Mountain Blog

An Olympian's Journey
Brian Lawson - Wednesday, December 10, 2014

It might not be a surprise that a two-time Olympic freestyle skier would visit Crystal Mountain. It is a ski resort, right? However, if I told you she wasn’t visiting for the snow or the slopes that might be a bit of a twist. She’s actually here for the spa.

Michelle Roark competed in the Olympic Games held Turin, Italy and Vancouver, British Columbia. She won a silver medal in the 2003 FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships and has six World Cup victories since 1999. This world-class athlete will be at Crystal Spa on Thursday, December 11 (2-7pm) sharing the fruits (or as it happens fragrance) of her other great labor, chemical engineering.

That’s right, next to all those medals for her accomplishments in skiing hangs a degree in chemical engineering and the interesting part is how her life in skiing groomed the way to this new passion. Michelle believes that skiing is about being in tune with the five senses. Judging by her success in the sport you would think each was finely honed but one was more elusive to capture than the others. Sight, sound, touch and taste were in harmony but when she couldn’t find the right fragrance, she developed her own.

Roark’s pursuit to harness the fifth sense led to six years of research and the establishment of Phia Labs. What she found was that the complex molecular structures of nature’s purest ingredients can have a profound effect on a person’s wellbeing, inspiring adventure, focus, balance, imagination and confidence. Each of the five categories can be found on the Phia Energy Spectrum (be sure to give it a look on their website) which classifies the essential oils of plants, flowers and herbs to create a bouquet with distinct purpose to suit each person’s specific needs.

Meet the two-time Olympian and learn more about Phia at the Crystal Spa Open House on December 11. The event is FREE to attend (advanced reservation requested but not required) and includes mini-treatments, food and the chance to win one free treatment per month at Crystal Spa for an entire year!


The Trunkslammer's Warm-up
Brian Lawson - Monday, August 11, 2014


The Trunkslammer's Warm-up

Every golfer is guilty of it at least once - if not a habitual offender. You roll into the parking lot minutes before the round begins. Throw on your shoes. Grab your clubs and slam the trunk before rushing straight to the first tee. It's anybody's guess what happens next.

You might just fire one right down the middle of the fairway but let's be realistic, a duck hook, slice into the woods or tweaked back is probably a more likely outcome. Director of Crystal Mountain Golf School, Scott Wilson sees it all the time.

"We all oversleep at one time or another. We're all busy at work or busy with the family. Even if you only have 10 minutes before your round there are few quick things you can do to ease into that first hole to prevent damage to your body and your scorecard."


1. Spend at least half of that 10 minutes just loosening up the core muscles that are key to the golf swing. Do a few side bends, twists and bend at the waist touching the ground to stretch out your back and hamstrings.


2. Take the heaviest iron out of your bag and swing it back and forth like a pendulum. Easy at first and then into a full swing. This will continue to loosen up the muscles and get you into the rhythm of swinging the club.


3. Spend a few minutes on the putting green to get a feel for the speed. Begin with The Ladder Drill (pictured above), rolling a putt across the green trying to leave the next putt five feet short of the previous and the next five feet short of that ball. Next, move to The Stair Drill (pictured below) dropping balls at three, four and five feet in a straight line from the hole and putting each into the cup. It not only helps with speed but can build a little confidence as well.


4. Leave the Big Dog in the bag on the first hole. It requires intense discipline but you're probably better off passing up the driver for a hybrid or 5-wood. Aim small, miss small. Once you've played a couple of holes and get into the groove, feel free to let the Big Dog eat.


This warm-up will work in a pinch but it's far from ideal. Scott recommends trying to arrive at the course an hour before your round. He'll help share how to best manage that hour of practice in an upcoming post on the Mountain Blog. Stay tuned.

Scott Wilson is the Director of Crystal Mountain Golf School with over 20 years experience as a PGA Instructor. He is a mainstay on Golf Digest's list of Top Teachers in Michigan and is a past recipient of the Michigan PGA's President's Plaque, awarded to those who have significantly contributed to growth of the game. 

Conde Nast's "Six Signs" point to something very good at Crystal Spa
Brian Lawson - Friday, July 25, 2014



As a public relations guy who just finished some "field research" at
Crystal Spa I can tell you that it is a life-altering experience. Then again, as the "PR Guy" I probably carry some inherent bias. It doesn't mean I'm wrong but it's understandable if there's a little skepticism.

So when I recently ran across Conde Nast Traveler's post on Facebook, "6 Signs of a Very (Very, Very) Good Hotel Spa" I was intrigued to see how our spa stacked up against their guidelines. After all, it is a travel resource known for its rigorous standards and objectivity.

  1. Separate Saunas and Steam Rooms for Men and Women
    Check! In each of the locker rooms you will find both a eucalyptus infused steam room and an infrared sauna. Both are a good reason to arrive 30 minutes to an hour before your service or for that matter, relax afterward.

  1. No Communal Locker Rooms
    While very well-appointed, guests do have to share space in their respective locker rooms (one for men and one for women). However, there are curtains and private spaces in each if you're on the shy-side when changing.

  1. A Comfortable Relaxation Room
    The picture below speaks a thousand words. Not pictured is the mosaic garden and outdoor hot tub just outside with heated floors so it can be enjoyed winter, spring, summer and fall.

  1. A Well Stocked Spa Bar
    Locally-grown Light of Day Organic Tea, cucumber water, fresh fruit and snack mixes are all complimentary to spa guests with attendants ready to serve from a menu of wines, Champaign, mimosas and Michigan craft beers available for purchase.

  1. Eucalyptus Oil in the Steam Room (AKA The Little Touches)
    See eucalyptus infused steam room above but there are many more little touches worth experiencing like fluffy robes and towels, your own pair of slippers and the beautiful works of local artists like Ann Loveless, winner of Art Prize (Grand Rapids) in 2013.
  

  1. Welcoming and Genuine Staff
    Each month Crystal Mountain honors a staff member with the Service Excellence Award, most of whom are nominated by guests. The Peak Fitness Center and Crystal Spa currently has five award winners (including last year's Service Excellence Employee of the Year).

With Conde Nast's measures of a very, very, very good spa in mind, I hope to have maybe earned a little more credibility. However, if you still need to check it out for yourself to be truly convinced, I won't be offended.

You can book a service at Crystal Spa by calling . If you've enjoyed your time at the spa and Crystal Mountain please visit Conde Nast Traveler's Readers' Choice Survey and share your experience. Thank you.

Art Without Barriers
Brian Lawson - Friday, July 18, 2014

Accidentals at Michigan Legacy Art Park
The Accidentals in concert at Michigan Legacy Art Park on July 11, 2014.

Ask anyone who has seen The Accidentals perform and they're likely to tell you the duo completely draws you in with their music and the pure talent behind it. In other words, they are a phenomenal act that just so happened to kick off Michigan Legacy Art Park's Summer Sounds Concert Series last Friday night.

It's not hard to imagine that even profound changes being made in Art Park, some already in place and others yet to come, may get lost in the distraction of those beautiful melodies which is as it should be. This is why the Mountain Blog exists, to bring some attention, for example, to the new stage on which The Accidentals were performing, refinished as originally designed by architect Bob Holdeman. More important is the project moving out of the planning stage that will provide easier access for all to enjoy the many forms of art provided within the 30-acre preserve.

Barrier Free Trail Vantage Point
The new barrier-free trail will provide views from below a number of sculptures including David Barr's, Diversity.

It's anticipated that construction documents for Legacy Art Park's new barrier-free trail will be completed for review by mid-next week and upon approval will go out to bid. Johnson-Hill Land Ethics Studio, who has done the master planning for Crystal Mountain and the Art Park, has thoughtfully designed a trail, featuring a grade no more than 10-percent, through the woods, sheltered from the 18th hole of the Mountain Ridge with views of more than a half-dozen sculptures sitting above.

This barrier-free trail project is an important focus of Michigan Legacy Art Park's, Art for All Campaign. So far, nearly half the funds have been raised to complete the $500 million campaign that includes new art and infrastructure. Currently, enough funds have been received, through private donations and grants, to build half the trail but fundraising continues to complete the switchback that will provide access all the way to the amphitheater. If you'd like to make a donation contact Executive Director, Renee Hintz at 231.378.4963.

Site for Discovery Grove Addition
Three new wooden platforms will be added to this side of Discovery Grove creating more space to create for children and school groups.

In the meantime, be on the lookout for three platforms to be added to Discovery Grove, allowing more room for children to create and explore. Another platform will be added to the top tier of seating at the amphitheater which now features new tables and chairs - perfect for a picnic and glass of wine during the concert.

Summer Sounds continues tonight with the Robin Connell Jazz Trio and if you can't make it, don't worry, three more acts will grace the amphitheater in the coming weeks including Lindsay Lou and the Flatbelly's (July 25), Lee Murdock (August 1) and Miriam Pico with David Chown and Friends (August 8).

A Cut Above: How Crystal's greens are rolling smoother than ever
Brian Lawson - Wednesday, July 09, 2014


Rolling greens on Mountain Ridge with Crystal Mountain's new Tru-Turf Roller

"I want them to look like billiard tables and roll that way too."

Jason Farah knows that a golf course is first judged by its greens. So that's precisely where he started this spring when he took over as Crystal Mountain's Golf Course Superintendent. He brings with him almost 25 years of experience that includes work as an assistant superintendent (North Course) helping to prepare for the 1996 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills Country Club.

"Maintaining a high-end golf course is all about doing the same thing over and over again," says Farah. "It can be a little monotonous but the crews understand it, embrace it and response has been great this summer."


Golf Course Superintendent Jason Farah (left) works with Crystal Golf employee John McElduff

"The attitude has changed right along with the course conditions," says John McElduff, pictured above operating the resort's new Tru-Turf Greens Roller, the same used at PGA Tour stops.

Every morning at 6am crews take to the Mountain Ridge and Betsie Valley courses to manicure the greens. First they mow. Next they clear the clippings. They roll them weekly and this consistent, intricate approach to each of Crystal's 36 championship holes has created the consistency on the greens.

"The greens are rolling really well so if you put a good putt on it, it's going to go in." Those were the words of Michigan PGA Women's Open Champion, Becca Huffer after shooting a second round 64 on the Mountain Ridge. It would have been the course record had Kimberly Dingh (runner-up and top amateur) not already shattered that score with a 10-under par the day before.

The staff in the pro shop have heard the accolades as well, from players of every level. Of course, a quick look around and it's not hard to notice the consistent quality has spread into the fairways, rough and tee boxes. The new wooden flagsticks, tee markers and signs certainly provide a nice accent to the canvas Farah and his crew seek to perfect with each new day.

"I love what I do and I feel like the crews out there working on the courses share that enthusiasm and take a tremendous amount of pride in their work."

And it's reflected in each stroke of the putter and smooth journey to the cup.

One for the history books.
Nancy Story - Sunday, April 13, 2014

Winter rushed in this year with a jaw-dropping early snowfall.



Must have been the karma of the new Buck chair.



Early December was epic for powder play days...



...but it didn't end there. The snow kept piling up.



The only sunlight came from night lights.



And the flakes kept falling.



Every day there was a fresh white canvas to carve snow signatures.



So many postcard days on pristinely groomed slopes.



Nordic skiers rushed over to the superbly groomed XC trail system...



...where stunning snowscapes hung around all season.



Light, fluffy flakes kept falling, apparently mistaking us for the Rockies.



It was a winter where new skiers greeted perfect conditions...



...and veteran 103 year-old skiers came to sample the slopes once again.



Skiing buddies bonded by the sport, banded together all season long.



Snowsport instructors introduced skills and spread the love of winter.



The infamous polar vortex loosened its grip in time for March Madness...



...with plenty of thrills and Slush Cup spills.



In a season that lasted 129 days, skiing records were broken.



But it's the record 225 inches of snowfall that we'll remember most.



THANKS FOR SKIING AND RIDING WITH US THIS SEASON!

Across the Generations: Why Winter Never Ends
Nancy Story - Tuesday, April 01, 2014

 

“I remember looking up the Buck hill with the Poma lift and thinking it was the biggest scariest hill I’d ever seen!”

Linda Plant Kidd recalls with relish her first trip to the slopes. This Muskegon native and her two brothers were introduced to skiing at Crystal Mountain over 45 years ago by their father, Jim Plant. She never imagined that decades later, she’d be passing along her passion for the sport to her grandson.  The Plant/Kidd crew took advantage of superb spring conditions recently to usher the next generation of their family onto the slopes. And at age 82, Jim Plant is now schussing side-by-side with his five year old great grandson Dylan.

Jim began skiing in his mid-twenties, and soon he and his wife, Marylouise, were packing up their three children for ski trips to Crystal Mountain.  “Mom and Dad always had us in ski lessons so we’d learn the proper way to ski.” Linda said. Even after Linda broke her ankle while wrestling with an old-school rope tow in her first season, she was back on the hill as soon as it healed. “I feel like I grew up at Crystal, watching all the changes that have taken place”, she said. Soon Linda and her husband were bringing their own three daughters to Crystal. Like their parents and grandparents, the Kidd daughters shared a passion for skiing and grew up on the slopes of Crystal Mountain.  Daughter Michelle became a Professional Ski Instructor Association (PSIA) -certified Level 2 instructor and now resides in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  Daughter Morgan also headed out west for the skiing life, while Erin continues to ski Michigan’s mountains from her home base in Muskegon.

So it was only a matter of time before Dylan – Erin’s son and the first of the next generation of Plant/Kidd skiers - joined the family fold. “Teaching my grandson to ski is the most amazing feeling”, Linda enthused. “Yesterday, we were at the top of Main Street. Dylan looked down and said, ‘I can’t do this’. Half way down the hill, he was shouting, ‘I’m doing it, Grandma!’  He was so happy. That’s worth all the years and good family times we’ve ever had, on the slopes.”  And yes, Dylan took ski lessons - just as his mother and grandmother did.

 What remains constant in skiing, down through the ages, is family, friends, fresh air, exercise and the challenge, according to Linda. “Crystal Mountain has grown in a smart way, with a real vision for family fun. We ski Crystal because it’s always improving. You’ve got a helpful staff, and it’s not far from home.”

And Dylan? Well, his favorite run is Main Street, the run that initially filled him with  fear. He’s conquered that challenge. There are plenty of runs to conquer next winter – for the next 80 winters, in fact. Just like Great Grandpa.

 

Instructor Tales from the Front Line
Nancy Story - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

 

 Several of our Snowsports instructors relate some of their memorable moments this past season:

One of my favorite lessons this year was in the Crystal Kids Program. We had 8 kids with 3 instructors, and one of those eight students was a “never ever” (ie never skied before). His name was Zack, he was 11 years old, and he was born with just one leg. In Zack’s mind, he had no disability. I had never taught a one-legged skier before, but used all my knowledge acquired over years of teaching to help him succeed. Zack's dad had purchased ski poles with small outriggers on the end to give Zack balance.  Our class made it to Emmy - and other than taking a few rests on the way down because his leg would get tired, Zack did very well and had fun. It was one of my best lessons ever, and has prompted me to go for my Adaptive Skiing Certification next year. Zack was an amazing kid and never gave up all day long. He inspired not only myself, but all the instructors who saw him. –  Bob Barker

I had a little girl who kept referencing speed in factors of percentages. If the group was going too slow, she would tell us to “ski at 100 %”.  If I told the group to slow down or speed up, I would reference “pizza feet” vs. “french fry feet”.  The other children in the group responded by either slowing down or speeding up - all except this one little girl.   It dawned on me that if I needed her to slow down or speed up, I needed to use language that made sense to her. For the rest of the lesson, I taught speed management to her by referencing percentages. If I wanted her to go faster,  I would say “Let’s add 10% to our speed”, or “Let’s ski at 30% for this drill”.  As I look back on that particular lesson, I realize why it is so important to have effective communication skills as well as the ability to read your students. They are expecting a lesson that is meaningful; it is our job to make it that way. -  Abigail Smeltzer, PSIA L1, Children’s Specialist 1

 As a passionate skier for over 20 years, I chose to become a ski instructor with the hopes of spreading this passion to new skiers.  I’ve had many examples of student success stories, and am sharing the stories of two of them.  I had the privilege of teaching Will Mallon on two occasions. A quiet kid with keen observational skills, Will had me as his instructor for his very first lesson. This gave me the chance to give Will a strong foundation for becoming a better skier.  Two months later, my colleague, Janel Farron, and I had Will for an all-day lesson on the hills.  It made me proud to watch his progression from the carpet tows to intermediate-level runs.

Beckett Bolt was another first-time student when she enrolled in a two-hour Adventure Cub session. I immediately saw the trauma in her eyes of first-time anxiety from parental separation, a very common situation in teaching Cubbies.  After helping her to be calm, I was very impressed with Beckett’s visual learning skills, which helped in facilitating her lesson.  By the end of her first lesson, Beckett’s anxious frown had turned into a bright smile as she made tremendous progression on the carpets, and then onto the Loki chair in her next lesson. I could see her love of skiing reflected on the look on her face. Students like Will and Beckett, along with many others, constantly reinforce the fact that becoming a ski instructor was the right move for me. - Travis  Fetters

There is nothing like the enjoyment of being part of a young skier’s first day on the snow. After our introduction, we talk about engaging topics (i.e. learn-to-ski techniques) such as pizza, French fries, ducks, and sharks, while we practice some boot work and try on the skis.  Then it’s on to the beginner’s surface lift, the little carpet, before advancing to the bigger challenge of the big carpet. For the young skier, the excitement intensifies with the ascent. Little eyes shine with anticipation while exiting the Big Carpet for the first time. Slowly down the hill we go, playing Red Light/Green Light to learn stopping and starting skills. Eventually, turns are added. Then, if the youngster is  demonstrating the necessary ability, I finally pop the big question: “Do you want to ride the chairlift?”

Excitement builds in the little skier’s eyes. Usually the answer is an irrepressible, “YES!” or sometimes a hesitant but hopeful “I think so.”  We move to the chairlift, reviewing how to load and unload before the chair scoops us up and we take off. It’s so much fun to be a part of this first trip! Most young skiers let out excited screams of joy as we leave the ground and take in the view of the big hill. On top, we stand up and glide away from the chair down the unloading ramp. Our inaugural downhill trip takes us down the gentle Emmy run, winding around the back side of the hill.  At the bottom, the young skier turns to me with sparkling eyes and asks: “Can we do it again?” What fun it is to be able to reply, “Absolutely! Let’s go!” - Carolyn Thayer, Level 1 certified instructor with a Children’s Specialist accreditation                                  

 

Teaching & Coaching in the Cold
Nancy Story - Tuesday, March 11, 2014

 

Crystal Snowsports instructor and veteran racing coach  Chris Fisher offers these tips for teaching kids when it's COLD outside:

It’s been a fantastic winter, with over 200 inches of snow.   But with all this snow, there’s often been the issue of extremely cold temperatures, even as spring approaches. (A high of 15 degrees was forecast for March 12th!)

As ski instructors and coaches,  weather can play a major role in how we approach our lessons and training sessions, especially when dealing with children.  This winter, despite temperatures well below zero with wind chill, I’ve noticed that in general, kids are quite resilient.  If they are excited to pursue a task and are having fun, there’s not too much that can dampen their spirits.  That said, as instructors and coaches, we are responsible for their safety and well-being.  Regulating body temperature is harder for children.  With extremely cold temperatures, we have to constantly monitor them and be aware that they may be moving toward hypothermia without even noticing they’re cold yet.

 Keeping our students warm means keeping them moving and active, and taking more warm-up breaks with less time on the hill in-between.  We have to be aware of any exposed skin (primarily cheeks and noses) and watch for signs of frostbite.  Fingers and toes are at the tips of the extremities, so they are the body parts that will be affected first by the cold.  Hand warmers are always a great idea.  Socks and gloves need to be dry when first put on,  and dried at night.  Thin socks (somewhat counter-intuitively) keep feet warmer by allowing better blood flow to the toes.  Layers are another effective shield against the cold.  A warm core will pump warm blood throughout the body.  Goggles protect the eyes from wind and snow, while also providing relief for the covered parts of the face.  Neck gators are great for keeping the wind off the neck and lower parts of the face.  They’re easy to adjust and are an inexpensive addition to any cold weather wardrobe.  Helmets are a must at ALL times, but they’re also warmer than knit hats.  Heat loss occurs fastest from the head, so keeping the head safely covered is like putting a lid on a frying pan:  the heat index rises rapidly and stays longer.

Finally, we coaches and instructors need to remind students of the importance of proper nutrition and hydration.  The colder it is outside, the harder the body works to maintain a constant temperature, so it will burn calories faster and use up water stores faster.  Eating and drinking more often helps stoke the internal fires that will maintain body heat.

It’s been a cold winter this season, but a properly prepared student can still enjoy snow sports.  I am inspired every day by the excitement and anticipation I see in my students - and when it’s way below zero, a happy student is a warm student!

 

Cross Country Skills Ward Off Chills
Nancy Story - Tuesday, March 04, 2014

 

Sure, we’ve been swept up in the middle of a polar vortex this winter. But the answer to staying warm outside lies on the backside of the mountain, home to our Nordic trail network. Chairlifts make you sit still, but with cross country skiing, you’re always on the move with your own motor.  Don’t make the frigid weather your excuse to stay indoors. There’s been no better winter yet for superlative snow and trail conditions - so take advantage of the warmth factor of Nordic skiing.  The better you are, the warmer you’ll be. Greg Babinec, one of our Nordic ski instructors, offers these tips to take advantage of the sport that keeps you warm in Arctic temperatures:

“Lose the poles to improve your technique. Whether you are a classic xc skier or a skater, a great practice drill will start with leaving the poles at home.  For classic skiers, this will help you become more aware of the timing required between the moment the kick zone is engaged to the forward movement of the trailing ski. A good exercise for this is to do a series of three strides in the tracks. On the third stride, emphasize the engagement of the kick zone along with a more aggressive forward motion when bringing the trailing ski forward. On each third count, you’ll be able to concentrate the motion first on one ski, and then the other. See how long you can hold your balance during the glide phase of each stride before starting the next sequence of three strides.

With both styles of Nordic, classical and skating, improving one’s balance on one ski at a time is the key to rapid improvement. During your next skate ski session,  get started with no poles and use an exaggerated arm swing in the same direction as the glide ski. An aggressive arm swing from side to side in time with each ski will help improve your feeling for the gliding motion necessary to skate effectively. Always remember to get your nose and knee over your glide ski, and keep the ski as flat on the ground as possible until you are ready to change skis and glide in the other direction. This is known as a free skate with no poles.”  

 The real lesson here is that you can beat the chill of downhill by heading over to the backside of the mountain. Cross country lessons are available daily by calling extension 4000.