Spinal Column: Wishing a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in Michigan’s Winter Wonderland

The holidays are here, and during this joyous season, it is my sincere hope that you are able to spend this time with those you cherish most.

For me, this is a time to look back on the past year and consider my many blessings, and to look forward to a new year full of possibilities.

Once again, I am blessed to be able to gather over the holidays with my family, whose love, support and encouragement enable me to make the difficult decisions that help build a better Michigan. One of the best parts of the holiday season is that we get to spend a good amount of quality time with loved ones.

This year, I am encouraging everyone to take the time to destress and enjoy Michigan’s Winter Wonderland. Get out in the backyard and build a snowman. Go for a walk in the woods. Get the adrenaline going by finding the nearest hill and getting on the toboggan!

If you need even more excitement and have the means, take advantage of Michigan’s abundance of snowmobile trails. Thankfully, Michigan is one of the nation’s top snowmobiling destinations, with more than 6,200 miles of groomed trails located throughout state and federal forests, and many acres of privately owned lands.

Michigan snowmobiling information is available at www.michigan.gov/snowmobiling.

The site includes links to Michigan’s snowmobile regulations and to online safety courses that satisfy the state’s safety education requirement for youth operators.

Cross country and downhill skiing also offer plenty of opportunities for fun in the snow. Michigan ranks second in the nation for number of skiing areas — 51 — found across the state. Those ski areas include more than 260 lifts and about 1,000 runs.

Cross country skiers can access more than 3,000 miles of trails in the state. For more information, visit www.michigan.org/skiing/cross-country.

Michigan also offers the best downhill skiing in the Midwest. For more information, visit www.michigan.org/skiing/downhill.

If you are the parent of a fourth- or fifth-grader, you’re in luck. Fourth- and fifth-graders have the chance to ski free under the “Cold is Cool” Fourth & Fifth Grade Ski & Ride Passport, one of the elements of the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association’s (MSIA) “Cold is Cool” program. This program is dedicated to improving the health of the children in the state by offering winter outdoor exercise activities for all Michigan kids and their families.

In order for fourth- and fifth-graders to use the free lift or trail pass coupons, a paying adult must accompany them. Up to two students can ski free with each paying adult. Although the skiing is free, MSIA charges a $20 printing and shipping fee for each passport ordered. The passport also includes additional discounts on the slopes and in Michigan ski shops.

Residents can download an interactive application form by visiting the MSIA website at www.goskimichigan.com. Click on “Cold is Cool – 4th and 5th Graders Ski Free!”

There are plenty of opportunities and no excuses not to get outside, get moving, and enjoy the beauty of our great state during the holidays.

This time of year presents a wonderful opportunity to enjoy Michigan with your family and reflect on your blessings.

I wish you and your family the very best this Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year. God Bless you all.

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column newsweekly. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.