When it’s time to enjoy some snowy fun or just unwind, Shanty Creek Resort — ranked No. 2 on SKI magazine’s list of the Midwest’s best ski resorts — offers a mix of top-notch options.
This sprawling, 5,500-acre playground for all ages, located just outside Bellaire in northwest lower Michigan, transforms into a true winter wonderland during colder months.
Its four-village layout sets Shanty Creek apart from the competition. Summit Village, Cedar River Village, and Schuss Village are home to a lengthy list of winter activities, while Hawk’s Eye Village features Shanty Creek’s newest golf course. Shuttles provide transportation between the villages.
“Each village has its own personality, similar to how Walt Disney World has different villages,” says Lindsey Southwell, Shanty’s marketing director. “All together, the villages offer almost eight square miles of different lodging options, dining venues, and out-the-door recreation. Variety is the spice during the winter months here, with plenty to do on and off the slopes.”
Summit Village occupies land that was the original resort, which was known as Summit Mountain when it opened in 1967. Today, it includes The Lakeview Hotel, overlooking Lake Bellaire; the alpine tubing park; a fitness center; and an indoor heated pool. The Shanty, an inviting bar and grill, is a popular hangout.
Schuss Village, with its distinct Bavarian vibe, is home to the steeper ski runs of Schuss Mountain, as well as cross-country ski trails. Dogsledding also begins there. Ivan’s Cafe is a popular spot for taking a break from skiing or snowboarding to grab a bite.
Cedar River features additional Nordic ski trails, in addition to a trail for snowshoeing and fat-tire biking. Convenient ski-in-and-out accommodations near Schuss Mountain include The Lodge, with its large, all-suites format and slope-side condos.
Shanty Creek garners lots of upbeat reviews from the media and guests. In a recent story, for example, award-winning travel journalist and Matador Network senior editor Tim Wenger called Bellaire the Great Lakes region’s “most epic ski town,” with Shanty Creek Resort being a major reason why.
“It offers two connected ski hills and the best tree skiing in northern Michigan,” he wrote. It’s all about the full experience, Wenger said, explaining that there’s no better place to experience après culture for the first time than Shanty Creek. “Bellaire and Shanty Creek bring a welcome dose of European ski culture to the Midwest,” he noted.
That get-outside-and-play culture centers around 42 downhill ski runs, 25 kilometers of Nordic trails, five terrain parks, an alpine tubing park, dogsledding, snowshoeing, heated outdoor and indoor pools, and more. Some extras: easy access to nearby trails for fat-tire biking and snowmobiling, as well as ice fishing on bodies of water that comprise Antrim County’s legendary Chain of Lakes. Shanty Creek guests also can explore downtown Bellaire via a complimentary shuttle.
A Downhill Paradise
Shanty Creek’s downhill terrain was named best in the Midwest by onthesnow.com. The resort’s eight lifts service 400 skiable acres, 69 percent of which contain runs suitable for intermediate and more advanced-level skiing.
Summit Mountain at Summit Village offers gentler, easier, and less crowded runs, while Schuss Mountain’s runs are more challenging — consider the iconic Kingdom Come drop and its 450 feet of vertical and face so steep, the bottom isn’t visible from the top.
Children’s and adult ski lessons are also available from Michigan Ski Coach Hall of Famer Rick Vantongeren and his team. In addition to a traditional bunny hill for beginners, there’s a hill for novices that more closely resembles conditions on regular runs.
At the terrain parks, the biggest air can be caught at The Monster Park, which is full of rails, boxes, and booters. The Natty uses all-natural elements to form features like rainbow rails, tabletops, and jumps, while Low Rider is for beginners.
“All of Schuss Mountain’s chairlifts meet at the top of the hill, making it an ideal location for families,” Southwell says. “Each family member can take the run that suits them best, and then everyone meets back up at the top.”
Rated among the Midwest’s top 10 cross-country skiing areas by SKI magazine, 28 kilometers of groomed, track-set trails run through all four villages, and meander in tranquil forests and along creeks. The White Pine Stampede Trail offers long glides, while the King of the Hill trail winds around the circumference of Schuss Mountain and can be serviced by snowmaking equipment if needed.
Rentals, lift tickets, and passes for both downhill and cross-country skiing can be booked online.
The eight-lane Alpine Tube Park offers the thrill of downhill sledding without having to climb back up, thanks to its Magic Carpet. The hill’s final two hours of operation on Fridays and Saturdays are reserved for adults only.
A three-kilometer groomed, multipurpose trail at Schuss Village is designated for fat-tire biking and snowshoeing. Snowshoers can also forge their own trails, while miles of biking trails can be found at nearby Glacial Hills Pathway.
Something Different: Second Chance Mushers, a dog rescue organization, offers 20-minute dogsled rides, and meet-and-greet and photo opportunities with the dogs. Rides can be booked online.
Rated the Midwest’s best resort for lodging and dining by SKI magazine, Shanty Creek offers roughly 275 lodging options, including guest-rooms, parlors with whirlpools or kitchens, one- and two-bedroom suites, multi-bedroom condominiums, and homes that sleep up to 24.
Shanty Creek Resort
By Mark Spezia & Photos courtesy of Shanty Creek Resort