Less development makes more area winter tourism at Keweenaw County’s Mount Bohemia
MOHAWK — Mount Bohemia sets itself apart from the other roughly 215 Midwest ski resorts by not grooming its trails or offering beginner-level terrain.
“Mt. Bohemia doesn’t sell skiing and snowboarding,” owner Lonie Glieberman said. “What we sell is escape, adventure and wilderness.”
At the Keweenaw Community Spark Plug Awards on March 7, the Keweenaw County ski resort won the award for Innovation and Transformation.
“On behalf of the staff at Mount Bohemia and the owner Lonie Glieberman, I proudly accept the Keweenaw Spark Plug Award and thank all of you for your recognition of our success and hard work,” said Vern Barber, Mt. Bohemia’s general manager. “Mount Bohemia is quickly becoming the place to ski, not only in the Midwest but also in North America. In the last four years we’ve had growth of over 300 percent with customers coming from all over the country.”
Glieberman is currently leading a ski trip in Italy but was contacted by phone to get his thoughts and feelings regarding the award.
“The award represents everyone who has been a part of Mt. Bohemia,” said Glieberman.
He mentioned Bob Grasseschi, who laid the groundwork for the land being purchased.
He also mentioned Steve Rowe, who organized the layout of many of the trails.
“They played an incredible role, not only in Mt. Bohemia being built, but being built the right way,” Barber said.
Located on the Gay-Lac La Belle Road in Mohawk, the resort was built in 2000 and opened its doors in December of that year.
Opening such a resort in Keweenaw County did have its challenges. It is not near a large population center. It is also in an area that does not have a fully developed winter tourism infrastructure.
Before the property was allowed to purchased and developed as a resort, Keweenaw County residents had to give their approval through a referendum.
“We are grateful to Keweenaw County voters who voted overwhelmingly to allow us to build here,” said Glieberman.
He also commented that as a public entity purchasing the land, it is able to be enjoyed by the larger population, which would not be the case if it were sold to private developers.
The minimal impact the resort has had on the area has also allowed Glieberman and other skiers to discover the joy of skiing in wooded areas, which is not an option at most skiing locations.
Scouting, purchasing and developing the land were all early obstacles, but the obstacle of building awareness of the business in such a remote location remains a challenge.
Word-of-mouth played a big role in the earliest days of the business, when most of the visitors were from the Western Upper Peninsula.
Mt. Bohemia TV, a series on Mt. Bohemia’s YouTube channel, has also helped to grow the brand, according to Glieberman.
A limited-window $99 season pass sale also helped to grow the business, he said. The first year there were 75 pass-holders. The following year there were 800. This year there are 8,400 season pass holders, many of whom are from well outside of the Western U.P.
“I think Mt. Bohemia is a place where the community goes to have fun, enjoy the outdoors and enjoy adventure,” said Glieberman. “It’s great to be in a profession that you have a passion for. It allows you to see things through a customer’s eyes.”