Skiing, winter events offered at Porkies

PORCUPINE MOUNTAINS — The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park offers a range of skiing and other activities during the winter months.

Skiing for the season at the Porcupine Mountains Winter Sports Complex opened skiing for the season on Dec. 30. Open four days a week, the hill offers 20 groomed or powder runs.

Annual snowfall averages about 200 inches. The lack of snow this winter has been an obstacle, but the natural terrain park has gotten enough to maintain operations, said park manager Michael Knack.

“We don’t make our own snow,” he said Jan. 23. “It’s holding up. Today, we have just enough to keep it open and keep all the runs open and have enough for people to ski down.”

As of Jan. 23, all of its trails were open, with a snow base ranging from 1 to 8 inches. The trails range in difficulty from beginner to expert (double-black diamond).

The hill also offers a triple chairlift, rope tow and paddle tow. It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Monday.

The complex also offers trails for fat-tire bikes, cross country skis and snowshoes.

The Department of Natural Resources took over management of the hill last year from Gogebic Community College, which had overseen operations for the prior 12 years. While no new features have been introduced yet, some are expected to come later this weekend, Knack said.

Though less plentiful than in the summer, people continue backcountry camping during the winter months.

“Not a lot, but there’s always a few hardcore campers going out,” Knack said.

Backpacking is $20 per night; groups of one to six people are allowed. Winter campers must register at park headquarters.

Porcupine Mountains also rents out rustic cabins and yurts.

Beyond the regular activities, the Porkies also hosts several special events during the winter.

On Saturday nights in February, skiers can enjoy the Lantern Lit Trail. Nearly 70 kerosene lanterns will light the way on the one-mile loop trail. It’s open to both cross-country skis and snowshoes — or, if the snow’s packed densely enough, your regular boots.

Regardless of activity level, there’s a guided snowshoe hike tailored to the visitor. Snowshoes are available on a first-come first-serve basis.

Beginners can meet at 1 p.m. on Saturdays in February at the White Tail parking lot across from the ski hill. They’ll go on a one-mile loop through a frosty old-growth forest to Lake Superior.

Advanced snowshoers can meet at the Snowshoe Barn on the hill’s open slope at 1 p.m. Fridays in February. They’ll take the chair lift to the top of the mountain. From there, a 3-mile lop hike will take them up and down the mountain through deep powder.

On Feb. 25, the ski hill will be home to the annual Winter Carnival. A full schedule of events is still being finalized. Last year’s lineup boasted a slalom race, cardboard sled race, lantern hike, silent auction, dinner and fireworks.

The park will host the Midwest Telefest on Feb. 10-12. This is the 33rd year for the festival, which celebrates Telemark skiing, a mix of Alpine and Nordic skiing styles in which skiers’ heels are not bound to the skis. It will include races, gang ski, demos, party, music, awards and giveaways.

Visitors need a state Recreation Passport to enter. They also need a lift ticket to use the lifts and tow rope.

For more information, including trail maps and daily status updates on ski runs, go to michigan.gov/skitheporkies.


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