Mountain Blog

A First Timer's Tale
Nancy Story - Wednesday, February 03, 2016

What’s it like to visit the slopes for the first time? Emily Cefaratti, a college junior, was asked to reflect on her first skiing experience when she visited Crystal earlier this month. Here’s her take on that first trip to the slopes:


  “OK, what did I tell you is the number one rule of skiing?” my boyfriend Drew asked as we drove north on US 31 heading for Crystal Mountain last weekend.

  At age 20, this was going to be my first time skiing ever.  I had both excitement and nervousness swirling around in my stomach. Drew had been giving me informational tips all week as I prepared for my inaugural skiing experience.  What was he talking about??  There seemed to be so many rules, so much information. I tried to remember everything he’d said. 

“Ummm… always make sure your skis are perpendicular to the hill when you stand up if you fall?” I stammered.

“No. Well, that too, but the other rule.”

“Make sure my boots fit well inside because if they don’t fit perfectly then I will be uncomfortable skiing in them all day?” I said hesitantly.

“Well, yeah but no! What’s the one rule I told you to remember?” he said impatiently.

I tried again. “When in doubt, make a pizza?” 


I could tell he was irritated. “What do you want from me?!” I retorted.  At this point,   we were almost yelling at one another before Drew finally clued me in. “The number one rule is that if you fall, don’t try and stop yourself,” he said. “Let the fall happen. If you have to put your arms out, use your forearm and not your hands so you don’t break your wrist.”

“Oh yeah. THAT rule”, I sighed.

 If you go online, you’ll see many articles about teaching your significant other to ski. They all said about the same thing—don’t do it. Well, Drew and I were already breaking THAT rule. But before I could even get out on the hill, I had to get the equipment.  As a rank beginner, my first stop was at the rental building. The ski rental process was fairly self-explanatory if I followed the big signs that told me where to go and when.  At first glance, filling out the equipment rental forms looked like I was applying to become an organ donor, asking questions just shy of your blood type. My rental skis, boots, and poles were in good shape and fit perfectly for a beginner. The people inside were very helpful and friendly, which made the whole experience not too overwhelming or daunting. However, little did I know that I was about to face my biggest nemesis of the day: the chairlifts.

With Drew’s help, getting on a lift for the very first time was fine and I was feeling pretty good about myself - until I realized that I’d have to get off.  When we reached the top, I stood up as I was told – but lost my balance, throwing me into Drew, who just kept going down the ramp. I fell, and frantically tried to stand up again but ended up twisting my skis around each other. As I lay on the ground helpless, I looked behind me to see the lift operator had stopped the lift and come over to help me untangle myself.  Drew, waiting at the bottom of the lift ramp, was doubled over laughing.

The rest of the day went very well, as I finally graduated from the ‘snow-plow’ and wide turns to shorter, more parallel turns.  Overall, I had so much fun! Crystal Mountain was a great first skiing experience, and I hope I can be back on the slopes soon.

 And when Emily returns, she’ll be sure to take a lesson!   Our Snowsports instructors are certifiably super in teaching skiing and riding skills so that anyone’s first time on the slopes is an enjoyable introduction to a lifetime of good times in the sport. 



Winter Wizardry
Nancy Story - Sunday, January 10, 2016

The extraordinary efforts of our snowmaking crew have made winter happen so far.
Now that slopes of every flavor are open and you're eager to get out (or you’ve been out) on those boards, there’s another kind of wizardry happening on site that you may want to check out.  


 Many skiers think tuning is something beyond their needs.   But just like any other recreational equipment, ski care and maintenance optimizes performance at any ability level.   So why bother to head in for a tune-up? Director of Skier Services Ron Shepard points to the three ingredients of a good tune:

 Wax: It's not just for racers and speed chasers. It’s for everybody.  Waxing helps skis glide and turn smoother in a broad range of speeds.  And in a winter like this, with constantly varying snow conditions, the right wax keeps your skis attuned to the surface beneath them.  Temperature and snow texture affect your ski’s glide-ability, and regular waxing protects those board bases.  The pros at our Crystal Tuning Center can help you select the right wax for the conditions of the day.  Optimally, you want to put a coat of wax on your boards about every 3-5 trips out on the hills.

Sharp Edges:  Skis that aren’t sharp require significantly more effort to use than those that are, according to Shepard.  “Ski manufacturers set a ski’s edge angle to ensure that skis grip effectively when tipped, but are still able to slip on demand,” he notes. Crystal’s tuning shop is trained to give your skis the best angle, or bevel, by sharpening skis using a belt, a file, or a state-of-the-art disc grinder.  

Base Grinding and Repair: Damaged ski bases, whether from lack of maintenance or from running over sharp objects (or, as we’ve seen, skiing over an asphalt parking lot to one’s car), can make your skis “grabby”, says Shepard. “By design, skis have a microscopic pattern in the base, made to channel water out from under the ski. Stone grinding reproduces this pattern, allowing your skis to glide over a thin film of water that forms as you slide.” Without this pattern, skis can develop “suction”, which will make them feel sluggish and stubborn. And who wants sluggish skis?

 So protect your investment. Get maximum slope mileage and enjoyment from that pair of boards. Check out our Crystal Tuning Center Wizards next to the Tickets and Rental area to see how it’s done. This season, we’ve even added a “Silver Tune” option to an adult lift ticket purchase at the ticket window, so if you’d like to tack on a tune-up to your ticket, it’s quick and easy to do. 

The Near Nordic Normal
Nancy Story - Saturday, December 26, 2015


 What if winter had no power? What would skiers do?

Cross country skiers have always lived off the grid.  Power is supplied by their own muscle; there’s never a power outage crisis other than sore muscles, perhaps. The more they can learn to harness that power, the more efficient they are on skis. 

So a slow-to-start winter like this one saps the on-snow power buildup to that stage where Nordic skiers can fly down the trails. But staunch northern Michiganders Nordic fans know this: if you rate your winters in accordance with the amount of natural snowfall, you’ll realize that this year’s snowflake tally is not so much the abnormal, but the nearly normal. Here at Crystal, our cross country groomer Kathloon keeps meticulous records of her tilling habits. Looking back over the last ten years of natural snowfall she’s recorded on the trails, our Nordic winters usually mimic a hair-raising roller coaster ride. Blizzards followed by rain, perfectly coiffed trails scorched by January days of 50 degrees, ten inches of fresh flakes melted by raindrop drama,  trails opening and closing to the tempo of a crazed thermometer, and late March tracks unmatched in quality white corduroy – this is the stuff of which our Midwestern winters are made.  (And then there was that epic 235-inch  2013/14 season, where snow settled so deep in the woods that the only way to ski it  was on packed or groomed pathways.  If you went off piste, there was always the danger of falling into a tree well). 

Sure, it’s dry outside at this writing. Yet last year’s Christmas holiday period also reflected bare ground, followed by a foot of fluff  in early January, and a pretty great February.  So  hang in there, fans of skinny skis. Your time shall come. Kathloon shall groom.  And great news - Screaming Eagle/Eagle’s Revenge, has returned to our trail map after a year’s hiatus. It’s back on the map as “Eagle’s”, re-incorporating some of those daring downhills and cardiac climbs so favored by Crystal cross country regulars.  Ski you out there!



The BIG Question
Brian Lawson - Friday, November 27, 2015

The BIG Question

Update: December 28, 2015

Three Sweet Words

When eloquently strung together there are three words that can evoke a more powerful emotion than any others. Sure, ‘I love you’ is nice but for skiers and snowboarders those words are ‘Winter Storm Warning.’

Winter Storm Goliath is moving through late-Monday (December 28) into early-Tuesday (December 29) bringing with it snowmaking temps that actually allowed the snowguns to switch on Sunday night (December 27) and remain so through Monday. Overnight temps look good for continued snowmaking throughout the week with the word ‘snow’ making an almost daily appearance in the forecast.  What does it all mean?

Here’s the plan: After fortifying our existing skiable terrain, the might and power of our snowmaking system (which can pile up one foot of snow over 2.3 acres in one hour) will be focused on Buck, the trail from the top of Buck down through Giggles, the spine from the Crystal Clipper to North Face, the North Face and the return trail from North Face. The temperature will determine the timeline for opening new trails so we’ll keep you posted (keep checking here and the snow report).  At the time of this post (insert time), the snowguns are still running and we’ll keep them running in order to open as much new terrain as quickly as possible.

It appears at long last that Mother Nature has made her New Year’s Resolution and she is resolved to ski and snowboard more trails! Our crews are hard at work helping her see that resolution through.  Let it Snow!

Update, Thursday, December 17

For Those About to Rock, We Salute You!

Crystal Mountain’s snowmaking crew is ready to rock and it would appear they’re about to do just that for the next few days. Temperatures are predicted to dip back down into the 20s tonight and, depending on which forecast you believe, stay there through Saturday. Under ideal conditions, our snowmaking system has the capacity to cover the entire mountain in a foot of snow in 45 hours. If the current forecast holds and especially if those temps trend downward, we’re optimistic we’ll be making turns this weekend and then every day that weather permits moving forward. Stay tuned for more details over the next 24-72 hours!

Update: Thursday, December 3, 2015

Something to ‘Cheer’ about: Open on Saturday!

The Groomers climbed Cheers to assess the snow on Wednesday night and the news is good. Crystal Mountain will open Cheers and the Cheers lift on Saturday, December 5 from 10am-4pm for skiing and snowboarding. It is the season of giving so bring three (3) non-perishable food items or a gently used winter coat to donate and your lift ticket is FREE (otherwise, lift tickets will be $15 at the window)! Donations will benefit to the Benzie Area Christian Neighbors Food Pantry.

Carpe Ski'em (Seize the Snow)! The current 10-day forecast does not appear to provide too many snowmaking opportunities. Given Saturday’s forecasted temps, we will assess conditions on Cheers at the end of the day and determine whether or not to reopen on Sunday. Stay tuned to the snow report for the very latest updates.  

Update: Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Don’t Stop Believin'!

On Wednesday morning Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” is blaring over the Crystal Clipper loudspeakers as the snow made on Cheers over this past weekend attempts to stand its ground in defiance of the weather. Tonight as the temperature drops near freezing the groomers will climb Cheers to assess the snow and the possibility of a weekend opening.

However, Mother Nature remains reluctant to let temps slip below 28 degrees for snowmaking this week while continuing to threaten with the type of precipitation that we dare not speak its name. Snowmaking crews remain poised to go to work and earnest in their efforts but we are still in a ‘wait-and-see’ mode so please stay tuned.

November 27 is a perfect example that just because it's cold enough to snow doesn't necessarily mean it's cold enough to make it. Rest assured that the moment temps dip 28 or below, we will flip the switch!

As I punch away at the keyboard, my skis sit just a few feet away, taunting, asking the question. It’s the same one from Facebook. The same question comes from the snowmakers, the shop techs, the instructors, from everyone. When?

That question is preceded by another laced with a fervor and frustration that could only be born from a passion for snow. Why!? Mother Nature, why have you forsaken us!? We tip our cap and reluctantly swallow the envy for our friends to the north who are benefiting from the same meteorological whims that with a slight change in temperature could mean piles of snow on Buck, Cheers and North Face. Nonetheless, our snowmakers ask why!? Why is it 24-degrees at the base of the Clipper and 33-degrees at the top of Main Street!? Why can't it drop just a few more degrees and stay put? With arms out-reached to the heavens we ask WHY!? (Okay, that might be a bit of an over-dramatization)

It’s not personal. Mother Nature doesn’t work that way. If she did we would hire her on retainer for early opens and frequent powder days. She always comes around eventually and when she does we’ll be ready with a snowmaking system that can put a foot of snow on the entire Mountain in 45 hours – under ideal conditions. Our crew is at the ready for the moment temps drop below a magic 28-degrees and won’t quit until we open the first trail and the other 57 to follow.

Which brings us back to the original question: When? Unfortunately, we won’t be able to open the trails this weekend but beginning Friday night (November 27) we’re seeing some windows for snowmaking through the weekend and hoping to see a slight downward trend in temperatures for next week. We’ll continue updating to this blog post with latest on our work and progress. We’ll try to get you on a lift as soon as possible. Stay tuned and in the meantime, do a snow dance, it couldn’t hurt.  

Anticipation is Building
Jeff ZImmerman - Friday, October 30, 2015

It happens right around now, every year. Each time the temperature ticks down another degree the anticipation ticks up. After all, the snow is coming. However, this year the anticipation isn’t for the snowflakes alone.

At the heart of the village an exciting $11 million transformation is beginning to take shape. On October 12 work began on a 31,200 square-foot expansion to the Inn at the Mountain. The LEED-certified building will include a coffee bar and specialty market on the main level, 25 new hotel rooms and suites, and a rooftop terrace with panoramic views of the village including a beautiful new plaza.

Excavators from Alpers Excavating have been busy moving dirt to create the footprint in which the expansion will build skyward. Crystal Mountain has a long relationship with its contractors Alpers Excavating and Comstock Construction, working closely with them over the course of this 12-month project to minimize any inconvenience to our guests while staying on schedule with the build.

Stay tuned to the Mountain Blog for the very latest updates as we anticipate the Inn Expansion’s grand opening in the fall of 2016, just in time to begin the celebration of Crystal Mountain’s 60th Anniversary!

To stay up to date on the Inn Expansion as well as all things Crystal Mountain Realty, sign up for our Real Estate eNewsletter. Ownership opportunities in the new Inn Residences are still available; to learn more contact our Crystal Mountain Realty team at 800.968.2911.

January 18, 2016January 14, 2016January 11, 2016January 7, 2016
January 4, 2016December 31, 2015December 28, 2015December 22, 2015
December 22, 2015December 17, 2015December 17, 2015December 15, 2015

Here is how Benjamin Franklin makes the most of his Premier Season Pass.
Brian Lawson - Thursday, October 08, 2015

Here’s how Benjamin Franklin makes the most of his Premier Season Pass. Yes, that Benjamin Franklin.

Founding Father and one of history’s great powder hounds, Benjamin Franklin, once said, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” There is no reason any winter should be a fail. Especially if you have a Premier Pass and more specifically, all the perks that come with it.

Ben, who in addition to being one of the premier shredders of his time, was also exceptional at time management. Had he made it to his 310th birthday this winter, you can bet he’d already be planning out his days on the snow, getting ready for the first flakes and saving some money in the process.

While he would no doubt max out his time at Crystal, particularly new terrain in The Backyard, everybody needs a change in scenery every now and again. Knowing Ol’ Ben, he’d set aside one of his two free lift tickets at Mount Bohemia to try their new snowcat skiing - or in his case boarding. His Premier Pass also gets him three free days of skiing and snowboarding and 20% off lodging at Crested Butte for a trip out west although a scholarly debate rages on as to whether or not he would choose half-off lift tickets in Jackson Hole instead, maybe both. He’ll use his discounts for a trip to Brimacombe or Chicopee in Ontario and a day trip here and there to Nub’s, Swiss Valley, Caberfae and Apple Mountain and BOOM, drops the mic on an epic winter.

Until then, he’ll use his 10% retail discount on a sweet new Burton jacket at Mountain Sports and ring up his $5 discount on a tuning. Who knows, since he gets 10% off a lift ticket for one friend each day, he might even bring his buddies George, Thomas or John with him sometime this winter. But not on powder days. There are no friends on powder days.

Learn more about all the perks that Ben and every Season Passholder receives by checking out the Passholder Perks page.

See you this winter! The season is coming!

Come play in our Backyard this winter
Brian Lawson - Thursday, September 24, 2015

THE BACKYARD | Coming Winter 2015/16

As you may have already heard, Crystal Mountain will have a total of 58 skiable trails to offer this winter with introduction of The Backyard. Nestled in a draw directly behind the front-facing slopes - hence the name Backyard – will be the new downhill skiing and snowboarding complex open for the upcoming 2015/16 winter season.

Work is already underway on The Backyard’s eight new trails, triple chairlift and snowmaking infrastructure. Crews are putting the finishing touches on the downhill trails and will begin to install towers for the triple chairlift over the next couple of weeks. Crystal has installed nearly a mile of new snowmaking pipe in order to use portable snowmaking units to cover The Backyard in a deep base of snow. New tower-mounted fan guns from Snow Machines Inc. in Midland, Michigan are being installed on the North Face complex.

This new playground invites the beginner and intrigues the more experienced skier and rider. The two trails that flank each side of the Backyard will share space with Last Chance (The Ridge) and Tammy’s Turn (North Face) with variations in pitch and contour to help new skiers and boarders advance skills and build confidence while also offering an experience different than any other location on the mountain that will entice the intermediate and expert. Six (blue-intermediate) trails in the heart of this new area offer an exciting mix of glades and open terrain with rises, banks and rollers to explore. 

Come this winter and play in our Backyard!

Dean and Farah still taking shots at each other seven years later
Brian Lawson - Wednesday, August 12, 2015

“That’s excuse number 21 if you’re keeping count.”

Crystal Mountain Golf Course Superintendent, Jason Farah smiles with a wink and a nod as he takes another jab at his boss, Director of Golf, Brad Dean. The two were reminiscing about a couple of rounds played about this time seven years ago. The course was ‘The Monster’ at Oakland Hills Country Club. The rounds were during the 2008 PGA Championship.

Farah, formerly one of the superintendents at Oakland Hills, had volunteered to help the grounds crew and Dean was playing in his first and only major. In fact, Brad’s was the first name called on the first hole to begin play. “It was the experience of a lifetime,” he laughs, “but once was enough.” 

To the credit of Farah and his colleagues - not to mention PGA Chief Championship Officer, Kerry Haigh - the set-up on the South Course that week was without question one of the toughest in the modern era of the fourth major championship. “The rough was the course’s only defense,” Jason explained. And it lived up to its name. Rough. Six inches deep or more. Only three players finished under-par for the tournament with Padraig Harrington taking the title at minus-3. 

“You could hardly find the ball and you had to full-swing a 60-degree wedge to get it out.” As Dean recounts the difficulty Farah jokingly rolls his eyes and then honestly confesses, “It was really tough.” Brad missed the cut but he was in good company with major champions like Fred Couples, Adam Scott and Zach Johnson, who you might remember had a little success over at St. Andrews a few weeks back.

Brad’s youngest boy was actually born the week leading up to the tournament. He was also a bit of a hometown favorite with plenty of attention from the media and a gallery of family and friends following him around the course. He describes the week as a bit of a blur but vividly remembers the eighth hole of the second round. 

“I hit a shot from a greenside bunker 15 feet past the hole and spun it back to within ten feet. Got a great response from the crowd.” And of course, it should go without saying that he dropped the ten-footer to save par - which was as good  as a birdie that week. 

These two didn’t know each other back then. One was excited to have the chance to work alongside old friends and challenge the best players in the world. The other living out a dream to compete against and play alongside those players on one of golf’s biggest stages. Nowadays, you can find the two of them together on the Mountain Ridge course where Brad is always gracious with a compliment.

“He played great and shot a 76 when we were out the other day,” and then grins ear-to-ear unable to keep a straight face, “I only beat him by 10 strokes.”

Maybe now they’re even.  

Happy 105th Birthday, Lou!
Nancy Story - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

We all want to grow up to be Lou.

Whenever Lou Batori appears on our slopes during the winter months,  people flock to him like a magnet. There is awe in their eyes as skiers surround him, hoping some of that fitness and well-being of mind and body will rub off on them. He has garnered national attention for his skiing prowess, for his many NASTAR titles, and for the fact that he skis at all. Last winter, at age 104, he made two trips to our slopes and carved turns with Ski School Director Chris Fisher (just to show the young guy how it’s done).  The National Ski Areas Association believes Lou just may be the oldest season passholder in the country – but no one keeps official records.   Lou started skiing sixteen years before he took his first chairlift ride in 1940. Skiers who weren’t yet born when Lou hopped on that lift watch him now and harbor the hope that maybe they, too, will ski well into old age. And those who are physically unable to ski beyond a certain  age still gain satisfaction from watching Lou carve slowly on the corduroy.

Besides being the poster child of the sport, he is a very gracious, classy gentleman. Every adjective has already been written about Lou.  He has expressed his disdain for labeling him inspirational, though.  “The most common word I hear is  ‘You are an inspiration’,” he once scoffed. “Inspirational for what?”  What Lou finds inspirational has always been the sport of skiing itself,  in the sight of slopes covered in snow and being active outdoors in the winter environment.  

We’ve been writing about this legendary skier since he was a mere child in his nineties.  As he approaches his 105th birthday in the upcoming weeks, we salute him once again, giving a nod to one of our favorite Lou quotes:

“Waiting to be carted away is a stupid waste of life," he once said. "You can replace anything – your shoes, your house, your belongings. But you cannot replace make the best of it."

Happy birthday, Lou! Winter awaits.


Mississippi native travels to take Michigan Women's Open Title
Brian Lawson - Thursday, July 02, 2015

Mississippi Golfer Ally McDonald Wins 22nd Michigan Women’s Open Championship

THOMPSONVILLE – Former Mississippi State University All-American golfer Ally McDonald wasn’t sure what to think about winning her professional debut in the 22nd Michigan Women’s Open Championship at Crystal Mountain Resort.

“I guess it hasn’t quite set in yet,” she said. “This is my first time playing for money, but I wasn’t trying to focus on that. I was just doing what I’ve always tried to do, focus on one shot at a time and see where it falls from there.”

It fell to a 2-under 70 on the Mountain Ridge course to give the rookie professional a 5-under 211 total in the $42,000 open state championship.

McDonald, who is from Fulton, Miss., won $6,000 with a two-shot advantage on long-time friend and rival golfer Kendall Martindale of Jefferson City, Tenn., a former Vanderbilt golfer who shot a closing 72 for 213 on a chilly, windy day.

Emmie Pietila of Brighton, the University of Tennessee golfer who led the first two rounds, slipped to a 76 for 214. She tied for third place and low amateur with Muskegon’s Hailey Hrynewich, an Ohio University golfer who shot the day’s low round of 68. They were also the two low Michigan golfers in the field.

“I made a lot of club (selection) errors and one coming in (at No. 17) that cost me a double bogey,” Pietila said. “The wind and mental errors made it tough. I guess I was a little nervous. I wasn’t as relaxed as I would have like to have been. It was different way to play, having the lead like that. It’s something else I just had to learn, so I’m pleased to have had that experience.”

Hrynewich, whose brother Reed was low amateur in the men’s Michigan Open last month, and McDonald were the only two golfers to shoot under par in the final round. McDonald said she hit her driver especially well in the final round.

“I made a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 8 and then hit a real good shot into 9,” said McDonald, who wrapped a blanket around herself often during the final round. “That got me going, and I hit the driver really well. I stayed out of trouble.”

McDonald, road in the golf car Wednesday with her mother Angie, had the lead by the 10th hole, but didn’t realize she had a chance to win until seeing a scoreboard at No. 14.

“I was kind of oblivious to it all, and just focused on each shot,” she said.

Martindale, who played in the same group with McDonald and has been competing with her since a junior tournament at age 12 and through many SEC college events, said their experience in golf helped them deal with suddenly finding they had a chance to win at No. 14.

“We’ve played quite a bit of golf so we know how to keep our emotions in check and not to focus on the finish,” Martindale said. “Ally played solid all day. She hit her driver in play and played tough like she usually does. It was tough out there, cold and windy and the pin positions were harder and some of the tees were back, too.”

Sandra Angulo Minarro of Port Saint Lucie, Fla., shot 73 for 215 and fifth place. Former Michigan State standout Caroline Powers of Bowling Green, Ohio, shot 75 for 216. Sarah Hoffman, the former Grand Valley State golfer from Saline who had been among the leaders the first two rounds, struggled to a 79 and 218.

The Symetra Tour players from the field, including Powers, Whitehall’s Laura Kueny, Liz Nagle of Dewitt and Christine Meier of Rochester, move on to Tullymore Golf Resort in Stanwood for the inaugural Tullymore Classic slated for Friday through Sunday.