Where snowsports survive until April, and then weather gives way to waterfalls

Where snowsports survive until April, and then weather gives way to waterfalls

Travel Marquette by Nate Reens

After eyeballing sparse seasonal snowfall totals across the Lower Peninsula, Kyle Lafrinere steps outside his office and assesses the crowd at Marquette Mountain, where guests are hitting the hills, riding the terrain park rails and heading out for some backcountry skiing.

“We definitely haven’t had that problem here,” Lafrinere said, with a bit of a laugh, referring to the accumulation of snow elsewhere in Michigan. “We’re using all natural snow, better snow than what the machines make. But we’ve upgraded our snowmaking infrastructure, so when we need it, we’ll have it. New snow guns, new pump system, those will keep us going (later than most ski areas).”

Marquette Mountain opened in mid-November and Lafrinere expects that it will remain open until mid-April, making it a prime attraction for ski-deprived snow-seekers across Michigan. Snowfall is down in Michigan except for the Upper Peninsula, and as usual, winter will last longer in Marquette, providing an outlet for fatbikers, snowshoers and snowmobilers who have been stymied by the lack of storms. Marquette in winter

“If you’re looking to get outside, there’s no better place than Marquette in the winter,” Lafrinere said. “We’ve got everything that you want to do in the area. There’s a lot of variety for skiers of all abilities here to enjoy themselves.

“Plus, there are all sorts of options for people who want to do other activities. It’s pretty amazing to have a spot where you can do it all.”

Here’s a rundown of what to experience in Marquette, including a primer on where to grab brunch to fuel your adventures:

Noquemanon Trail Network

skiing in Marquette, MI

The all-purpose 50K trail system with point to point journeys or looped adventures can be used for snowshoeing, hiking and cross-country skiing. The fast trail features flowy terrain, steep descents and large bermed turns at different points on outings. Ski and snowshoe rentals are available at the Forestville Trailhead, which is popular among first time visitors. Users on foot or snowshoe should avoid trails that are groomed for skiing. Dogs are welcome, on-leash, on many of the trail routes.

Winter Hiking

Trails up Sugarloaf Mountain and Blueberry Ridge remain popular in the winter.  Snow-covered views of the Marquette region and its features are breath-taking. The half-mile trail will be slower-going with snow, but the terrain is manageable for people of all fitness and skill levels. The city’s 12-mile multi-use trail is another great option to get those steps in. The Eben Ice Caves, Yellow Dog Falls and Hogsback Mountain are other potential outings.

Fatbiking

Marquette is home to more than 60 miles of bike trails that can be used during the winter months, showing that the riding doesn’t have to wait for the warmer months (although the trails are great then, too.) The Noquemanon network is known for its ability to challenge all users while also offering rides for beginners. Meanwhile, the Range Area Mountain Bike Association in Ispheming has 20 miles of groomed winter trails among its 77 total miles of handbuilt singletrack. There are multiple trailheads that can be found here.

Snowmobiling

The U.P. is a snowmobilers Mecca with 58 trails covering more than 400 miles, all maintained by various clubs and organizations. There are stops for good food and fuel along the way as you travel through dense forests, wide open ranges and experience up to 3,000 feet of elevation change. Find all the resources, including maps, trail conditions and regulations to learn before your travels.

Waterfalls

There are 11 amazing waterfall options around Marquette. The changing seasons give waterfalls a unique look whenever visitors travel north to explore, but the late winter and early spring produce water volumes that peak with the snow melt. The mesmerizing views and sound of rushing water will make visitors feel like they’ve stumbled upon one of the most beautiful places on earth. Family and pet friendly options include Wright Street Falls in Marquette and Laughing Whitefish Falls State Park in nearby Alger County. Morgan Creek Falls is another great choice, but the trail is open to snowmobilers until March 31 so hikers may want to wait until April 1.

Visit Travel Marquette to learn more about the region and plan your visit.