Powder days are great. No skier in their right of mind will ever tell you they don’t love powder days. Living in South East Michigan, we just don’t get that much snow and we don’t have tall mountains. Can you still ski powder? Yes, you can. Let’s talk about where to ski powder in Michigan.
For a powder day were really talking about at least 6 inches of fresh light fluffy snow on the ground. You just don’t really get that floaty awesome feeling with less. We want it to be worth our time and money if we’re talking a road trip up north and a hotel room to make it happen.
Where is the snow?
Here in the great lakes region, we get something called Lake Effect Snow. Air passing over the great lakes picks up moisture and then dumps it over the land. The prevailing wind current over North America is west to east.
The areas primarily benefiting from the lake effect are the eastern shore of Michigan, the Keweenaw Penninsula and the north shore of the upper peninsula.
When the Great Lakes freeze over the lake effect machine turns off as the ice effectively acts as an evaporation cap preventing moisture from transferring to the air. This means that once you get to the end of January, the lake effect storms go away. To learn more about Lake Effect look here.
Who gets the most snow in Michigan?
It’s pretty clear we’ve got to head to where the snow falls. Were not getting it in South East Michigan where we only average less than 50 inches a year.
Average Annual Snow Fall
- Mt Holly – 39 inches
- Nubs Nob – 123 inches
- Caberfae Peaks – 140 inches
- Boyne Mountain – 140 inches
- Boyne Highlands – 140 inches
- Mount Bohemia – 273 inches
- Marquette Mountain 149 inches
Where to ski powder in Michigan
To get the powder day in Michigan you’ve got to go ski where the snow falls right after it falls. To take advantage of the powder day you want as much ungroomed terrain as possible. Most ski resorts in Michigan will groom most of the runs even after a big snowfall. If skiing corduroy is your thing, that’s great. You can do that any day with or without a big snowstorm.
We’ve got to head up north to the ski resorts that are closer to the east shore of the lower peninsular or the U.P. The 2 best places to go ski powder in lower Michigan are Nubs Nob and Caberfae Peaks as a distant second.
Nubs Nob – Ski Michigan Powder spot 1.
Nubs Nob has a large amount of glades that aren’t groomed. Some of them require hiking or a rope tow which helps preserve the powder longer into the day. This is choice number 1. It has a large number of hotels nearby which makes it easy to be there for first chair in the morning.
Caberfae Peaks – Ski Michigan Powder spot 2
Caberfae Peaks has the backcountry and a decent amount of glade and areas along the side of trails they don’t groom. The backcountry is usually good for 1-2 hours after opening before it gets too skied out. Similar to Nubs, there is also a large number of hotels available nearby.
The 4 Detroit ski hills just aren’t worth going to for powder. They groom everything, get skied out 30 seconds after opening, and they just don’t get much snow.
Places with a lot of uphill capacity such as the Boynes also get skied out really quick. Less popular and less upgraded lifts is actually to your advantage on a powder day.
Mount Bohemia – Ski Michigan Powder spot 3
On the UP side of the bridge, Mt Bohemia is the prime powder day location if you can get there and if you can find a place to stay on short notice.
Powder is a gift to people who get up for first chair
If you want to get the goods, you’ve got to get up early. Powder days are feeding frenzies from opening until every bit of fresh snow is tracked up. If there is unskied snow left it just feels like you haven’t completed your job that day.
If you want the really good virgin untracked powder run, you’ve got to be the first person down that run. You’ve got to be the first person up the chair to get to it. Be at the ski resort with a ticket purchased and be in line for the chair when they start running. Where do you ski powder in Michigan? Nowhere if you don’t get up early to get it before everyone else does.
To make sure you can be there for the first chair, it’s a good idea to stay somewhere nearby the night before. You don’t want to be stuck crawling on I-75 through a bunch of snow accidents in the morning trying to get to Nubs by 8am.
Michigan weather forecasts suck
The weather forecasts in Michigan love to way over predict the snowfall amounts. Frequently they will call for 6 to 8 inches and 0 to 2 inches actually falls. For a true powder day, you are really interested in 6 inches and up. 12 inches is the mythical holy snowstorm that everyone wants.
I look at snow predictions from weather.com Accuweather, Weatherbug and Snow-Forecast to try and figure out the consensus. Look for all of them to be calling for 8 inches or more and showing this trend for several days leading up to a storm. If the amount is fluctuating a lot they probably really aren’t sure what the storm will do.
Sometimes they predict crazy numbers. Snow-Forecast was calling for 22inches at Blue Mountain this past weekend. The other forecasts were all calling for rain there. Guess what, it rained there. The majority opinion of the forecasts usually has more chance of being correct.
This past weekend we ran up to Caberfae Peaks. They were calling for 5 to 8 inches the afternoon before. Nubs was downgraded to 2-3 inches so we knew we wouldn’t get it there. We woke up maybe a dusting on the car in the morning in Cadillac. I was mega irritated at the lack of snow. When we got to Caberfae Peaks they did indeed get 6 inches of snow. Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes you get skunked too.
Persistence and Flexibility
If you want to ski the powder in Michigan you need to stay flexible and watch the forecasts until the last minute to guess where it will fall. Save booking your hotel room until right before you leave. The forecasts like to throw curveballs at you last minute. This is easy for Nubs Nob and Caberfae. This can be a lot more challenging for Mt Bohemia because there aren’t a ton of rooms up there.
Sometimes we go weeks between snow storms. Sometimes we just get little 2 to 3 inchers but no big dumps for weeks. If you keep watching and make the effort sooner or later you’ll get rewarded.
I’ve gotten more powder the last 2 winters in Michigan then I have on a couple of trips out west each winter. I have to plan those months in advance and then hope it snows which it usually doesn’t.
Good luck with your hunt. Where do you like to ski powder in Michigan? What tips do you have? Leave a comment.
You might also like:
- Mount Bohemia Ski Resort
- Powder Mountain, Utah. Great skiing for you and 1500 of your best ski friends
- The 12 Best Advanced Ski Runs Michigan Has To Challenge Expert Skiers
About the author
My name is Ryan C. I am an adventure sports fan and an avid skier, sailor, mountain biker who also enjoys kayaking, and travel. I take any chance I can get to get out in the snow or water. I decided to start this website as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for adventure sports and travel.