It sways, it dips, and it offers great views.
Step onto Boyne Mountain Resort’s SkyBridge Michigan if you’d like a bird’s-eye perspective on the state’s northwest beauty.
“There are big timber towers on both sides of the valley, and it’s a suspension bridge — so you need to have an understanding that there’s going to be some movement. Sometimes it’s a gentle sway, sometimes more than that. You feel the aspect of the movement while you’re on it,” explains Erin Ernst, Boyne Resort’s spokeswoman.
Ernst says some people are fearful of strolling the length of three football fields on a walkway suspended 118 feet above the ground, but most folks are excited to try it.
With bridge railings on both sides to hold onto, “we have lots of older people crossing it, all ages. My littlest is 4 now, and she loves it,” Ernst says. “ If you keep your view straight and don’t look down, it doesn’t seem as high.”
SkyBridge Michigan, touted as the world’s longest timber-towered suspension bridge, opened last October in the peak of the fall color season. Throughout the winter, Boyne Mountain skiers and their families had a chance to walk above the glistening snow. In spring and summer, Boyne Mountain anticipates welcoming day visitors from nearby Petoskey, Gaylord, and Charlevoix. But others will come from afar. Word is spreading.
“The most interesting part is that it’s brought a whole new customer to Boyne Mountain, people coming specifically for the bridge. And for many people, it’s their first time on a chairlift,” Ernst says.
How do visitors traverse the 1,200-foot-long bridge? From the base of the Boyne Falls resort, visitors take the Hemlock chairlift up the mountain for 10 minutes to the top of McClouth. That alone is an adventure for many. At the top, stop for a bite at Eagle’s Nest restaurant and enjoy the firepit and views.
Next, walk across SkyBridge Michigan to the other side, at Disciples Ridge. It also has a firepit and food trailer for lunch or snacks. Some visitors walk downhill back to the resort on the paved walkway from that side, which also has good spots for those who want to photograph the bridge. Others walk back across SkyBridge, then take the Hemlock chairlift back down the mountain.
The bridge was designed by Todd Domeck of Experiential Resources, whose Hawaii-based company also designed SkyBridge Gatlinburg (Tenn.), and parts of the Milliken Outdoor Adventure Center in downtown Detroit.
The suspended part of SkyBridge Michigan is more than 1,000 feet long. If the bridge is crowded, it sways noticeably. If you’re the only visitor, it’s calm. Boyne Valley spreads out below. Halfway across the bridge, a portion of the walkway becomes clear glass, with a vertigo-inducing view straight down.
For Boyne, the project is a way to expand tourist offerings beyond skiing, golf, and its Avalanche Bay water park. Boyne already has ziplines, hiking trails, a spa, and multiple hotels, and in the summer months it offers horseback riding, tennis, bike and golf cart rentals, and fishing, in addition to world-class golf. SkyBridge Michigan fits with the resort’s goals — and its overall aesthetic — because its timber structure blends in with the landscape.
Although it’s new, Ernst says, “It looks like it’s always been there.”
Jim Powell, the recently appointed director of the Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau, tried the bridge in the fall. The thing that struck him was that the bridge isn’t visible from the road or resort base. It comes into view as you go up the chairlift, “and it’s pretty grand and striking when you see it.” As he stepped onto the swaying bridge, “that’s when I realized how far 1,200 feet is,’’ he says.
When the bridge opened during peak fall color in October, phones rang off the hook at hotels and resorts in the region, Powell says. “I think Boyne knew it was going to be big, but they didn’t know how big; the line was out the door. Up here, a lot of our stuff is very seasonal, but this is a year-round attraction. There really is nothing with the cachet of this.”
The bridge’s walkway is 5 feet wide. Because it sways, no strollers, wheelchairs, skis, or bicycles are allowed. The entry cost varies depending on the season and demand, but starts at $25 for adults; it’s less for children and seniors. Those who stay at the resort get ticket discounts.
In the spring, SkyBridge Michigan is open on weekends. It begins daily operations on Memorial Day. A grand opening is planned for a summer date yet to be announced.
Boyne Mountain has been around for more than 70 years; it was founded by Michigan skiing legend Everett Kircher in 1948. Kircher, known for taking risks, likely would have approved of this bridge to the future.
Says Powell: “You couldn’t build a more Instagram-able attraction.”