Extreme Ski. . . Michigan!


Mike Murphy has just skied off a cliff. It is tall and sheer, an abrupt breach in a ski slope that, though sporting, seems otherwise legitimate and sane. He didn’t hesitate. It was: Point the skis and jump, legs tucked up, gloves pushed forward in fists, a bird if but for a moment flying in the gray Michigan sky.

Now it’s my turn. I’m standing in Murphy’s tracks, looking out, mist rising from the forest below. I’m leaning on my ski poles, the plastic handles against my chest, peering over the edge. It’s 20 feet to the snow. Twenty feet of freefall to a crater where Murphy touched down, exploded in a ball of white, then skied away like a thief. A voice yells up: “You gonna huck it?”

mount bohemia chute.jpg

Mike Murphy airborne at Mount Bohemia; Photo by T.C. Worley

It’s the third run of the day at Mount Bohemia, a tiny ski area on Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. The theme of the resort, which opened as a rustic ski hill in 2000 with two used chairlifts and no chalet, is adventure. Black diamonds dot the trail map. Tree runs and steep chutes flank the hill. Cliffs are common. A sign at the entrance to the resort reads “Warning: NO BEGINNERS ALLOWED.”

Indeed, Mount Bohemia is an anomaly in the Midwest, where short runs, manmade snow and icy slopes are the norm. There’s no bunny hill at Bohemia. And the area eschews grooming machines, keeping its slopes in their natural snowy state.

mount bohemia signs.jpg

Signage at Bohemia: ‘No Beginners Allowed!’

Bohemia is a ski area with no snow-making equipment. All the white stuff on the ground comes from the sky, sometimes 300 inches in a season, the most seen at any Midwestern resort. Two intermediate trails wind from the top of the mountain. Otherwise, all runs are black diamond or even more difficult.

My run at the moment — the triple-black-diamond-rated “Slide Path” — cuts a white swath through a prow of rock on Bohemia’s front face. Murphy, a skier from Appleton, Wis., who I’d met on a chairlift ride, is somewhere below and out of sight.

“All clear?” I yell, tapping a pole on the cliff’s edge to check snow depth on the rock. The sky is low, snow swirling in wind. Lake Superior brews fog from its icy plane to the east. “Go!” comes the shout up the cliff, a faint affirmation through wind and snow.

mount bohemia snowboard.jpg

Bohemia has no grooming machines and no snowmaking; Photo by T.C. Worley

I’d left my home in Minneapolis at 3a.m., driving for seven hours north and east with T.C. Worley, a friend and photographer. Sunrise was on an empty road somewhere in northern Wisconsin. Then it was 150 miles through Michigan’s U.P., the land tapering to a point as the Keweenaw Peninsula approached the center of Lake Superior.

continued on next page. . .

Posted by Tom - 11/29/2010 12:19 PM

Nice! Thanks for sharing :)

Posted by Emanuel - 12/01/2010 12:47 PM

This is awesome!!

Posted by bruce - 12/07/2010 10:09 PM

Mt. Bohemia is the real deal. Amazing terrain and amazing snow. I’ve skied all over out west but every year I still get a season pass and drive 8 hours for tons of fun and challenge.

Posted by David C Mozinski - 12/12/2010 01:44 PM

I have been coming back to Bohemia since it opened 12 years ago. I am extra lucky because it is the only place my wife will ski in the midwest as no other place is good enough. I have run into Glen Plake at Tahoe and at Bohemia. I still have not been able to ski all 80 some runs. I plan to have Lonnie show me the six new ones this year.

Posted by Charlie Ruffing - 01/20/2011 08:42 AM

I am a ski and snowboard instructor from the west..well…I was born in the midwest and then migrated.I have worked at ski resorts all over the West teaching skiing and snowboarding,I became a certified instructor at Steamboat,Colorado,I then worked at resorts in Utah,Nevada,New mexico just to name a few.

Before becoming an instructor I worked in almost every department at the resort. My parents are from the midwest and they are getting up in their years which brings me to my point.I am looking for some decent skiing close to Chicago yet not as far as Colorado…Is Bohemia the way to go…Decent steep stuff?Whats the longest run?Any ski jobs up there?Whats the local scene like? Is it long time skier friendly? Whats the vibe?

Posted by Matt - 02/07/2011 05:54 PM

Charlie Ruffing, I am going there in 3 days. Will post results.

Posted by Mike D - 10/20/2011 10:37 AM

Mt. Bohemia is for real! As steep and gnarly as anywhere I have ever been in CO. Tons of awesome tree zones, gullies and cliffs. All natural. No grooming or snow making. Some amazing powder days. NOT FOR BEGINNERS!!
It is in the middle of nowhere really. There is a little store/ bar/ restaurant about 1/4 mile away and some other places 7-10 miles away. It’s really awesome, IMO, that U are in the middle of nowhere. Smaller crowds (U really only see ppl at the lift) so more powder for U!

Posted by Jesse - 02/01/2012 03:05 PM

Thanks for writing up the U.P., Stephen! You should visit Munising some February for the ice climbing festival.




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