Today, an interview with Brave Ski Dad Tom Cook. Mount Bohemia has near-legendary status amongst free skiers and those who like their challenges cold. It’s often ranked among the harder resorts in North America, not just in the Midwest.
Tom is a self-described data nerd, sherpa, husband, and dad living in Michigan. He grew up XC skiing, but his wife taught him how to go down hills when he was 23. To date, he can out ski her only when she’s 6 months pregnant.
Why Mt. Bohemia?
Mt. Bohemia is our favorite place to ski. The terrain and conditions can’t be beat. Living in Michigan, we have to drive pretty far to ski. For us, it is a 20-hour drive to Colorado, so being able to get to great skiing in only 10 hours is a big plus.
To call Mt. Bohemia out of the way is an understatement. It is pretty much in the middle of Lake Superior. That combined with the terrain means that the people who go there go to ski and ride. Fluffy tourists are not part of the equation. It is also a pretty small operation. There are two chairs, and one only runs on weekends, but we have never been in line for more than a chair or two. Much of the terrain feeds to the road where you ski down and wait for a shuttle to come by and pick you up. Shuttle rides also give everyone a chance to warm up.
The lodge consists of four yurts connected together. One is the kitchen, gift shop and rental shop. The next yurt holds the bar and bathroom, and there is one yurt each for dining and picnickers. Ski Patrol has a their own yurt.
What makes Bohemia good for family skiing?
Mt. Bohemia has, by far, the best skiing in the Midwest. It has more vertical, powder, moguls, and glades than everything else in Michigan and the region. If your family loves glades and moguls, this is the place.
Mt. Bohemia is affordable. Nowhere else can we get ski-in/ski-out lodging with meals for anywhere close to the price.
Before we took our family, my wife and I scoped it out and we were blown away by the great skiing. The next winter we brought our daughter and two sons, then ages 8, 10, and 3 months, along with my in-laws. The four adults took turns tag-team babysitting, as there are no lessons or childcare. Our youngest is now 2 so tag-teaming still works, but when he starts as a beginner skier Mt. Bohemia won’t work for our family, until he progresses, as there are no green runs here. There are a couple of blues, but they are covered in moguls since nothing is groomed.
The atmosphere is down-to-earth: think casual party. And while there isn’t much for kids to do, it’s a small local place and they are accommodating. Thursday is movie night in the lodge and they make a point of showing the most kid-appropriate ski movie when we are their with our children. In the yurts noise can be an issue at night, especially if you have a baby to get to sleep.
Any “secrets” you’re willing to share?
- Free snowshoe rentals if you stay at the mountain.
- After lift closing there are free chips and salsa at the bar.
- Bring some warm clothes: we have skied in -34°F with the windchill.
- In early December they have a $99 season pass sale and you can get season passes for the whole family without breaking the bank.
- If you have season passes you pick up your lift ticket for the day at the bar.
How about advice for other families?
- Bring everything you need. The nearest grocery store is a half-hour away. If you forget any piece of your gear, it’s a two-hour round trip.
- Cell reception is spotty.
- There are no lessons, childcare, or easy runs, so make sure your kids are up to it.
- Figure out what books and games pack the most bang-for-the-buck and bring those along.
- Your kids might be the only young ones on the slopes, so be ready for a barrage of questions from parents who aren’t ready to take the Bohemia plunge.
- If you’re staying at the mountain, breakfast starts at 9-ish, and the slopes don’t open til 10:00 a.m. Our kids are usually exhausted and in bed shortly after dinner, but they wake up at 7:00 a.m. This means they need an early breakfast and something to do while we’re waiting to ski.
Suggestions for room and board?
Most restaurants and lodging are about an hour away in Houghton and Hancock.
You can also stay at Mt. Bohemia. On site lodging options are spartan. Options include 6 yurts, ski-out cabins and other cabins that are about a half-mile down the road. New this year is a log cabin building with a hostel, a bar, and a 19-person hot tub. Be aware that you must bring your own linens.
The plus is that breakfast (pancakes and sausage) and dinner (rotating entrée) are included. Bring your own lunch fixings. If you get a chance, stop for a pastie or smoked whitefish while you’re in the UP (this is what we call Michigan’s upper peninsula).
What makes Bohemia unique?
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was settled by Finnish and Swedish immigrants who came to the area for jobs in mining and lumber. They brought with them winter activities. Nearby is the only flat track luge hill in North America and the US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. On the way you pass Michigan Tech University which owns and operates a ski hill and extensive XC trail network.
Lake effect snow pounds the area and Mt. Bohemia has great snow, the most vertical in the Midwest and great terrain. Also, you can ski with a view of Lake Superior, the biggest freshwater lake in the world. But most importantly, NO GROOMING.
Any family ski tips for other parents?
Skiing is about having fun. Try to figure out how to make it fun for everyone (including the parents). Make sure that everyone’s gear fits and that everyone is warm. If you are the family Sherpa, take a breath and enjoy your time with your family.
What is your favorite thing about family skiing?
Threatening to put slow wax on everyone else’s skis!
But really, I love watching my kids thread in and out of trees that I could never make it through on my grown-up sized skis. And nothing is better than your kids bugging you to make sure they get first chair.
The Brave Ski Mom Adds…
I first heard about Mt. Bohemia from my son, who was then 14. He’d read about it in Powder magazine and was raring to go. We still haven’t been, but this post has only strengthened my resolve to get to Mt. Bohemia sometime in the next two seasons. Interestingly enough, while the UP and Mt. Bohemia are remote within Michigan, Bohemia is less than 5 hours from Duluth, Minnesota and six hours from Milwaukee.
More Midwest Skiing:
- Why I Love to Ski Blackjack, Michigan: An Interview with the Wisconsin Skier, March 13, 2013.
- Why My Family Loves to Ski Granite Peak, Wisconsin, March 28, 2012.
- Buck Hill, Minnesota: A Legend in Ski Racing, This Urban Area Has Year-Round Plans, April 18, 2016.
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