For visitors who love snowsports, Grayling, Michigan is a popular vacation spot. With an annual average snowfall of over 100 inches, and a range in winter temperatures from below zero to the mid thirties, there is usually plenty of the white stuff around with the cold temperatures that go along with it.
Snowmobiling is really popular in the Grayling area. There are well-groomed trails that connect to trails in other counties – literally hundreds and hundreds of miles to ride. Don’t like to ride groomed trails? The county is about 70% owned by the state of Michigan and much of that acreage is available for riders to enjoy. Make sure to have a map and a GPS so no one gets lost, and be sure to stay on public property.
Cross Country (xc) Skiing is the most popular winter “silent sport”. There are several xc ski areas that are “groomed”, both for classic and skate-style skiing. Classic skiing consists of putting the skis in a groomed track and sliding them to generate forward movement, while using poles to propel one forward. Skate-type skiing sounds like just what it is – skiing with a “skating” type of movement. Beginners often find the classic skiing easier to learn, although if one is a downhill skier, skate skiing should be a familiar motion.
Un-groomed ski areas are also available. People skiing un-groomed trails have to cut their own trail going cross-country. This tends to be a less popular sport, but for those folks looking for peace and quiet, this is a good way to go.
Downhill skiing and Snow tubing at Hanson Hills Winter Sports Park are both family friendly and inexpensive. Hanson Hills offers downhill ski lessons at a reasonable cost. They also offer rentals for both downhill and cross country ski equipment. Don’t expect huge hills with chairlifts. Hanson Hills is a relatively small facility, and has tow ropes and a t-bar, which pull skiers up the hills. There’s a learning curve to using both, but for the budget-conscious, Hanson Hills is a family favorite. Snow tubing consists of being pulled up a hill on a large inner tube, and then riding the tube back down the hill. This is not something for the faint-of-heart; these round tubes go pretty fast down the hill, and can’t really be steered. This sport is patterned after sledding; only without having to work to pull the sled up a hill, and is much faster going down. Plan on seeing lots of kids and families skiing and relaxing in the rustic lodge, warming up around the fireplace or circular woodstove. Food from the snack bar is available, or guests can bring in their own food and drink. (no alcohol)
Snowshoeing and skiwalking are sports growing in popularity. Both need a minimal amount of equipment, and neither requires a lot of experience or training. Hartwick Pines State Park has about twenty pairs of snowshoes that visitors can borrow when at the park or there are businesses that rent snowshoes. If there’s a lot of snow on the ground, xc skis or snowshoes are the way to go – if there isn’t much snow, winter hiking or skiwalking (hiking with poles) is also a lot of fun.