Michigan snowsports organization promotes outdoor recreation


A skier at Nub’s Nob in Harbor Springs, Michigan, one of the 33 resorts that participate in a White Gold Card promotion. IMAGE: Pure Michigan

By Stephanie Rauhe

For outdoor recreation enthusiasts, the colder weather heralds the arrival of snow sports.

One of the more popular winter recreation sports is skiing, with over 2 million skiers visiting Michigan slopes every year, according to Pure Michigan, the state’s tourism and information agency.

The Michigan Snowsports Industries Association created a pass in 1995 called the White Gold Card, which allows a person to ski once at each of the 33 participating areas.

The association was formed to increase awareness of snowsports and introduce prospective participants to skiing and snowboarding.

Mickey MacWilliams, the executive director at the association, said interest has been high in the last eight years.

“We sell out every year, and while that wasn’t true right at the beginning, the passes sell faster and faster now, ever since COVID,” MacWilliams said. “They just fly right off as soon as I have them available and they’re gone.”

Only 400 passes are sold per year, with this year’s price at $349. The retail value of the offer is over $2,000.

Outdoor recreation has a positive impact on Michigan’s economy, growing 11.8%t between 2021 and 2022, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

In 2022, outdoor recreation provided $12.36 billion in value for Michigan, while 2.7% of jobs statewide are supported through outdoor recreation, according to the agency.

The association challenges purchases to ski or snowboard in all 33 participating areas in the 2023-24 season. If they succeed, they get a free pass for the 2024-25 season.

“There’s an incentive for them to go to every single ski area, and it’s fun and neat for people to want to travel around their state,” MacWilliams said. “Sometimes people don’t think to go out because the resorts aren’t near their general region, so this gives them an opportunity to try these places out.”

Some of the participating locations are Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville, Marquette Mountain in Marquette, Mt. Holiday in Traverse City and Nub’s Nob in Harbor Springs.

Kaet Johnson, the general manager at Marquette Mountain, said the pass benefits the state’s ski industry.

“It brings in travelers that may not normally come into town and want to give Marquette Mountain a try,” Johnson said. “It also helps fund the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association, and it’s a great support to the ski industry and all the resorts in Michigan.”

The association also has a promotion called the Cold is Cool Passport, an app that allows 4th and 5th graders to ski free at participating locations.

“Around 4,000 families get these passports every year,” MacWilliams said. “We have 29 participating ski areas so families are encouraged to go and travel around.”

This year’s ski season is Nov. 11, 2023, to April 16, 2024.

Stephanie Rauhe reports for Capital News Service

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