My Family’s Trip to Shanty Creek Resort
One of the greatest things snowboarding has given me is the opportunity to spend time with friends and family. When I was only eight years old, my father and I began the journey of learning how to snowboard together. My earliest memories of snowboarding were of my father and I spending every snow covered day together on the slopes of Swiss Valley Ski Area. In middle school, my social life revolved around Wednesday night ski club. Every week my friends and I would gather at lunch to talk about new tricks we wanted to try out. Most of the friendships I made throughout my time in middle school fostered from a love for snow and a passion for riding.
Depending on the person, a weekend without cell phone service could be thought of as unenjoyable. Nine times out of ten I am that person, but I wanted something different from the routine I had inadvertently found myself in. The feeling of freedom was exactly what I was chasing. For the last couple months, the amount of time I have been able to dedicate to myself has been extremely limited. In my third year at GVSU, the responsibilities I have acquired have quickly begun to multiply. I had spent the previous weeks on the edge of sleep deprivation, taking advantage of every opportunity to study for mid-terms.
When my parents reached out to me about a weekend getaway they were planning, I needed no time to think. A winter retreat was exactly the opportunity I had been waiting for. The isolation from my responsibilities in combination with the inclusion of my family provided me an unforgettable experience at Shanty Creek Resorts.
I left Grand Rapids around 4:30 p.m. with a SoundCloud playlist ready to help pass the time. Great progress was made during the drive to Bellaire and I was able to reach the resort by 7:00 p.m. Something about car rides works up an appetite in me, so I directed my family to convene at Ivan’s, a restaurant located at the base of Schuss Mountain. My parents had arrived shortly after and our family retreat had officially begun.
Upon entering Ivan’s, I was excited when I saw renovations made since my last appearance. The most noticeable addition was a stage, which enhanced the atmosphere at night during live performances. After we finished our dinner, I realized I was as eager to fall asleep as a kid on Christmas Eve. Considering how many times I had been snowboarding in the last few years, tomorrow basically was Christmas.
Long Awaited Reunion
I had only seen the slopes a couple times last season, so I was long overdue for a visit to Shanty Creek. I collected my belongings and regrouped with my father outside the lodge. Before we could strap in, my mother’s cell phone was out and ready to capture a moment that hadn’t existed in a long time. My father has been right beside me on the slopes for over 15 years. Shanty Creek has been a favorite of ours ever since we made our first appearance back in 2003.
A photo was snapped and we made our way through Shanty’s signature drainage pipe and down into the base of the purple chairlift. The weather was windy, but the sunlight and adrenaline provided me with enough warmth. As someone who has spent much of their life in the terrain park, I was quick to notice Shanty’s upgrade courtesy of Monster Energy Drink. The lime green fixtures were very pleasing to the eye and inspired me to make several visits throughout the weekend.
Despite the thrill the terrain park had to offer, my father and I both agreed that our first run should be spent on Queen’s Corner, a twisting trail that provided us with ample opportunity to test our boards in the current conditions. The trail led us around the East edge of Schuss Mountain, all the way until we reached the pink chairlift. On our ride up, the wind punished us for selecting that side of the mountain.
Carving My Own Path
One of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed snowboarding at Shanty Creek is the variety of trails they have to offer. My favorite trails to ride follow deep into the woods and have me constantly carving to avoid contact with trees. With this in mind, we made our back towards the North side of the mountain down near the purple lift, but continued on further down the trail.
I always forgot about the existence of the red lift, tucked between two heavily wooded areas that also provided shelter from the wind. The seclusion on the red lift provided more opportunity than any other area of the resort to avoid running into other riders. This section of the mountain challenged my father and I much more than we had anticipated. For someone who considers themselves to be an advanced rider, I found myself struggling to carve cleanly enough to avoid minor falls. Some runs I took my time, traveling through trees on the lookout for man-made jumps. Most of the time, my need for speed resulted in me strapping my boots down extra tight and taking off down the mountain, gaining enough speed to draw attention from those on the chairlift. After a spill that resulted in snow getting everywhere it shouldn’t, I found myself having more fun that day than any other in the last several years.
Fat Bike Racing
The sun was beginning to set; it was time for us to make our way over to Schuss Mountain for the first Fat Bike race of the weekend. Staring down at the competitors was a hill that most might avoid on skis, let alone a bicycle. Riders had to peddle their way up the lower section of the mountain and then brace themselves for the trip back down. Once they made their way down the slope and around the gates, the trail led them through the trees and out of sight.
My family and I gathered outside of Ivan’s to cheer my father on despite the frigid temperatures that night. His competitiveness showed; after falling behind in his first heat, he rallied hard to finish third overall. Considering the race was sponsored by Short’s Brewing Company, we thought it was appropriate to pay a visit into town to celebrate. I have been 21 for less than six months and have not had the opportunity to visit many breweries, so I had no idea what to expect.
Short’s Brewing Company
When we arrived at Short’s, it was obvious that this was the spot to be. Patrons were piling in; some were so eager to drink they didn’t bother to change out of their ski boots. We didn’t mind waiting around for a table because there was plenty to behold. One area of the pub featured the famous Starcut Ciders truck, positioned next to a matching trailer selling their merchandise. Other areas included dart boards and pool tables for guests to game with a stage featuring live performances on the other side of the brewery.
Earlier that day when I had been snowboarding, I had spotted several people wearing a blue and gray beanie from Short’s Brewing Company. Seeing the hat worn around the resort made it absolutely necessary that I purchase one before I left that night. After searching every corner of the brewery, we finally learned about the Short’s gift shop located just two doors down, success! Upon entering, we found ourselves overwhelmed by the amount of Short’s merchandise on display. Décor, apparel and other items unique to their store were all available for purchase. Being a shopaholic, I wanted everything I could get my hands on. I was able to partially corral my impulsive spending and walk away with the beanie I so desperately desired, a Short’s flannel, a Soft Parade wall print and a bottle opener. Feeling like a million bucks, we headed back to the brewery just in time to receive our table.
As we sat down, I noticed a blackboard that read “Live Music @ 8:30”. Glancing down at my phone, we were only minutes away from the band taking the stage. We quickly put in our food order and shortly after, the band Turbo Pup took the stage. When it comes to music, I am not afraid to voice my opinion based on what I hear during a performance. From the moment the band came on, my attention was focused, watching their members sing, play violin, guitar and more. Throughout my time at Short’s, I enjoyed what I heard from Turbo Pup. Even though I wasn’t able to recognize any lyrics from that night, I witnessed enough people mouthing the words to lead me to believe the crowd was into their performance. If it wasn’t clear then, it sure was when I witnessed the crowd cheering them on even after the band had begun their break. The dinner served to us was both delicious and the perfect ending to our night. It had been a long day for all of us and I couldn’t deny it any longer; my body was sore. By 10:00, it was time for us to make our way back to the condo so we could save any energy we had left for tomorrow.
Despite the early bed time, I woke up exhausted on top of feeling sore. I was determined to not let my body slow me down; all I needed was a hearty breakfast to provide me with enough energy to get me back out on the slopes. That morning, I feasted on the breakfast buffet over at The River Bistro. Following breakfast, my father competed in another Fat Bike race, this time against more competitors than the last. I secured a seat within the lodge that provided me with the perfect view to watch the beginning of the race. As sore as my body was, I could only imagine how my father must’ve been feeling.
None of what we had done this weekend seemed to slow my father down because he finished the race with another third place victory. After witnessing my father’s performance on his bike, there was no way I was going to allow my body to keep me from riding my snowboard for the last couple hours we had at Shanty Creek. As soon as I strapped in and the volume of my music was raised, my body felt rejuvenated and I was glad to be back on the slopes. I even welcomed the cold air brushing against my face because I knew I was going to miss it eventually.
I made the most of my time by hitting all my favorite runs from yesterday; it was even more enjoyable with less riders on the mountain. Despite my body’s limitations, I felt much more daring in the terrain park. Hitting every jump and rail in site, I quickly regretted not having the confidence in myself earlier in the weekend. Shortly after my father and I completed our last run we discussed plans to continue making trips to not only Shanty Creek, but as many places as possible. We unstrapped our bindings one last time and said our goodbyes to the snowy slopes. After the time we had this weekend, we knew we would be back in the future.
Spending a weekend away at Shanty Creek Resort was the most refreshing experience I have ever had. Throughout most of the weekend I was without cell phone service, allowing me to fully relinquish myself from the responsibilities that normally constrain me. Emails from work and school could be placed on hold as I finally had the opportunity to put myself first.
I had only been snowboarding one other time this season and only a handful of times within the last few seasons. As I’ve gotten older, the time I have to dedicate to my friends and family has become extremely limited too. Most often, the only time my family and I have to spend together is during hectic holidays and we can’t fully appreciate each other’s company. Spending the weekend together at Shanty Creek was the perfect way for my family to recoup some of the time we haven’t been able to spend together.
Another factor that has severely impacted the amount of time I dedicate to snowboarding is the lack of cooperation from Mother Nature. In my previous blog post, I talked about a phenomenon in the winter sports industry known as “backyard syndrome”; a term used to describe the lack of motivation a person has to ski or snowboard due to the absence of snow in their own backyard.
Personally, I have suffered greatly from this allusion. With some of the recent weather we have been experiencing in Michigan, I was skeptical of the conditions I would face at Shanty Creek. To my surprise, the conditions provided us with plenty of snow throughout the entire weekend. Not only was the weather great, but the small number of people occupying the slopes made it even more enjoyable. After the experience that I had this weekend, not only do I plan on devoting more time to snowboarding, but I plan on utilizing my research on backyard syndrome to help fight the phenomenon and assist riders with tracking down the right conditions.
There is still plenty of season left to shred folks! I encourage you to browse our list below of the Michigan Ski Resorts that are still open.
Michigan Ski Resorts Open (Updated March 10th)
Resorts featured below are currently open or will be open this weekend.