‘Hidden gem’ ski resort now open to public after nearly 80 years a private property

‘Hidden gem’ ski resort now open to public after nearly 80 years a private property

Otsego Club and Resort by Matt Vande Bunte

Excuse Michelle Norton for gushing about downhill skiing in the middle of golf season, but that’s what happens when she reads Google reviews for the Otsego Resort like these:

  • “Best downhill skiing and snowboarding in the Gaylord area! The once private ski club is now open to the public. Great dining, bars and lodging available. Public Skiing…Private Feeling!”
  • “Hidden Gem! The ski club was apparently private up until very recently. There was a fantastic base of manufactured snow under another generous helping of natural snow. The entire ski area was beautifully groomed every morning we went out.”

The public praise for the resort’s 29 runs and three terrain parks, which are served by 5 lifts and a tow rope, are relatively new.

The ski resort was a private club for the first 78 years of its life. New owners have breathed new life into the resort, which is located about 1 mile off I-75 and downtown Gaylord.

“We have 80 years of rich history behind us, and now, with skiing being open to the public, we have a bright future ahead of us as we introduce our property to a whole new generation of skiers,” said Norton, the Gaylord resort’s Director of Sales and Marketing.

Gary and Kathie Vollmar took ownership of the sprawling property, which includes the renowned public golf courses The Tribute and The Classic, in the fall of 2018. After guiding it through their first winter, the resort leadership is ready to show it off for more families’ winter ski vacations. Last winter, the resort also offered Disco Tubing.

“There’s nothing like this ski resort in Michigan, and for years, it’s been this secret because it was private,” Norton said. “People had no knowledge of how pristine the skiing is here. When you drive into the property it has a typical resort layout. However, when you enter the lodge and walk to the full wall of floor to ceiling windows you are amazed to be looking out on a 27-mile vista view of the Sturgeon River Valley.

“The view of the valley is absolutely jaw-dropping and a breath-taking scene. It never gets old to watch the guests facial expressions as they are mesmerized by the pure beauty that is before them.  This is the reason we call ourselves Michigan’s “Hidden Gem of the North.”

Norton explains that the Otsego Resort’s ski hills are formed by a natural bowl shape of the land. The lodge sits above the runs instead of the usual layout where guests stare up at a mountain from the bottom of the slopes.

The topography creates an ability to keep natural snow longer into the season while also giving the staff exceptional snowmaking abilities to ramp up Northern Michigan snow in the pre-season of November.

But it’s not just the skiing that draws people to the four-season resort. The golfing opportunities carry equally stunning Sturgeon Valley views as the Classic course has been winding through the woods, water and wildlife since the 1950s. The Tribute, meanwhile, opened in 2001 and immediately earned a reputation as one of Michigan’s top-10 public courses.

The player-friendly designs are challenging, but wide fairways are as forgiving as the tree-lined courses are beautiful. William H. Diddel designed the Classic, which became the founding course of the Gaylord Golf Mecca, while Rick Robbins lent his skills to the Tribute’s design.

“The courses really showcase the valley and all of its beauty,” Norton said.

The Vollmars’ investment in the Northern Michigan golfing mainstay include adding a new fleet of Yamaha gas-powered golf carts that pair with a smartphone app to tell players more about the holes they’re playing and giving them the power to order food at the turn.  They are also adding a full service half way house on the Tribute this season.


“It’s just one of the many signs of the commitment that the owners have for this property,” Norton said. “They’re extremely passionate about building the resort up and taking it to the next level.  There is a lot of history at our property; we just want to showcase the beauty of this charming Bavarian resort.”


The staff shares the dedication to making the Otsego Resort a four-season resort for travelers and the local community. The grounds are available for corporate outings, weddings and other celebratory events as well as meeting space that can accommodate intimate crowds of eight to large-scale gatherings of up to 320. The resort has 80 rooms in its lodges and its Hilltop Lodge has eight richly appointed executive-style rooms with the building having a great room featuring a floor-to-ceiling see-through fireplace. There is also an open floor plan with a living room and large custom dining table.

There is also exceptional dining at the Duck Blind Grille and Bar while The Logmark provides a great place for friends to meet on the weekends for a cocktail or local craft beer. Groups can be surrounded by nature at the River Cabin that is available for summer organized functions.  There are many nightly promotions that are available to guests year-round.  Norton suggests that you follow them on Facebook to see the plethora of events to enjoy at the resort.

“Our goal is to make your visit, your vacation or your meeting an exceptional experience and one you’ll always remember,” Norton said, “and with our Northern Michigan hospitality and our commitment to providing exemplary customer service we believe we will do just that once you experience the new Otsego Resort.”

Visit the Otsego Resort’s website to plan your summer or winter getaway now.