But while renowned for its four championship golf courses — Fountains,
Monarch, Swampfire, and Reflections — the “Largest Log
Resort east of the Mississippi River” becomes a memorable retreat
come winter with its rustic charm, glowing warmth and magical expanse
of frosted forest.
More than 40 miles of well-groomed, scenic cross-country
trails invite residents and guests to get their blood pumping: No cell
phones, no Blackberries, just snow-covered pines, glistening trails,
and the tranquility and wildlife of the Michigan forest.
“My wife loves to cross-country ski with our daughters,” says
Jerry Keena of Jackson, who with his wife, Shirley, has owned vacation
property at Garland for 15 years. While Jerry’s not one to strap
on the skis, he enjoys snowmobiling.
And Garland serves as a headquarters to snowmobile enthusiasts,
providing access to hundreds of miles of groomed state and county wilderness
trails. Many of Garland’s property owners have their own rides,
but the resort has rentals available for guests as well.
Pairing food with fresh air is another favorite way residents
at Garland savor their winter retreats. “The Gourmet Glide has
become a bit of a tradition,” Keena shares. This scintillating
feast covers 10 kilometers of trails with five strategically placed
buffet stations — presenting participants with the challenge
of actually leaving each tasty station for the next. At least they
know they ’ll burn off some of the calories they’ve consumed!
The Zhivago Night Dinner, meanwhile, treats guests to
a horse-drawn sleigh ride through snowy woods to the nearby Bridge
Inn for a five-course, wild-game dinner accompanied by exquisite wine
and beverages. “It is like stepping back in time,” says
Barry Owens, president of Garland. “People don’t know each
other on the way out there, but they ’re singing together on
the way back.”
Ice fishing is another great bonding (and eating) experience. “You
ice fish with your teenager, and the trout you catch is prepared lakeside,” Owens
says. “These are the kinds of unique experiences that reconnect
parents and kids used to being on the run. ”
Shanty Creek Resort, Bellaire
Winter’s fans and families may also consider property ownership options
at one of three villages — Summit, Schuss, and Cedar River — comprising
Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire. “We definitely have something for everybody,
whether that is one of 15,000 varying rooms or a million-dollar home,” says
Debbie Alexander, an on-site Coldwell Banker Realtor for Shanty Creek.
Once immersed in Shanty Creek’s rolling, forested
landscape, “you can go any direction and hit something wonderful
year-round,” Alexander notes. The main attractions come winter,
though, are the Schuss and Summit Mountain slopes, with 49 runs — the
longest a mile — divided evenly between novice, intermediate
and expert levels. For the adventurous, three terrain parks and a half-pipe
provide skiers and snowboarders plenty of white space to hone and show
off their best tricks.
Families looking to create memories off the slopes don’t
need to look far; Shanty Creek’s menu includes 30 kilometers
of groomed Nordic paths, tubing hills, sleigh rides, and easy access
to snowmobile trails, as well.
Beyond its majestic surroundings and amenities, the resort
also appeals to property owners for its close proximity to restaurants
and other attractions in Bellaire and neighboring communities, including
a fast track to larger cities like Traverse City and Charlevoix.
Owners Mike and Liz Striedl and their two daughters have
been making the trek up to Shanty Creek from Chicago for 20 years.
“It’s like a hidden treasure up there that
most people from Chicago don’t know about,” says Mike,
although his family has helped spread the word. These days, the
Striedls come up for skiing with extended family and friends, and they
hope to keep coming after they have grandkids. “Being able to
spend time with family and friends is what vacations are all about
for us,” he says. “We’ve traveled all over the world,
but Northern Michigan is where my kids want to be. ”
Outdoor bonfires and heated swimming pools swathed in
rising steam are among the family’s special memories. But foremost,
it is the Shanty Creek friendliness and hospitality that keeps the
Striedls coming back.
On one occasion, one of the Striedls’ daughters
became very ill while skiing, requiring ski patrol assistance to get
her off the slope and to a medical center. That night, the patrol stopped
by to check on her at the family ’s cabin.
“Those are the kinds of things you just never forget,” Mike
Boyne Highlands, Harbor Springs
Boyne Mountain, Boyne City
Boyne’s four-season popularity has only snowballed in an array’s
wake of new property ownership options. Those who love winter best may just
love venturing here to one of Northern Michigan’s hottest cold spots
Blanketed by more than 850 acres of powdered snow and
ribboned with more than 100 runs between two mountains, Boyne is steeped
in its Swiss-infused legacy as a downhill ski destination, offering
a SnowSports Academy to boot.
Snowboarding, tubing, Nordic skiing, ice-skating, snowshoeing,
dog-sledding and snowmobiling are all also offered through Boyne, along
with horse-drawn wagon rides, a romantic Aonach Mor Rustic Moonlight
Dinner, Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark, Solace Spa and heated outdoor
For Chris and Amy Brown of Saline, a chance discovery
of Boyne Mountain eventually led to property ownership. Several years
ago, the family became stuck in traffic traveling north through Gaylord.
A quick decision to pull off the highway and stop at Boyne led to repeat
visits the next four weekends.
A meeting with a real estate agent that fourth weekend
changed the Brown ’s vacation habits.
“Before Boyne we were like gypsies on our vacations,” says
Chris. But now they’ve staked out their vacation plans for the
foreseeable future through property ownership at Boyne. “This
is our most favorite spot in Michigan and in the entire U.S.,” he
The Browns are now in serious tradition-building mode
with their two sons and daughter. Each year, Chris and sons ritually
prepare for the opening of ski season.
“The anticipation of opening day and the preparation
that goes into it are all part of new winter traditions for us,” says
Chris. It starts with waxing their skis and boards, followed by the
drive up to Boyne and “that first chair lift of the season with
a boy on either side.”
And afterwards, when the family decides to drive the
nip away, they relish strolling over to Avalanche Bay, Michigan’s
largest indoor water park. With slides, a lazy river, a watery
climbing wall, and indoor surf zone, the park provides respite from
“It’s just nice to thaw out in 90-degree
heat for a few hours,” says Chris. “And it brightens
up those grayer days.”
The Homestead Resort, Glen Arbor
For Brian and Fabienne Potestivo, creating memories in Northern Michigan started
well before they even started their family. But now, with four kids, they
cherish the quality time they’ve invested in family as condominium
owners at The Homestead Resort near Glen Arbor.
“It’s just so family-oriented,” says
Fabienne of their treasured Northern escape, noting that The Homestead’s
activity menu has something for each of her kids, ranging from ages
6 to 17.
Flanked by a scenic mile sweep of Lake Michigan frontage
and three serene miles along Crystal River, The Homestead’s 435
total acres extend unending opportunity for winter excursions, including
16 ski runs, two terrain parks, Nordic ski trails and ever-memorable
snowshoe hikes in the crystal-blanketed Sleeping Bear Dunes National
Lakeshore, where park rangers can be tapped as guides.
The skiing, however, is the big draw. “Growing
up in France, I never had skied where you could see so much water,” shares
Fabienne of the resort’s grand lakeside slopes. She also appreciates
that there’s terrain to satisfy varying skill ranges in her family.
Residential developments at The Homestead have been carefully
planned, expanding upon the original resort established more than 90
years ago. More than 600 sites — single and multi-family homes — have
been developed at the resort’s original 247 acres, but intentionally
at a much lower density than allowed by zoning to ensure the natural
feel was maintained. An additional 100-acre portion of land bought
by The Homestead is now being developed with new condominiums as The
Homestead ’s popularity grows.
Residing in Addison Township north of Detroit, the Potestivos
make it up to The Homestead every chance they get. Their condo unit
faces the forest, and often in the morning they see fox, deer and other
The kids also love making barricades with their snow
brick maker and having “crazy snowball fights,” Fabienne
adds. “It’s just a great place to go with family and friends. ”
Crystal Mountain Resort And Spa, Thompsonville
Just 28 miles southwest of Traverse City, Crystal Mountain Resort & Spa
provides property owners the opportunity to partake in all a Michigan winter
has to offer, plus nearby access to an array of restaurants, wineries, and
other Northern Michigan attractions. An ample choice of condos, cottages, bungalows,
townhomes and residences are available to buyers as sole or fractional owners,
allowing them to customize their vacation home needs.
Residents here can also customize their own seasonal
While popular winter focuses may be the resort’s
45 scenic slopes, an engaging terrain park and try-it-again-and-again
half-pipe, more than 40 miles of Nordic trails, Belgian horse-drawn
surrey rides complete with hot chocolate, ice-skating on the Inn Lawn,
snowshoe tours to Michigan Legacy Art Park, access to 135 snowmobile
trail miles and making s’mores around a blazing bonfire are favorite
ways of winding down, too.
Staff at Crystal Mountain put together creative programs
for every age: Free movie nights, scavenger hunts, a snowman hunt,
the Snow Monsters Story Time and more keep the youngest residents entertained — and
moms and dads happy. But families revel in their together time most
“We’re different people up here,” agree
Coleen and David Lenhart, who own a second home at Crystal Mountain
and cherish year-round activities here with their three daughters. “It
takes you back to when we were kids — when everyone was outdoors
instead of alone indoors with electronics.”
While David savors getting up early to ski with one daughter,
Coleen loves watching another fall asleep by the fire. “It’s
nice to see the kids let their guard down and relax,” she notes. “At
Crystal there ’s less pressure, less stress.”
“One of Randy’s favorite things to do is
walk the dogs at night in the crisp, cold air, and hear the snow cats
grooming the hill,” shares Jenny Hoover, of her husband. “We
love to ski and snowboard here as a family and bringing up friends,
too, along with Crystal’s staff here — everyone from the
front desk and food service to Fuzzy the lift operator is the best! ” ≈
To learn more about these resort real estate offerings,
visit www.garlandusa.com; www.shantycreek.com; www.boyne.com; www.thehomesteadresort.com and www.crystalmountain.com.
Robin Luymes is a Grand Rapids-based freelance writer.