Passing Through: Mount Bohemia

Affordable tickets, yurt lodges, grill dogs, and suds—or, just about all you can ask for at Michigan’s Mount Bohemia

Mount Bohemia, a home-grown resort in northern Michigan, capitalizes on an average 270 inches of snow and consistently freezing temperatures. Lake Superior surrounds Bohemia on three sides, providing more than just lake-effect storms. The bluffs and unique topography of the Keweenaw peninsula, an offshoot of the Upper Peninsula, give Bohemia over 900 feet of vertical—more than any other resort in the Midwest—and is also home to the region’s first cat-skiing operation.

The deep, low-density powder and steep (albeit short) runs attract a unique crowd. Unlike other Midwestern resorts, few families visit the remote spot—it’s 400 miles from Minneapolis. Bohemia doesn’t groom anything on the mountain, and even the mellowest runs alternate between deep powder and huge bumps. Instead, Bohemia is a magnet for Western transplants seeking more serious terrain, the rare Midwestern backcountry skier on a soul-searching quest for vertical, and young, talented skiers local to one of many terrain parks dotting the Midwest hills.

I fell into the first category during my first trip to Bohemia, as a Seattleite temporarily turned Chicagoan, and was welcomed into the weird world of Bohemia within minutes of walking into the “lodge” (a complex of yurts nestled at the base of a surprising slope). From low prices—hit an annual sale for a $99 season pass and the hostel for a $35-a-night stay—to refreshingly interesting terrain, Bohemia was an easy antidote to a winter spent dreaming of the mountains back home.

A car is your only travel option to the far-flung reaches of the UP, unless you’re a prolific hitchhiker. Make sure you’ve got four-wheel drive, a good playlist, and plenty of supplies (food, whiskey, and ideally a portable grill). We recommend a stay in the hostel, a large yurt with 12 bunk beds and a few soggy couches. Here, you’ll meet your drinking buddies and Bohemia spirit guides. You won’t need their help finding secret stashes (they’re everywhere), but they will wake you up from your drunken slumber to watch the Northern Lights over frozen Lake Superior.

The best skiing is as far skier’s left as possible on the mountain, where steep, narrow glades take you from the summit all the way to the road. The shuttle ride back to the base is the perfect time to share a flask with the kid in a Packers jersey and the white-bearded man ripping 210s. Try the backside for freshies if the snow is low or the mountain is crowded (unlikely), but beware of the long traverse out. If you’re lucky enough to find an experienced local, ask for beta on the area’s backcountry options. Rumors of endless, low-angle powder fields abound, but you’ll need help getting there. Once you do, your chance of crossing tracks laid by anything but an animal are slim to none.

The lodge’s restaurant is open all day, but with limited options. The slickest way around eating sandwiches and pizza for your entire stay is that portable grill we mentioned earlier. Put on all your layers, grab a drink, and set up a grill-and-chill on the snow. Just be sure you’re well stocked up on the three main Midwestern food groups: meat, cheese, and beer.

If you’re looking to drop a little more cash on a spot to sleep, private cabins and yurt rentals are available on and near the mountain. You’ll still get to know the community at the North Pole Bar, your awesomely tacky and only après option (also, like most of Bohemia, housed in a yurt). On your way out of town, stop in at The Pines in Copper Harbor for a killer diner meal, and check out the nearby Bear Belly Bar and Grill on Lac La Belle for local brews.

The Bohemia experience is worth the journey, especially for Midwest-dwelling mountain athletes who need a little more action than the occasional trip out West. If you hit it when a storm does, you won’t think twice about the mountains you’ve been missing. And even if Ullr doesn’t provide, the funky community definitely will.