Adventure Beyond the Slopes

Revel, ride, and rejuvenate at Crystal Mountain
Nordic style cross-country skiing at Crystal Mountain
Credit: Crystal Mountain

Every year since the sixth grade, I’ve traveled Up North with my family to Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville for a long weekend of skiing and snowboarding. I grew up learning how to shred the slopes, zigzag through the glades, and conquer every turn and feature I could on the mountain’s more than 58 downhill runs.

In my younger years, I firmly believed there was no better feeling than carving through fresh powder with the chilly winter air on my face. But as I aged, I realized there actually is something better: sitting with my boots off, a Bell’s Two Hearted Ale in hand, next to a raging fire after a long day on the mountain.

This season, I’m in search of a new kind of adventure — one that goes beyond the slopes, but still takes advantage of Crystal’s natural beauty, stunning terrain, and relaxing amenities.

Snowshoe the Michigan Legacy Art Park

I wrestle the thin rubber strap of my snowshoes around the heel of my boot and fasten the buckle tight. After giving my foot a good shake to make sure it doesn’t slip out, I’m ready to hit the trail at the Michigan Legacy Art Park. This sculpture-park-meets-nature-walk weaves through a dense 30-acre wooded preserve at Crystal Mountain. Along the nearly two-mile route, visitors can search for more than 50 handmade sculptures that express Michigan’s history through art.

I’m able to spot bright pops of color and search for subtle sculptures that blend into the landscape as I wander the trail. And I do so with ease in the snowshoes I rented from the resort.

Early on in the hike, I nearly miss the larger-than-life, shell-like bronze sculpture called “Unravel,” by Sandra Osip, because it’s covered in a fluffy white blanket. Beyond the halfway point, I marvel at the tall, sail-like structures of “Five Needles,” by Michael McGillis, which shoots out of the ground and towers alongside the white pines. At the far end of my loop, I pause to meditate over a sweeping winter view of the Betsie River Valley along with “Barn Chair,” by Gary Kulak.

Fat tire biking at Crystal Mountain
Fat tire biking at Crystal Mountain
Credit: Crystal Mountain

Explore snowy trails by fat tire bike

After my hike, it’s time to hit another trail — this time on a fat tire bike.

I pick up my rental (paid per hour) and jump onto the neatly groomed trail which, in total, spans just under six miles. The paths are similar to cross-country ski trails and wind through what’s a golf course in the summer months, as well as a forest area near the base of the mountain. Peddling the bike requires a bit of muscle, especially when traveling through areas of fresh snow. I gladly welcome the few small hills along the way that give me some much-needed speed, and as I ride, I take in the beauty of the sparkling snow-covered terrain that glistens in the sunshine.

Crystal Spa
Hot-stone massage at Crystal Spa
Credit: Crystal Mountain

Relax at the Crystal Mountain Spa

After a long day outside on the trails, I’m ready to unwind and restore at the Crystal Spa. The 18,500-square-foot facility is open for day-pass purchases, and offers a full suite of spa services and amenities including a sauna, steam rooms, an open-air hot tub, and a lounge.

I’m soothed by the aroma of lavender and eucalyptus as I enter the spa, and I’m handed a warm robe and hot towel following a quick tour. I decide to first check out the steam room, then dry off in the infrared sauna, and finally grab a cup of tea while I wait for my full-body massage appointment. To say I’ve warmed up from the winter elements is an understatement. My body feels like gelatin and it’s the most relaxed I’ve felt in a long time. I make my final retreat to the outdoor hot tub, where the cool air chills my face and the water mends my exhausted body.

All said and done, I’m feeling fulfilled and grateful. Crystal Mountain truly delivers on everything — and more — for a challenging, rejuvenating, and exciting winter adventure.

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