I stood in the dark at the top of the mountain and gazed down onto the village lights below. The cold night air was so refreshing, and the snow under my skis made that sharp crunching sound as I readied myself for a leisurely ride down the mountain. ”Hey mom! I bet I can beat you down!" shouted that third son of mine, a.k.a. “Mr. Daredevil,” and off he went blasting down the mountain.
Not to be shown up by an 8-year-old, I reverted back to my youth and took off after him.
It was the start of one of the best family weekends we have had in a long time. It was the beginning of our first trip to Crystal Mountain Resort & Spa in Thompsonville.
Located about 230 miles northwest of metropolitan Detroit, Crystal Mountain has 45 slopes, eight lifts and four terrain areas. There is a slope here for everyone in your family. From the beginner skier to the advanced, Crystal Mountain has it all.
The chairlifts were very easy to maneuver. The newest addition to the Crystal chairlift family is the Loki Quad. What makes this lift unique is that it has a loading conveyor. To load, you just step on the conveyor, and the chair swings around and picks you up. Perfect for the nervous beginner skier, it is a great transitional lift from the beginner carpet lifts.
Speaking of those carpet lifts, Crystal has quite a large beginner area as well as a huge staff of ski instructors. We didn’t take any lessons, but from the professionalism I saw in the lift lines from the instructors, your kids will be in good hands. Everyone was having a good time, and if anyone was nervous, it didn’t show. Crystal Mountain really takes the apprehension out of skiing.
The main lift to the resort is called the Crystal Clipper. It is a high speed quad chair and in terms of getting you up the mountain quickly, this is the lift. Once at the top, you have a variety of slopes to choose from. You can stay on the front of the mountain, or ski on to the back (The North Face), or ski over to the side (The Ridge).
While riding up the Clipper, you have a great view of one of the freestyle terrain parks. I could have sworn I was watching Olympic-caliber skiers work their way through the various features of the park. It made for a fun ride up the hill as well as down.
Crystal Mountain is open for night skiing until 9 p.m. This was my favorite time to ski. The lines to the lifts were non-existent, and for the most part, we had The Ridge to ourselves. This is where I experienced the beauty of the runs at Crystal. The silence as we skied down the hill was unbelievable.
If you want to clear your head and have some fun doing it, go night skiing. We also were able to get in triple the amount of runs as we skied during the day. It really balanced out the trip. We had the raucous day skiing with the camaraderie of people and then the Zen-like calm of the night. I can’t say enough good things about the night skiing!
From studio units to bungalows and hotel rooms, there is a room to meet everyone’s needs. We stayed in a one-bedroom studio in the Hamlet. It was perfect for our family of five. We had two queen beds and an air mattress for the third child. The room came with a mini kitchen which consisted of a sink, microwave, mini refrigerator, toaster, coffee maker, utensils, plates, and bowls.
We were able to make our own breakfast as well as keep some snacks and drinks for during the day. The best part was that it was at the base of the mountain. This allowed us to ski for a few hours and come in to take a break in the comfort of our own room.
Each unit at the Hamlet comes with your own ski locker outside. Accessible by your room key, these ski lockers are a great little convenience. At the end of the day you just tossed your skis and poles into the locker, and you didn’t have to worry about hauling them to your room or locking them up outside.
If I had to write something negative, it would be the size of the Clipper Café. The Clipper Café is at the base of the mountain, and it is the “hot spot” to meet up for lunch. During the day there just wasn’t enough seating. Because our room was so close, we were able to buy our lunch and take it to our room, but without that option you were kind of stuck waiting until people left.
There is a huge patio outside which is kind of wasted space. A tent with portable heaters and a few picnic tables in this area would have done the trick to alleviate the crowds.
We ate dinner Friday night at Thistle Pub and Grille, a cozy restaurant in the first floor of Kinlochen. The atmosphere was a little more upscale than your typical family restaurant, but they had all the usual children’s fare, and my husband and I were able to relax with some wine and have a delicious dinner of sea bass and mushroom ravioli.
On Saturday night we ordered takeout from LittleBetsie Bistro. This consisted of fresh pizza, antipasto salad and boneless chicken wings. The food was fresh (they used mixed greens in the salad ... a plus in my book!) and reasonably priced ($40 to feed our family of five with leftovers.)
Need I say more?
I would highly recommend Crystal Mountain Resort & Spa for a weekend ski vacation. It is extremely family-oriented and I can’t say enough about the friendly staff we encountered during our stay.
From the efficient people at the check in desk, to the cashiers at the café, to the lift loaders, these people are passionate about their jobs and Crystal Mountain. They did everything they could to make sure we were having a great time. That, in my opinion, is the sign of a great resort.