Crystal Mountain – a winter oasis

January 19, 2014
A look back from the new Buck ski lift at Crystal..

A look back from the new Buck ski lift at Crystal..

By Allison Scarbrough. MCP Correspondent.

MCP Correspondent Allison Scarbrough and her daughter Sydney Scarbrough, 16, enjoy some night skiing at Crystal Mountain.

MCP Correspondent Allison Scarbrough and her daughter Sydney Scarbrough, 16, enjoy some night skiing at Crystal Mountain.

THOMPSONVILLE, Benzie County — I had been counting the days until my trip to Crystal Mountain Ski Resort from the moment I had planned it.

For you readers who have never visited the resort, it’s time that you do. For those of you who have been there, you need to return this season. Crystal was the OnTheSnow Visitors’ Choice Award Winner for the best ski resort in the Midwest for its terrain last month. And, with the heavy amount of snowfall and cold temperatures we’ve had this winter, the resort broke records this month with all 48 slopes open. This means Crystal Mountain has 100 percent of its terrain open earlier than any season in its nearly 60-year history.

The lodge at Crystal Mountain.

The lodge at Crystal Mountain.

Just 62 miles from Ludington, Crystal is approximately an hour drive from Mason County (depending on the weather conditions). The resort is situated in the tiny town of Thompsonville, which is the next town west of Copemish on Highway M-115.  Copemish is another small community like Thompsonville, and most people around here may not have heard of it, but it has very special meaning to me. It is the town where my dad and his 11 siblings were raised back during the depression era through the 1950s.  They lived in a modest three-bedroom home in Copemish with no running water and no electricity.  My grandfather, the late John Scarbrough, supported his one dozen children and loving wife, the late Malvina “Peggy” Scarbrough, by working on the railroad that chugged through Copemish.

I always enjoy the trip to Crystal Mountain not only filled with the anticipation of skiing and fun times ahead, but also overflowing with nostalgia and great pride in the Scarbrough name. From those 12 children, 45 grandchildren were produced, and I am the 44th in line.  (My brother Joe had to steal my limelight and be the youngest one at number 45.)  My cousin, DeeDee Scarbrough-Newberg, has worked at Crystal Mountain for over 20 years, and every time I visit I try to meet up with her. We may not get to see each other that often or for very long, but the strong Scarbrough bond is clearly evident when we join forces.

MCP Correspondent Allison Scarbrough rides the Crystal Clippe ski lift with friend Kevin Schultz.

MCP Correspondent Allison Scarbrough rides the Crystal Clippe ski lift with friend Kevin Schultz.

My 16-year-old daughter, Sydney, came along for the trip last week. We had a fantastic time together, schussing down the runs. I have skied a lot more than her over the years, but she did very well and probably surpassed my skiing level by the end of the expedition.  Crystal Mountain is an extremely family-oriented resort, providing fun for snow sports enthusiasts of all ages. I witnessed 3-year-olds skiing – and skiing very well – and silver-haired seniors zooming down the mountain.

You will see some impressive veteran skiers and snowboarders at Crystal, but you will also observe people there who are skiing for the first time in their lives. Crystal Mountain offers a wide variety of slopes that cater to all skill levels. So if you’ve never skied before, do not be intimidated — there are many beginners shaking in their ski boots, too.  There are bunny hills and towropes to get you going, and ski lessons are also available.

The main thing to keep in mind when first learning how to ski is:  the object of the game is to stay under control. Once you lose control, you run into trouble. Another bit of advice from this non-expert skier is to always be aware of other skiers and boarders around you, especially those in front of you. Crashing into other skiers on the slopes is taboo and a definite sign that you are out of control.

Something really cool at Crystal is the new Buck quad chairlift, which is a Skytrac Quad, similar to the Loki Quad installed two years ago. The Buck quad’s capacity allows skiers and snowboarders quicker access to the top where three new runs (Buckaroo, Buck Glades and Gorge Glades) await. The original Buck run was re-contoured as part of this project, which includes expansion and improvements to the slopes that are part of the resort’s recent $4 million investment.

If you’re not into alpine (downhill) skiing, you can always nordic (cross country) ski at Crystal. The resort offers a 40-kilometer trail network for all skill levels. I really enjoy Nordic skiing but have never done it at Crystal. I just figure if I’m at Crystal Mountain, I should be downhill skiing because there are fewer opportunities in general to alpine ski than Nordic ski. I have some friends who Nordic kit there regularly, and they just rave about how awesome it is.

Crystal is not only limited to skiing, however. The resort offers ice skating, horse-drawn surrey rides, fat-tire snow biking (something I’d really like to try one of these days), snowshoeing and many more fun winter activities for all ages. It is not just a winter resort, either. Crystal’s Mountain Ridge and Betsie Valley golf courses have received a prestigious 4-Star rating from Golf Digest magazine.  You can also enjoy a variety of lodging accommodations, restaurants, bars with entertainment, gift shops and more.

Nestled in the woodsy, rural and beautiful environment of Benzie County is a place that will take all your worries away — Crystal Mountain, a winter oasis.

For more information, visit www.crystalmountain.com or call (231) 378-2000.

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