The cold has kept some skiiers and snowboarders away from Gay lord's Treetops Resort — but unusually deep snow attracted others. (Treetops Resort & Spa)
It can be too cold to ski and even too cold to snowmobile, but ice fishing is apparently immune.
That makes sense, if anything about 30-below-zero wind chills does. Ice fishing is a notoriously poor spring sport.
Beyond that, though, I found myself wondering if there was any good to be had from a lip-chapping, branch-snapping, plan-scrapping, weather-mapping, spirit-sapping barrage of snow and bitter temperatures. The forecast for today is 27 cloudy degrees, and that’s supposed to be something to complain about, for heaven’s sake, not be grateful for.
So I dialed a ski resort and a few places in the Upper Peninsula that cater to steely-eyed outdoorsmen, and the consensus seems to be this:
It’s been cold.
It’s been so cold that I actually saw a teenaged boy with his pants pulled up.
It’s been so cold that when I finally dragged my Christmas tree to the curb, it dragged itself back.
It’s been so cold that three ski areas in southwestern Michigan closed Tuesday ...
But Treetops didn’t.
Not a problem at Treetops
Treetops is in Gaylord, not in the wimpy southwestern section of the state.
“The snow conditions are tremendous,” says general manager Barry Owens, whose glass is about three-quarters full.
He’s reporting a 72-inch base to skimichigan.com, even though he knows it’s actually deeper than that, because what’s the difference between 72 inches and 82 or 182?
The bottom line is, it’s deep. The deepest in 25 years, he says.
Not coincidentally, the temperatures have probably been the coldest in 25 years — but they won’t last, and the base will. So he’ll gladly weather a cold spell, even if it keeps the day-trippers home.
Treetops owns a battery of snow-making cannons. They’ve been tucked away since before Christmas, because real snow keeps falling and it’s free.
December was huge, Owens says, and January has also been strong, mostly because of corporate bookings and an increase in overnight guests.
Chances are you won’t drive in for a few hours of skiing or snowboarding when it’s 7 degrees and windy, but if you’re already there, what else are you going to do with your time?
On one nasty day, a company created an impromptu team-building exercise out of cardboard and duct tape, crafting sleds to race from the Ice Bar at the top of the hill. When life hands you lemons, find someone life gave vodka to, and now it’s a party.
The resort’s lift operators and snow-shovelers are on shorter rotations with more breaks, Owens says, and staffers have been told to keep an eye out for guests with alarmingly red faces.
Beyond that, they’re happily bracing for a long season. “We’ll run out of skiiers,” he says, “before we run out of snow.”
Weather hurts Berry's
Further north, across the Mackinac Bridge in Newberry, things are less sunny.
At Berry’s Motels & Cabins, which advertises itself as “John Wayne & Harley-Davidson Friendly,” owner Cathy Berry reports tersely that “it’s been really cold. Too cold.”
Snowmobilers have been staying home, she says, or at least closer to wherever they live.
At least the anglers are out in force, staring down through holes at whatever fish couldn’t afford a vacation. In Rapid River, on Little Bay de Noc, owner Kathy McCaman of the Vagabond Resort Campground and Cabins has been warmly greeting a steady flow of visitors.
Back in Newberry, Lenny Lemanek of the Del Les Resort says business is down 40 percent. Not only is it too cold for snowmobilers, the same snow that’s helping Treetops is keeping potential riders off the road.
“To top it off, fuel prices are killing us,” he says. “But other than that, we’re doing just great.”
If it helps any, Owens has a philosophy he trots out at Treetops that he’s glad to share.
“There’s no such thing as bad weather,” he’ll say, “just poor clothing options.”