Bundled in sporty parkas and cozy fleece hats, Collette and Rudy Henderson tromp across packed powder on racquet-shape snowshoes. Their steps, a staccato of heavy crunches, resound beneath an inky star-studded sky. “Anybody hear anything?” asks Nicole, their night-hike guide. She scans the forest of white-frosted pines next to the lighted trail. The 50-something couple from East Lansing, Michigan, pause. Silence. “Usually, we hear owls or some kind of animals,” Nicole says. But the quiet is welcome on a brisk January night. No traffic. No loud voices. Just the serenity of the wintry woods, with a crescent moon above and the smoky scent of a bonfire in the distance.
That peacefulness keeps drawing the Hendersons to Crystal Mountain Resort and Spa in Thompsonville, Michigan, 28 miles southwest of Traverse City. “We love that it’s so isolated,” Rudy says. “Yet there’s always something to do.”
Like a handful of full-service ski resorts in northern Michigan, Wisconsin and northern Minnesota, Crystal Mountain exudes tranquility for travelers needing a little pampering, whether they’re interested in the downhill skiing or not. Horse-drawn surrey rides, toasty bonfires and a luxury spa offer calming moments within sight of 45 downhill runs, 30 miles of cross-country trails and snowmobiling trails. “I think our downhill skiing days are behind us,” Collette says with a laugh. “But I love the cross-country skiing trails.” Families with youngsters take advantage of kid-friendly events: a new outdoor obstacle course race, photo scavenger hunts and bedtime story readings from costumed characters.
Even a stroll through the village feels like a treat. Sidewalks wind past Craftsman-style bungalows, clapboard cottages and twinkle-lighted buildings—all against the backdrop of hills covered with ribbons of swishing downhill skiers. Six ski lifts whisk both teetering beginners and advanced skiers to the top of the slopes. First-timers don’t worry about clambering onto the wrong lift; each leads to at least one mellow green run. Skiers who last until nightfall witness a bonus: glittering views of the village below.