If you are looking for a great winter getaway, Crystal Mountain Resort and Spa in Thompsonville, Michigan (about 230 miles northwest of the Detroit metro area) should top your list. It’s a village unto itself with enough activities for every age, skill level, and interest, to fill a week and hardly do the same thing twice! I chose to take my family to Crystal Mountain and it was one of the best family vacations we have ever had. Not only does the resort feature great downhill and cross-country skiing and a packed schedule of various indoor and outdoor lessons and activities, but the village now features the newly opened Crystal Spa, the first of its kind in the Midwest and a veritable island of retreat and luxury (read more on this site under The Crystal Spa Review on this site).
We arrived after nightfall, and felt as though we’d entered a magical winter wonderland: majestic, snow covered, brightly lit ski slopes surround the village and were backdrop to the various buildings, the exteriors of which are decoratively and elegantly lit. We were warmly welcomed upon entering the spacious yet cozy 'Reception Inn' for check-in. We found the Reception staff to be gracious, courteous and professional, and within a few moments our questions are answered and our check-in is complete. After arriving at our comfortable, spacious, and beautifully decorated Wintergreen Condo, we felt like we’d arrived at a real home away from home - and immediately wished that our scheduled stay was much longer than it was!
Crystal Mountain Resort and Spa offers over 250 guest rooms and a variety of room types to suit every need and budget – and prices are even more reasonable when included in of one of their numerous package options. Lodging options include: 1 bedroom suites, 1 & 2 bedroom condos, and 4 & 5 bedroom bungalows. There are also ownership options, as many condos are time-shares and independently owned (and managed by Crystal Mountain). There is an entire real estate division ( crystalmountain.com/realestate) catering to those interested in owning Crystal Mountain property, whether as rental properties or as year round residents, whether slopeside studios or free standing homes of varied styles and sizes.
We stayed in a gorgeous 2 bedroom condominium that was very comfortable for me, my wife and 2 children. The master bedroom boasts a Jacuzzi (which our kids were tickled pink to try out upon arrival!), and a skylight, and has an attached full bath featuring twin showers. The condo includes a guest room, and a second full bath (with tub and shower).
The living area provided ample and comfortable seating, including a sleeper sofa, as well as a fireplace (including 2 complimentary easy-start logs/day) – a perfect end to a long day of skiing. The kitchenette is beyond well appointed and included everything one could need to prepare and serve meals in comfort and style - even wine glasses were among the amenities! Every appliance one might need, like a coffee maker (and all the makings for coffee), a toaster, stovetop/oven, fridge/freezer, microwave, and even a dishwasher, are included. Our condo included a lovely personal touch in the form of a journal, left on the living room table by the owner of the condo who used it to introduce herself and her history with the condo and Crystal Mountain, and where guests of the condo are encouraged to write their experiences and thoughts during their stay there.
The grounds maintenance staff can’t be beat – our first morning, the pathway all the way up to our door, as well as all the parking lots and roads, were plowed and salted. Given the fact that this is Northern Michigan weather, and that the village has numerous trails, sidewalks, streets, lots and walkways, this is no small feat! Particularly since most of the traffic in the village is by foot, this is of critical importance, and makes getting around not only easier but safer.
Crystal Mountain was originally created over 50 years ago by local community members who decided to clear some land on the face of the mountain to form a ski slope. George Petritz, the founder of Crystal Mountain Resort (which is still in the family) was one of the original community members. The original tow rope was made from an old vehicle engine, which managed to do the job of getting people to the top of the slopes. And indeed, to “the top” is precisely where this resort has risen. Brian Lawson, Director of Crystal Public Relations, explained that George together with his wife Althea, and their daughter Christina Petritz-MacKinnes, have brought to fruition their vision of making Crystal Mountain Resort “the premier destination in the Midwest for healthy living.”
The main winter attraction, of course, is the skiing, and Crystal Mountain offers some of the best skiing in the Midwest. Skiers from ages 5 to 65 are out there enjoying the slopes – all 45 of them! 27 of these slopes are lit for night skiing, and there are 9 lifts. The trails offer a wide variety of difficulty and accommodate every skill level from beginner to experienced. Something worthy of note: if you or family members need to rent skis from Crystal Mountain, the technicians on staff are very experienced, and do an excellent job in making sure the skis are adjusted correctly. Unfortunately, many people incur injuries because their skis are not adjusted properly, so this is no small thing. In fact, my 12 year old son and 6 year old daughter each experienced one hard fall, and both times, the boots quickly released from their bindings. Hats off to the technicians for a job well done!
For those who enjoy cross-country skiing, Crystal Mountain offers about 25 miles of trails, 2 miles of which are lit for night skiing. In addition, about a ¼ mile from the resort (still part of the Crystal Mountain grounds) is the Michigan Legacy Art Park, which is great for snow-shoeing and includes a 1.6 mile hiking trail. The Park is filled with sculptures which interpret Michigan’s history and culture, and provide not only beauty, but an opportunity to learn not only about Michigan, but the environment, history, math, and science through art. Guided tours are available by reservation.
A wide range of skiing lessons are also available for all ages and abilities. Overseeing Crystal’s top notch instructors is Ron Shepard, also the new snowsports director. Among numerous other credits to his name, Ron comes to Crystal with over 20 years of experience, 18 of which he was the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) Intermountain Division Educational Clinic Leader. I enjoyed observing pint-sized newbies out on the slopes with their instructors, and I was very impressed with how quickly the instructors were able to teach these youngsters such skill and control in such a short period of time.
I am a veteran skier of 35 years and my favorite parts of the slopes continue to be the runs with moguls. Crystal has several very challenging mogul runs that will definitely test ones skills on the bumps. The Gorge and Buck runs are my favorite, as each descent offers a new thrill and a different test. My kids and I had a blast racing down the slopes together, and my 12-year old son especially enjoyed the jumps and downhill trails that weaved in and out of the trees. When I asked my 6-year old daughter what her favorite part of the trip was, she said “skiing with you, the ski trails, and the chairlifts.”
Speaking of chairlifts, we got to become well acquainted with some of the chairlift operators, and I must say they are the friendliest chairlift operators I have ever met. They were warm, cheerful, very helpful, and humorous, despite the cold temperatures. Their friendliness sure helped make the experience more enjoyable!
There is so much else to tell about Crystal Mountain, it could fill a book. From numerous dining options, guided tours, packages, activities, lodging, the outdoor hot tub, ice skating, horse drawn surrey rides, even on-site child-care and in-room babysitting…there’s no chance of being bored! However, those who choose to ignore all the doings and just kick back and relax will do so in utmost comfort (especially if they do it at the Crystal Spa!). More than a winter getaway destination, Crystal Mountain Resort and Spa is a 4-season resort, offering camps, premier golfing, swimming, and more.
Since our return, our daughter has piped up repeatedly: “I love Crystal Mountain!” and “I want to go back to Crystal Mountain!” My wife and I couldn't agree more, and sincerely hope to head back to review Crystal Resort and Spa during their spring, summer and/or autumn seasons as well!