Much like the summer golfing season – when Gary Vollmar and the staff at the Otsego Resort re-imagined protocols that let people enjoy the outdoors amid the COVID-19 pandemic – the team has developed a new vision that focuses on fun and safety for the winter ski season.
“People need to get outdoors to breathe fresh air and relax, it’s a great break from what has been a really stressful time,” said Vollmar, who purchased the resort in 2018 and has made substantial investments to make it a year-round destination. “We are getting creative in finding ways we can maintain the safety of our guests and staff while still being able to experience winter in northern Michigan.”
“We are rethinking our annual events and activities to find solutions that provide people with familiarity and stability along with safety.”
The resort, located about 1 mile off I-75 and downtown Gaylord, has done that with extensive ski and dining plans that allow for social distancing, capacity control and calls for extensive sanitization efforts. The 2020-21 winter marks the third year the formerly private ski hill will be open to the public.
The mountain’s natural bowl sits at the highest point in the famed Michigan Snow Belt, assuring exceptional skiing throughout the season on its 32 ski runs that are accessed by five chair lifts and a handle tow. The property has three tubing lanes, three terrain parks for snowboarders and 6.2 miles of marked cross-country ski trails.
“There’s something for everyone who wants to get out of the house and be active,” Vollmar said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s your first time on skis or if you’ve been at it for years, the hills are like new because the resort had such limited access for so long.”
Otsego Resort also has an unparalleled setting overlooking 20 miles of the Sturgeon River Valley. The one-of-a-kind view in Michigan is due to the lodge sitting above the runs instead of the usual shape where guests stare up at a mountain from the bottom of the slopes.
Resort guests will find thorough safety precautions because of the pandemic, including:
- Limit of daily lift tickets sold.
- Online purchase is strongly recommended.
- Lift lines will require mask use and allow single riders or 2 riders from the same household.
- Tubing will allow linking of only those from the same household.
- Installing smaller capacities in each building and staging lines outside as much as possible.
- Plexiglass partitions are present to protect guests and employees.
- One way traffic flow to minimize interaction between guests.
- Floor stickers and door signs reminding about social distancing throughout the resort.
- Masks are required upon entry into any building.
- All touch areas will be sanitized often.
- All employees will be health screened upon entry.
On the food and beverage side of operations, the resort has added multiple dining tents and igloos for up to six people of the same household to reserve and enjoy. There are also more outdoor fire pits to safely gather and social distance around. Reservations are recommended and masks will be worn by servers. The resort will re-evaluate indoor dining once allowed by the state, and that will come with proper sanitation practices.
“Everything is designed with safety and the best possible service in mind,” Vollmar said.
With remote-learning freeing up friends and family to travel for outdoor adventures, Otsego Resort designed mid-week “Ski & Stay” packages with two lift tickets and overnight lodging for $49 per person on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The resort also created “$10 Bump Days” for mid-week ski and dining deals on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The promotion features:
- $10 Rentals
- $10 ski lift tickets
- $10 tubing passes
- $10 rental skis
- $10 pepperoni or cheese pizza
- $10 burger & beer special
For the weekend traveler, Otsego Resort’s “Ski & Save” packages are available for two weekends in the new year, offering great deals for couples, friends or families. The offers are valid Jan. 8-10 and Jan. 29-31, subject to availability, and can be booked by calling 989-732-5181.
Here are the packages:
Two for Two: Two-night stay and a two-day lift ticket for two adults for $428.
Family Fun: Two-night stay and a two-day lift ticket for two adults and two children for $568.
Under the Vollmar’s ownership, the 80-room resort, which also has a hilltop retreat with eight executive-style rooms and a great room featuring a floor to ceiling see-through fireplace, has elevated position among Northern Michigan getaway locations.
“We have a constant focus on what we can do to make a visit here an incredible experience,” he said. “We want to stand out in the community and the industry for our customer service and ability to create a home away from home feeling. We can give people a place to look forward to visiting year-round.”