s up dude” and “here ya go bro” when I got on the chair lift.  

After some tips from my teammate and a few runs on the bunny hill, I graduated to the easiest green run. Thankfully the hill wasn’t too busy because I zoomed straight down the hill with minimal stopping capability. It took me a bit to realize turning helps slow you down, but we got there in the end! The whole day was exhilarating. Even at 10 degrees, I was having a blast. It was the best day I ever spent outside.  

After that day on the hill, I was determined to take up downhill skiing. At the end of the season, I bought a ski jacket on clearance at Meijer. I was going to make it happen.  

That was 9 years ago.  

The winters ticked by. Work was always busy. I had other places to spend my money. I made more frequent trips to the cross country ski trails, but my Meijer ski jacket sat in the closet unused. 

In January 2023, I went on my first cross country ski vacation—a long weekend with my sister and cousin to Shanty Creek. I had my cross country skis packed and scouted all of the trails around our hotel. The only problem: there was no snow.

Many of the trails were still golf course green and the only snow was manmade on the mountain. So we switched gears and went for a hike instead. After the hike, we were sitting in the restaurant at the base of the ski hill and I was watching the skiers come down. It was a Friday and there was a team practicing the slalom. Sitting there, it reminded me of the great day I had with my teammates so many years ago. I decided it was time to try again.

While my sister and cousin slept in, I suited up and reported for my morning ski lesson. For a 9 year hiatus, my muscle memory remembered a lot of what my teammate taught me all those years ago. It was another great day on the hill, even with the hoards of children taking ski lessons with me on the bunny hill. After a mid-day break, I got on the big hill for a round of night skiing. I did fall once, but even when I emptied the sandy-like, manmade snow from my jacket pocket at the end of the night, I was grinning from ear-to-ear.   

Ever since that trip, I’ve been toying with the idea of getting into downhill skiing. For real this time. 

This is the first post in Rachel’s Winter Series. Read the next post here.

About Rachel

Rachel is the Executive Director of Hello West Michigan. She grew up on the east side of Michigan not knowing there was a difference between “east side” and “west side” ….until she moved here for college and experienced it for herself. You’ll typically find Rachel at a community event during the week, or at the beach, picking blueberries, or cross county skiing on the weekends (although not all on the same weekend).



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