KML Outdoor Activities Winter Plans for the 2023-2024 Winter Season
At the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge we believe in marrying history with the future to get to a vibrant and progressive present. This concept has us looking forward first to visualize what our team can do to improve the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge as a sustainable business. We make decisions based on our core values and our focus on outdoor activities, rustic worldly food, and education. For the 2023-2024 winter season we have been fostering new relationships and preparing better for the snow (which has been delayed in coming this winter season). Here are some of the things we have been working on:
- Snow Terrain Park
- More Signage
- Being better prepared for the winter
- Sustainability of winter activities
Snow Terrain Park
We have been thinking about and building the concept of the Snow Terrain Park for the last few years. To help us visualize the possibilities, we have been clearing the overgrowth and walking the land numerous times during the summer and winter months over the past several years. One possibility is to build some features for snowboards and skis to ride. Another possibility is to leave some of the terrain open for riding powder on Snurfers. We will be experimenting with both these options this winter.
This fall the Lodge started a relationship with Snurfer Boards, a historically significant Michigan business in the winter-sports arena. The Snurfer was born in Muskegon, Michigan by Sherman Poppen on Christmas day in 1965. He bound two kid’s skis together for his daughters to “surf” down the snow on the local hills. Then in 1966, Sherman patented his idea as a Surf-Type Snow Ski. His wife suggested combining the words “snow” and “surf” and the iconic Snurfer was born. The Snurfer company has gone through a recent rebirth and has recently moved back to Muskegon. This year the Lodge will be offering them for rent in the Outdoor Activity Center.
Another addition to the Lodge this year is a MoonBike. A MoonBike is the world’s first electric snow-bike which is equipped with a track at the rear and is steered by a ski at the front, they have been produced since 2021 in the heart of Haute-Savoie (French Alps), in the Bosch factory.
Individuals and organizations are using them for different reasons. Some places do guided MoonBike tours while others have MoonBikes for rent. The Lodge is testing the MoonBike to see how it handles and fits into the winter outdoor activities we offer at the Lodge. After this season we will assess if they are a good fit for rentals or tours. We are also testing it to see if we can use it to groom trails for fat tire biking or grooming in the snow terrain park. We can see possibly a hybrid of a workhorse and recreational vehicle.
This fall we have been adding more signage around the property. We have been adding signage to the Dark Sky Walking Paths and the Winter Trails Areas. The Dark Sky Viewing Path signs will help guide people out to some of the better dark sky viewing areas on the golf course. The Winter Trail Area signs will inform people of some of the basic rules when being on the property during the winter.
Map showing the Dark Sky Walking Paths at the Lodge
This fall we also installed 10 solar lights that we are testing on the Dark Sky Walking Path out to Hole 7. We added a red translucent tape over the lights and covered the motion detectors in hopes to provide a minimal, less-invasive lighting. These lights were made by APT Solar Solutions which is one of four companies receiving funding through the Michigan Mobility Funding Platform. We hope the extreme winters (with little daylight) here at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge can provide some good data for this project.
Being Better Prepared for the Winter
Maintaining the winter trails at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge is a team effort. This will be our fourth year of having the Lodge open for the winter and we’ve learned that being prepared is the first step. We have been prepping the machinery and gear throughout the fall. Jobs we used to have other companies perform we now do ourselves.
Sustainability of Winter Activities
One of our Core Values is to, “Be fearless and persistent in learning on a daily basis” And we can honestly say that we have learned a lot over the last few winter seasons. See the recaps of the outdoor activities over the last three winter seasons:
- Winter Outdoor Activities Update for the KML: 2022-2023
- Winter Outdoor Activities Update for the KML: 2021-2022
- Winter Outdoor Activities Update for the KML: 2020-2021
If you read the recaps you can see our team has learned some lessons by trial and error and others by just getting out and doing it – which is part of the small experiment concept that helps us learn and improve. We have learned the importance of preventive maintenance and redundancy in equipment, for example, we now put tracks on both of the gators so we have two machines that can groom the trails if one is having a mechanical issue. We have learned some of the nuances to the snow and how the winds affect both the ski and snowshoe trails. And we have data to show some of the costs associated with the winter outdoor activities. At this point we are confident in the quality of the experience of the winter trails at KML and feel it necessary to charge a fee for use of the winter trails on the property. For the last three seasons we have not charged a fee. This fee purchases a Winter Trail Pass.
The Winter Trail Pass will include use of any of the winter trails, access to the lodge, bathrooms, and WiFi. Guests will still have to sign the waiver and acquire the trail pass before venturing out. Fees will help cover the cost of equipment, maintenance, staffing, etc. At the Lodge we work on different aspects of sustainability including financial sustainability. The Winter Trail Pass program will help work towards financial stability for winter outdoor activities at the lodge.
The final thing we need to make this winter season special is snow. As of December 15, 2023 Keweenaw County has only received 25” of snow, all of which has melted in the recent rains. It is time to summon Heikki Lunta, do a snow dance, or put a spoon under your pillow – whatever you can do to help make snow to create the winter wonderland that the Keweenaw and Michigan is known for.
Chris Guibert: I have a strong passion for all things outdoors and have worked as a tour guide and professional photographer for the last twenty five years. As the Lead of Outdoor Activities at the Mountain Lodge I want make sure you and your family have a great experience while staying and playing. Please feel free to ask me any questions about the trails, regional activities and local secrets.