By Jim DuFresne
In Southeast Michigan, they call it Sudden Skiing.
One day the ground will be brown, the next day it will be white and suddenly you’re cross-country skiing without the three-hour drive up north, without burning up the whole weekend, without booking a motel room in Cadillac.
Suddenly the snow is here, suddenly it’s not, suddenly it’s back again. This is a ski season in spurts and the secret to enjoying it is to keep your skis waxed and within arm’s reach so when it does snow you can drop everything and go skiing.
Not surprising, the hilly northern half of Livingston and Oakland counties, home of Southeast Michigan’s four downhill ski areas, are also the best places to go cross-country skiing. This is particularly true in Oakland County, where due to its slightly higher elevation, there is a minor snowbelt between Flint and Pontiac.
Indian Springs Metropark: Part of that Oakland County Snowbelt, Indian Springs offers nearly 12 miles of cross-country ski trails on three loops that are groomed for classic skiers. There are some hills and slopes but for the most part skiing at Indian Springs is level and ideal for beginners and intermediate skiers. The most interesting ski is the 10-Mile Loop that follows the paved Hike-Bike Trail – but not on it – and within 1.5 miles swings north to enter the low-lying forest and frozen wetlands that is the Huron Swamp, the headwaters of the Huron River.
Independence Oaks County Park: Located only 3 miles north of Pine Knob Downhill Ski Area, it shouldn’t surprise anybody that there are some serious slopes at this 1,286-acre park. When there is sufficient snow, the park grooms more than 7 miles of trail for both classic and skate skiing. The park’s most scenic route is the 2.4-mile Lakeshore Trail which skirts Crooked Lake. The most challenging run is Springlake and Ted Gray trails. On the weekends Independence Oaks opens a warming center with heated restrooms and rental equipment available.
Haven Hill Natural Area: Once the private retreat of Edsel Ford, the 564-acre preserve is at the north end of Highland Recreation Area along on M-59 and features a 7-mile trail system through the rolling woods that surround Haven Hill Lake. The area is hilly enough that Ford set up a quarter-mile-long toboggan run with a motorized tow rope for his children and in the 1970s was the site of a one-tow rope downhill ski facility. Haven Hill is not groomed but is popular enough that there are usually skier-set tracks when the snow is sufficient.
Huron Meadows Metropark: When it is cold in Southeast Michigan but there’s no snow serious Nordic skiers head to this 1,539-acre park for a workout on Buck’s Run. The Livingston County metropark features four snowguns that the staff uses to make snow and then transports the white stuff to Buck’s Run where they groomed it into a mile-long loop with a skating lane and tracks for classic skiing. But when there is snow in this corner of the state that’s even more reason to visit Huron Meadows. Since the late 1990s, this park has dedicated itself to the Nordic sport with a 16-mile trail system, state-of-the-art grooming and top-of-the-line rental equipment at its ski center.
Stony Creek Metropark: In the middle of this 4,435-acre park that is split between Oakland and Macomb Counties is Mt. Sheridon. You read that right. Okay maybe it’s not a true mountain in geological terms but at an elevation of 957 feet, it’s still a pretty steep hill in this otherwise flat corner of the state. Wrapped around that lofty peak is the metropark’s 13 miles of ski trails. A third of the system is golf course skiing but the rest is in the woods with plenty of hills and downhill runs. The trails are groomed for classic skiing, the clubhouse serves as a warming center and equipment rentals are available on the weekends.
Ann Arbor Skiing: A pair of Washtenaw County parks offer groomed ski trails. Rolling Hills County Park near Ypsilanti grooms 3 miles of trails, including a half-mile of luminary-lit trail, and has rental equipment available. Independence Lake, 10 miles north of Ann Arbor near Whitmore Lake, has 2 miles of trails that is groomed for skate and classic skiing.
5200 Highland Road
White Lake, MI 48383 US
8765 Hammel Rd.
Brighton, MI 48116 US
List of Trails