Mountain Blog

What's Hot for the Cold
Nancy Story - Thursday, October 25, 2012

Photo Credit: National Library of Norway via Flickr

Assembled for their latest ski outing, this fashionably-garbed couple is ready to ski – about 100 years ago.

Actually, these folks really knew how to layer. It might have been bulky back then – but layers helped keep out the cold, a technique skiers still practice today. Scratchy woolies and cotton longjohns have disappeared into the annals of ski fashion history, replaced by base layer thermals that are ultra-soft, ultra-light, and wick away the sweat. Outer layers with high breathability and tailored jackets featuring techno-terms like "thermoregulation" have stepped into the winter sports clothes closet. Dark, heavy coats of yesteryear have evolved to a broad palette of splashy color blocks, single colors, even some retro-80's neon – yet just like skiers of the last century, "practical" still rules slope fashion.

When this duo was done for the day, they hung up their straight, long boards and no doubt headed inside to rest in their rockers – and rockers are just what today's skiers are looking for. Rocker skis are a twist on the traditional ski design. While traditional skis have tips and tails resting on the ground, with the middle or "camber" rising slightly above ground, rocker skis are wider and flatter with a slight rise towards the tip (dubbed "early rise" or "reverse camber" by the hard goods guys). Powderhounds have been using this Fat Boys style for years to help them float through the snow.

But now, that design style is taking hold of all-mountain skis. Skis are becoming longer, fatter and increasingly including the rocker design features that used to be the province of the steep and deep crowd. On icy or corduroy conditions, a rocker's design shortens the effective edge of the ski which is in contact with the snow, so that despite its overall length, it handles like a shorter powder ski. In the deep stuff, the shape and length of a rocker ski helps stability and flotation. Applying this rocker profile to the newer all-mountain skis means skiers can crank out the turns on heavy crud, soft freshies, boilerplate, or whatever slope condition type prevails.

And just like 100 years ago, it's all about layering up to stay warm, strapping on the boards, and getting out in the cold – which never gets old.

Fresh off the Farm
Nancy Story - Thursday, October 18, 2012

Executive Chef Glenn Noffsinger

This week's blog post is authored by Executive Chef Glenn Noffsinger.

Crystal’s Farm-to-Table series is all about featuring our local farmers and their wonderful products.  It’s about establishing relationships, supporting our community, and practicing sustainable food practices.  We want our guests and employees to know where their food comes from and how it was raised.

 Each month we take the food service staff on a tour of the farm we’re featuring so that they get first-hand experience of where our restaurant sources its products.  Staff members meet the farmer, and can then share that experience with our dinner guests

The menus have exciting regional flavors, showcasing food directly from the farmer.  We celebrate the seasons of Northern Michigan and promote the wide variety of products   available here.   Many regionally sourced ingredients are offered on our menus year round, but the Farm-to-Table series is hyper-local and runs at the Thistle Pub & Grille from May through October on the third weekend of each month for three nights. (Thursday thru Saturday, and reservations are strongly recommended).

October’s menu arrives this weekend (Oct. 18-20) featuring butternut squash bisque with ginger cream and house-made cinnamon & allspice croutons.  There’s also roasted pork tenderloin with blueberry-peach chutney and traditional stuffing, followed by Pumpkin cheesecake with candied walnut crust, chevre cheese and Chantilly cream. It’s a feast made possible by the efforts of local farmers at Middle Branch farm, Sanders Meats, Smeltzers Orchards, Cherry Bay Orchards, Land of Goshen and Cream Cup Dairy.

Some of my personal Farm-to-Table favorites this year have included spring’s grilled flatbread with asparagus, morel mushrooms and chevre cheese, plus summertime specialties like Caprese Salad of heirloom tomato and fresh mozzarella with basil-almond pesto, cedar-planked Harrietta Hills rainbow trout with fire-roasted tomato quinoa and charred orange,  maple-rosemary braised chicken thigh with creamy polenta, smoked country ham and navy bean cassoulet,  chocolate crème brulee and espresso crème anglaise……I could keep going, but I have to get back to the kitchen. Hope to see you at the Thistle!

Get Your Ride On
Nancy Story - Thursday, October 11, 2012

Get your ride on. This Saturday's 7th annual Peak2Peak mountain bike race calls for brilliantly sunny skies, delightful temperatures, dry terrain……NOT.  Wrong crystal ball. Wrong state.  Weather’s forecasted to be around 54 degrees with rain – meaning it’s a race made in Michigan for October.    

Jeff Betz, owner of Ludington’s Trailhead Bike Shop and one of the race sponsors, shakes off the forecast like the seasoned veteran he is. “Just dress to stay dry,” he notes. “The key is to keep your hands and feet warm”. He’ll be using winter mountain biking shoes, noting that summer shoes are made for ventilating the feet, so they’ll get wet quickly in nastier weather. He favors lobster-style mitts for the hands – “I’ve got a pair, and I love ‘em”, he says. Lightweight nylon coats, nylon wind front tights or Gore-Tex pants that don’t get caught in the chain are all good choices. Some riders put on glasses, but Jeff prefers not to use them himself. “People that do use them like to wear the clear lens,” he said. “But if you’re riding behind somebody, the glasses get wet and blur your vision – you have to keep wiping them off.”  

Riders don’t really need to do any special bike prep for the wetter weather, Jeff says, although they might want to lower the air pressure in their tires to make it easier for the tires to hug soft ground.  After the race, it’s a good idea to clean and re-lube your bike as soon as possible.

So bring the rain gear and saddle up at the start for a classic Michigan ride. “Actually, the Peak2Peak course is pretty easy; most of it’s fairly flat except for the trip down to the (Betsie) river and the North Face climb,” Jeff says.  With lots of single track winding through the trees, wet weather actually keeps forested trails packed down in any sandy spots. (Keep an eye out for wet roots!) And for any riders with energy to spare after the race, there’s the Crystal Trifecta downhill bike race at 4pm. Peak2Peak racers can receive $5 off their entry – just register at the Mountain Adventure Zone tent from 3-4pm.  


Awe-tumn in the Art Park
Nancy Story - Wednesday, October 03, 2012


They call it awe-tumn for a reason. Nature’s artistry splashes bright colors across the northwoods canvas of October. But the hand of human artists also comes into play within the woods of the Michigan Legacy Art Park here at Crystal.  Over 40 pieces of artwork are displayed on nature’s stage, scattered throughout the 30-acre park.  

It sure adds a different element to your standard fall trek through the trees. Taking a hike is more like a treasure hunt, as trails wind through hills & hardwoods featuring subtle sculptures, designs, and captivating creatures rising from the forest floor.  Keep your eyes peeled for the frog, search for the fairy ring, seek out the clan symbols on the trees, hunt for the serpent mound, or explore the stockade labyrinth.  Each piece connects to the park’s mission of bringing people, nature and history together. Artists draw from the history of Michigan and the elements of nature as their thematic guide, crafting their work with both natural and synthetic materials. 

This Sunday, Oct. 7, the Art Park hosts a Family Day from 1-4pm.  Designed to spur creativity, participation, and exploration, the event is not just a walk in the Park. There are workshops both musical and whimsical, photo scavenger hunts and guided tours to take it all in.  Admission is $3 per person or $10 per household.  Join us for an afternoon in the Park, where autumn’s natural splendor joins hands with the imaginative skills of over a dozen artists.

And beyond next Sunday, here’s a tip: once hunting season arrives, the Art Park is a safe oasis for hikers looking for a walk in the woods, where the only hunting allowed is tracking down artist Sandra Osip’s Tribute to White-Tailed Deer.  You’re welcome to shoot – with your camera.