Cold Comfort: Michigan’s Crystal Mountain

The Up North resort may have the Midwest’s best skiing—if you make it outside.
Crystal Mountain

Bathed in nightglow, hills named after Norse gods Loki and Thor tower over the entrance to Crystal Mountain resort, the first evidence when you pull up that your romantic getaway in December (when Michigan’s snow is fluffiest) should include some decent downhill skiing. The second clue is a sign over the main check-in desk proclaiming this Ski Magazine’s “number one resort in the Midwest.” Nearly 60 trails offer a mix of downhill exhilaration for skiers of all skill levels. Steep “Buck” wins local polls for Michigan’s best Up North run, while beginner and intermediate skiers love the “North Face,” where snow stays crisp until late in the day and lift lines are short.

Within ski-carrying distance are the slope-side condos of Kinlochen Lodge, notable for warming fireplaces and Scottish hunting lodge decor, and the more contemporary ski-in/ski-out MountainTop villas with their massive windows and panoramic views. Just up the hill from Kinlochen, a surrey pulled by Belgian horses stops nightly for pickups—a ride that ends with s’mores by an outdoor fire. Next to Thistle Pub and Grille’s indoor fire is a popular intimate dining spot, especially with the rock steak flamed tableside. Locally sourced menu standouts include pork, cherries, and whitefish.

The seasonal menu of treatments at onsite Crystal Spa includes a Chocolate Coconut Cream Pie Pedi and a Winter WarmUp massage with cinnamon, olive, and grapeseed oils. Guests in baby-soft robes sip sparkling wine or organic teas by the meditation-room fire, and pad around on heated floors between steam rooms and the outdoor hot tub. For $500, you can book the spa privately. Overall, the resort’s friendly, casual feel hearkens to the roots of its founding, 60 years ago this month, when a local teacher assigned his class to find the best landscape for an area ski hill—and then investors collaborated to make it happen. They eventually sold to the father of current co-owner Chris MacInnis,
who believes customers should be treated like “guests in our own home.”

Crystal MountainKID AROUND

Crystal Mountain’s Nanny McSki instructors can take out your children for a day on the slopes.


Sculptures of animals, native clan symbols, and Hemingway’s boyhood dot snowshoe destination Michigan Legacy Art Park.


Sleeping Bear Ale Trail hits breweries near Crystal Mountain.