The Midwest’s most intense skiing and snowboarding are found at the top of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
By Michael Dwyer
Photography By Joey Wallis
Extreme. Backcountry. Wild. Sick. Gnarly. Whatever word is used to describe the conditions at Mount Bohemia, one thing is clear — it is not a ski area for beginners. It is something quite different.
From its opening in 2000, “Mount Bohemia was based on a strategy that the Midwest ski market lacked sustained advanced and expert skiing,” says Lonie Glieberman, president of Mount Bohemia. “The vision was to create a backcountry ski resort, serviced with chairlifts that catered to advanced and expert skiers and snowboarders. We built some regular open runs, but mostly Bohemia is amazing tree skiing.”
There is no trail grooming at Mount Bohemia — the only lift-serviced resort in North America to be able to say that. Skiers and boarders carve their own way down the more than 90 black diamond runs. The names alone — TNT, The Beast, Thirsty Vampire, Dark Forest — may intimidate the average skier, and certainly the double and triple black diamond markers will. Most ski areas have 20-30 percent advanced-skier-only runs (labeled with a single black diamond). “Mount Bohemia recommends that you be an upper intermediate or better skier or snowboarder,” says Glieberman, but suggests that you “don’t have to be an expert” to ski or ride the mountain.
“The Bohemia crowd is typically made up of millennials,” Glieberman says. “There are a growing number of families with teenagers that now make the trek to find adventure skiing in Michigan. These families are usually ones that make at least one trip out west and have teenagers that are good skiers or boarders.” Another distinction is the onsite yurts, cabins, hostel, Nordic spa and log cabin bar. “When you arrive at Bohemia,” Glieberman says, “you feel like you are more in a mountain base camp in Nepal versus a typical ski resort with high-rise condos.”
Mount Bohemia has a dedicated customer base. “My love for the place has continued to grow over the years,” says Barry Eckel, a 54-year-old avid skier from Rochester Hills.Eckel and his family have been visiting Mount Bohemia once or twice a season for the past eight years. “Mount Bohemia is unlike any other ski area — anywhere. One hundred percent natural terrain, no snowmaking or grooming, the highest vertical in the Midwest, the best glade skiing east of the Mississippi and epic powder,” Eckel says. “I’ve been skiing for almost half a century, and I cannot think of any other ski resort that does not rely on snowmaking or grooming.”
Powder skiing, or skiing through deep, fresh snow, is normally thought of as only available out west. Because of the lake effect snow from Lake Superior, Mount Bohemia experiences lots of powder days where diehard skiers and boarders can get first tracks down the mountain.
Two chairlifts and four buses scoop up skiers from wherever they finish their run and transport them back. “It’s really a ski community,” Eckel says, “Probably the most social skiing experience I’ve had. From the bus rides back to the lifts, to dinners and après ski, Lonie and the Bohemia team are very focused on customer satisfaction. They do a great job reaching out to their customer base.”
For more adventure nearby, Bohemia offers snowcat skiing at its sister ski area, Voodoo Mountain, every Wednesday and Saturday. Voodoo Mountain uses 20-seat snowcat machines to move skiers and boarders to pristine, hard-to-reach areas to provide a true wilderness experience.
Less experienced skiers have a choice, too. “There are always ways down for those who would prefer not to ski the tight trees or steeper stuff,” Eckel says. “Everything is marked very well. There is also amazing cross-country skiing and snowshoeing around the base of the mountain and the lake.”
About Mount Bohemia
Vertical Drop: 900 feet
Annual Snowfall: 273 inches
Skiable Acres: 585 acres
Hours from Detroit: 10
Mount Bohemia is located in northern Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula
600 miles from Detroit
6532 Lac La Belle Road
906-360-7240 or 906-289-4105