Shanty Creek is a great value option for people looking for a one-stop place to eat, play and stay. Situated 30 minutes northeast of Traverse City, Shanty Creek is a four-season resort comprising three villages on 4,500 acres of property: Summit Village, Schuss Village and Cedar River Village. In the summer, visitors have access to four golf courses, 7 miles of mountain bike and nature trails, and weekly summer activities, such as bonfires, outdoor movies and bocce ball.
In the winter, skiing and snowboarding is the top draw. Known for its steep hills and bargain prices (ski and lodging packages start at less than $100), Shanty Creek offers 52 ski runs, 5 terrain parks and a tame tubing hill. Guests also take advantage of cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling on hilly snow-coated golf courses. The 30-km cross-country network links together all three Shanty Creek villages, and has excellent grooming.
Ski runs are split between two areas—Summit Mountain and Schuss Mountain. Schuss is the larger of the two, with a 450-foot vertical drop, and is open daily. (Summit is open only Friday, Saturday and Sunday.) It offers a nice array of terrain for varying abilities, with slopes separated by pretty stands of hardwoods. Beginners get started on a nice, segregated beginner area, then graduate to long, wide mellow runs that wind along the resort’s edge. For advanced skiers, Schuss offers appealing steeper pitches down the front face. All chairlifts meet at the top with the exception of everyone’s favorite, the Red Chair, which serves intermediate terrain tucked away in the trees.
Schuss has put a lot of effort into its four terrain parks, which have a wide variety of jumps, rails, berms and other features, all accessible from the same chairlift. One of the parks, “The Natty,” uses all natural materials—stumps and logs—to make its features, and is in a more wooded setting. It’s a clever idea. At the base of Schuss Mountain, Ivan's tavern-style restaurant serves the lunch and après-ski crowd, with local craft beer, crispy fried pickles, spicy chili and specialty pizzas, plus occasional live music.
The Lakeview Hotel (built in 1963) at Summit Village underwent a $10 million interior renovation, but it left the exterior out-of-date. The interior of the main lobby, the focus of the renovation, is much nicer. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows offer stunning views of the Summit ski slopes and Lake Bellaire. Stone walls with cozy fireplaces flank the room. Dark wood paneling and dark wood ceiling beams and wrought iron chandeliers add to the rustic coziness of the grand room. Overall, the 183 rooms are appealing and inviting, and many have large balconies with nice views of the ski slopes and lake. Other common areas, however—notably the spa and fitness area—are drab and not up to par with the rest of the resort.
Dinner at the ultra-quiet Lakeview Restaurant offered excellent small plates and so-so entrees. Tender lamb pops with sweet fig jam tasted almost dessert-like (in a good way). Alfredo mac and cheese topped with crunchy bacon was nice and creamy but not too rich. The macadamia-encrusted whitefish with cherry butter and risotto ($23) revealed a watery piece of fish underneath the crispy crust. The Pork Rapoza ($22), a grilled pork loin with cherry sauce, spaetzle and fennel, looked great but wasn't tender and had a charcoal-burned flavor to it. For dessert, we tried the cinnamon spice creme brulee, which was light and flavorful with an extra thick/crunchy top.
For an affordable winter getaway with a focus on skiing, Shanty Creek is a solid option.