The northwoods of Michigan were meant for alpine skiing. Vertical runs veer downward past towering evergreens and hardwoods, with picturesque vistas spread out for miles in every direction.
Some 40 ski areas – with collectively more than 900 runs – proudly call Michigan home. Here, skiers of all abilities make tracks on the fresh powdered slopes in this wintery playground.
After a day on the slopes, nothing is better than relaxing with a nature-inspired treatment at one of the many boutique spas found at these destination resorts. From facials and massages to steam rooms and saunas, nothing warms the body like a few hours of pampering.
Tucked into the wooded hillside just east of Harbor Springs, Boyne Highlands boasts the most skiable acres in Michigan on its 55 downhill runs – including one of the longest in the Lower Peninsula, at over a mile long. Visitors will also find a variety of options for snowboarders along the terrain park, miles of cross country ski trails and options for everything from zip-lining to dog sledding.
Earlier this year, the Highlands opened The Spa – a boutique facility offering an array of services to relax the mind and body after an exhilarating day on the slopes. The signature treatment – a Bamboo Massage – uses heated bamboo rods which are worked deep into nooks and crannies of the muscles, providing radiant warmth and even pressure to relieve tension.
After slipping off the ski boots, kick back and relax with The Highlands Foot Ritual. From knees to toes, the legs and feet are gently massaged with an old world scrub before being wrapped with herbal-infused hot towels. A mask of volcanic clay is generously applied next, soothing and detoxifying tired muscles. Finally, the feet are massaged with a cooling and reparative arnica cream to complete the treatment.
Boyne Mountain in Boyne Falls has been welcoming visitors to its family-owned resort since 1947 – adding the Mountain Grand Lodge & Avalanche Bay Waterpark to its portfolio in 2005. With 59 downhill runs, 12 lifts and ski in/ski-out mountain cabins this is a skier’s paradise.
The Hot Toddy for the Body is intoxicating. Beginning with a gentle, aromatic vanilla and cinnamon exfoliation this treatment soothes tired muscles and washes away the troubles of the day. A chai soy mud mask is then rubbed into the skin, soaking in to rejuvenate as a soothing scalp massage relaxes and hypnotizes. Finally, a hydrating vanilla bean lotion is applied to leave a scented reminder that lingers on.
Hot stone treatments take on new life in the heart of Petoskey stone country. A collection of basalt and fossil stones, found only in northern Michigan, are heated and strategically placed along the body to penetrate tight, sore muscles. The combination of aromatherapy oils and warm rocks melt away the tension from the body, leaving one in a state of deep relaxation.
Boasting 45 slopes, 27 of which are lighted for night skiing, Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville is also home to the Crystal Clipper – the fastest lift in northern Michigan, powered by renewable wind energy.
The 18,500-square foot Crystal Spa powers its own energy, as Michigan’s “Green” Spa Destination and one of only six LEED certified facilities in the country. Here, guests enjoy 12 separate treatment rooms, a meditation lounge and outdoor hot tub surrounded by a medication garden.
Drawing on influences from the snow-laden country of Scandinavia, the Signature Evergreen Renewal delivers a three-in-one experience like no other. Embracing the healing powers of water to stimulate circulation, cleanse the skin and relax the body, this treatment utilizes natural elements to satisfy the senses. A sea salt and citrus scrub exfoliates, while the seaweed wrap – infused with Icelandic moss extracts – soothes. A relaxing, gentle rain shower washes away all excesses, leaving skin refreshed. Before the session wraps up, a head to toe massage – utilizing fragrant evergreen extracts of balsam fir, silver fir and white pine – caps the day.
Situated on 3000 acres of pristine rolling woodlands, Garland Resort in Lewiston is home to the largest log lodge east of the Mississippi. Located just 30 miles southeast of Gaylord and its various downhill ski slopes, this rustic retreat facility offers unique Nordic skiing and snowshoeing trails and events – including the famed Gourmet Glide.
Inside the White Cedar Spa, cravings for relaxing getaways are graciously met. The resort’s Ultimate Escape covers everything from head to toe – including a pedicure, manicure and facial. A scalp massage, body massage and rosemary-mint awakening body wrap add to the sensory enjoyment. Hairstyling and make-up add the finishing touches to the full menu of options.
Just miles from downtown Traverse City, Grand Traverse Resort & Spa welcomes cross country skiing throughout its scenic grounds, across rolling terrain and tree-lined paths. Two small community-based downhill ski areas – Mt. Holiday Ski & Recreation Area and Hickory Hills Ski Area – can be found less than a half hour away. Here, hours of fun can be found on slopes that have welcomed families for generations.
Closer to “home” – visitors can find enjoyment inside Spa Grand Traverse – a two-level, 7000-square-foot nature-inspired sanctuary. In the heart of “cherry country” – signature treatments are cherry-infused, featuring locally-made products of all kinds.
The Cherry Honey Glow is a fresh mix of local cherry concentrate and sugar, applied to exfoliate and polish the skin, followed by a rhythmic rinse under the Vichy shower. A cherry hydrating lotion is generously applied, giving the skin a soft and younger feel and appearance. The Cherry Infused Massage and Cherry Infused Manicure, each incorporating aromatic oils and lotions, are among the other fruit-inspired services.
Among the seasonal offerings is the Winter Body Polish – which indulges the senses on so many levels. A full-body scrub gently exfoliates and soothes, followed by a Vichy shower rinse and a slathering of body butter – leaving the skin radiant, moisturized and restored.
Perched in heart of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore – touted as the “Most Beautiful Place in America” – The Homestead Resort in Glen Arbor delivers picture-perfect mountain-top views. With 15 runs, three chair lifts and a terrain park, this quaint resort is big on memories.
Although intimate in size, Spa Amira delivers big on experiences. The De-Stress Aromatherapy Cocoon treatment is transforming. Pure essential oils are warmly applied to the body, soothing the senses and releasing stress. Then, the entire body is enveloped in a cozy, warm wrap. Paraffin hand and foot treatments cap off this lavish treatment.
The Espresso Mud Body Scrub is more awakening that a morning cup of java. This rich scrub blends the earthy notes of Arabica coffee and Sarsaparilla with volcanic pumice and black silt clay to exfoliate the skin and eliminate impurities in the body. A skin-softening shea butter replenishes and rehydrates.
Nestled along the coastline of Little Traverse Bay, between Petoskey and Charlevoix, the Inn at Bay Harbor is just a short drive from three major resorts (Boyne Highlands, Boyne Mountain and Nub’s Nub) collectively boasting more than 165 unique ski runs.
After a day on the slopes, nothing is more relaxing than a Sporting Foot Treatment. This enhanced pedicure is the perfect pick-me-up for fatigued, tired feet. Trimming, polishing and a warm-mud mask leave toes soothed, relieved and ready for more action on the slopes.
And from toes to head, the Awakening facial is something to smile about. Utilizing vitamins, complex proteins and metadermal enzymes aimed to improve the structure of the skin, this treatment delivers amazing lifting affects. Massages for the hands and feet are also included.
The 45,000-acre Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire is home to Schuss Mountain and Shanty Creek, collectively offering 53 downhill ski runs, five terrain parks, and a 300-foot half-pipe. On average, some 175 inches of snow fall here each winter, making the 450-foot vertical drop well worth the trek.
More than a handful of northern-inspired treatments are delivered inside at Shanty’s Spa – including the Skier’s Massage, which targets the major muscle groups used tearing up the slopes. This treatment includes a deep tissue massage, trigger point therapy and passive stretching intended to improve flexibility and endurance.
Succumb to the elements with a Northern Exposure session. Beginning with the signature Micro Buff Body Polish – an exfoliating, hydrating hot towel treatment, followed by a warm, hydrating lavender-infused white clay wrap and finished with a Swedish massage utilizing warm body butter.
Nearly two dozen ski slopes and three chair lifts can be found at Treetops Resort in Gaylord, where abundant snowfall and high elevation combine for unparalleled scenic beauty that extends out for miles in all directions.
Step off the chair lift and head for straight for the massage chair for 15 minutes of respite. Releasing tension in the upper back, neck and shoulders, this quick session will have you back hitting the runs in no time.
The Tension Reliving Massage is more targeted, using Swedish techniques to calm nerves and relieve tension. A series of long, slow, rhythmic strokes allow for a more intense experience for up to 90 minutes.
For more information on Michigan skiing and spas, log onto Michigan.org.
Reprinted from the Winter 2012 issue of Michigan BLUE Magazine.