Oakland Press: Wintertime is time to explore Michigan’s Great Outdoors

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

Winter is here, and for adventurers young and old, that means it’s time to get out and explore Michigan’s Great Outdoors!

Michigan families this winter can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, skating, snowmobiling, ice fishing and more. With more than 3,000 miles of cross country ski trails, some of the best downhill skiing in the Midwest and 6,400 miles of snowmobile trails, Michigan offers fantastic cold weather recreation opportunities.

Michigan State Parks
A good place to start is our state parks. Many residents only think of visiting our parks during warmer weather, but the parks are wonderful places to explore in the winter as well.

Most state parks and recreation areas are open to winter hiking, and many open up their trails for cross country skiers. Snowshoers can walk next to the groomed trails or use single-track hiking trails. The heartier among us can even enjoy winter camping at select parks.

Dozens of parks also provide a designated snowmobile area. Four inches of snow or more is required to operate a snowmobile within a state park, and any trail riding must take place on trails designated for such use.

To find the perfect park for your favorite cold weather activity, visit www.michigan.gov/dnr and click on Camping & Recreation on the left sidebar. Remember: A state recreation passport is needed for park entry; campsite fees are extra.

Skiing and Snowboarding
Michigan ranks second in the nation for the total number of skiing and snowboarding areas across the state. With a combined total of 51 ski areas, boasting over 260 lifts and nearly 1,000 runs, there’s lots of room for beginner and intermediate skiers. If you’re new to skiing and snowboarding, many ski areas offer lessons and instruction.

The state is also home to three world-renowned ski jumps that have held dozens of ski jump records throughout the years. The jumps are located in Negaunee, Iron Mountain and Ironwood in the Upper Peninsula.

Michigan’s natural beauty, combined with a network of 6,400 miles of groomed, interconnected trails, make it a leading snowmobile destination. Michigan’s interconnected snowmobile trail network is one of the best in the country. While snowmobilers may have favorite trails to ride, there are countless new trails to explore.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) provides snowmobile maps in a variety of formats for the state’s designated snowmobile trails. Find information on trail maps and permits, regulations, registration and more at www.michigan.gov/snowmobiling.

Winter Fishing
A popular sport you may not have tried is ice fishing. Michigan anglers can enjoy great fishing opportunities over the next few months. Popular winter species include bluegill, pike, smelt, walleye and yellow perch.

Like any outdoor activity during the colder months, winter fishing has its own set of safety rules. Use the buddy system and wear a life jacket. When fishing on the ice, the DNR urges anglers to test ice thickness and quality with a spud and avoid ice around docks and pilings and inlets or outlets.

Michigan offers a bounty of natural beauty. No matter what your preferred activity, you can find it here.

So let’s all get outside and enjoy our Michigan winter!

This column appeared in the Oakland Press. 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.