Driving north on US Highway 41 during the winter through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, your eyes begin to squint trying to see the first random flakes falling from the sky. As quickly as the first snowflake appeared, suddenly the heavens release and the snow begins to fall with a vigor. The car’s headlights reflect against the falling snow making it feel like the car is a time machine.
The time machine rolls into Houghton a city from the past…
As the car rolls into Houghton, it feels different than any other place you’ve been to before. Nestled in the hills of the Portage waterway it is one of the few places left that still has a real “Main Street.” Houghton is a gateway to a time that seems to no longer exist in the lower 48…it holds on to a uniqueness that used to distinguished many American towns. Back before the mega department stores and corporations took over. This a great place to visit, but today it’s not the destination. Today you continue driving through Houghton and head deeper into the wilderness. At this point the snow intensifies. Berms of snow on the side of the road continue to grow until the final destination is reached…Copper Harbor. Count on it being cold with a light snow and a guaranteed peacefulness.
Why would you take this journey? To venture to a ski resort that is like an 80’s punk band… raw, loud, and gritty!
After a refreshing night of sleep your up early and head for the destination. Mt. Bohemia. Pull into the parking lot and find a spot. Silencing the engine and opening the door the first impression of this place is the rawness. Mt. Bohemia has a policy to not groom anything…PERIOD! It’s filled with trees, stacked with large cliffs, and a policy to allow you to ride anything! Nearly 800 vertical feet standing at the tip of a peninsula surrounded by Lake Superior this mountain gets pummeled with more lake effect than any other place in the “UP”. In other parts of the country skiers and snowboarders have to wait for a storm to show up. At Mt. Bohemia it’s a different story. The snow falls consistently, light and dry and it stacks up high. Their average of 270 inches, falls across a period of four months while ski resorts out West get that amount in six! It is VERY normal for it to snow 30 days straight without a break. Yes, THIRTY! This is a true heaven for powder junkies.
No beginners allowed!
Like a warm stiff shot of whiskey, this mountain isn’t for beginners. Even the two intermediate runs aren’t groomed and depending on the day can be difficult on their own. This hill is in the Midwest, but don’t let that fool you. There aren’t any easy ways down. Check out Powder Keg or Claim Jumper in the Bohemia Bluffs area for the easiest runs on the hill. The widest trails head passed Bohemia Bluffs to the Bohemia Mining Company area. A little more challenging is the Haunted Valley area. This is extremely fun, isn’t too steep and has evenly spaced trees. Still not enough? Looking for more technical terrain? Look no further, go to the Outer Limits or the Extreme Backcountry. The Extreme Backcountry area has the craziest lines! Cliff drops, tighter trees, and steeper terrain. No matter what, the entire mountain is a tree loving powder hounds dream!
Peaceful, pure, and unique
Speaking of trees, this is a place for a person to connect more with nature than to find a crazy party scene. Given that, you can still find a good time at the North Pole Bar. Located in one of the Yurts in the main base area. These buildings fit more in the Russian wilderness than in the United States. Try the one of the local beers from Keweenaw Brewing, or check out on of the offerings from Bell’s Brewery. It’s known as Michigan’s favorite micro-brewery. They make some of the tastiest beer out there. Like rare beer, Mt. Bohemia has other interesting things you find anywhere else.
Trees that no longer exist anywhere else in the world
Hundreds of years ago the Great Lakes were covered with HUGE White Pines that stood almost as large as the Redwoods in California. The extensive logging that happened over the course of the late 18th century through the early 20th century had almost eradicated any evidence those giants existed. Luckily, on the Southwest flank of Mt. Bohemia there are still a few of those giants left standing. Some tower above you measuring over 150 feet tall! Definitely worth visiting if you are a nature lover.
Jackson Hole of the Past; the Alta of the Midwest
In the immortal words of Robert Frost “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.” Those words ring true when you travel to the northern most tip of the “UP.” Mount Bohemia ski area is special. It gives you a glimpse of how riding must have been when places like Jackson Hole opened. There are so many terrain to explore at this gem. If you want something different this is worth a trip.
Why you should visit?
- Deep Powder -> Lake Effect snow is like nature’s snow making machine…. In a good season it can snow continuously for 30 days straight without a break.
- No crowds -> The closest big town is Milwaukee which is approximately 7 hours away so there is no competition when it dumps.
- The Price -> Mount Bohemia is EXTREMELY affordable. The day lift ticket of $55 is incredibly affordable, especially in comparison to the rates other mountains charge.
- Steeps that would challenge anything out West -> The resort resembles something more like Mary Jane at Winter Park or Hobacks at Jackson.
What you should know
- It can get cold -> In the middle of the winter it is very normal for it to stay in the single digits with below zero wind chills that howl across Lake Superior.
- Plan Ahead for the season -> If you are going to visit for a weekend or two be sure to plan ahead and purchase the $99 season pass on the first Saturday of December.
- Nightlife -> There isn’t much nightlife so be sure to bring something good to read or good company.