Extreme Midwest Skiing (No gammon on this one)Posted: March 29, 2013
Everything about Mt. Bohemia is cut from a different cloth and a rough one at that. Where most resorts sport
hot tubs, lavish rooms, and groomers abounding, Mt. Bohemia is the stiff black cup of coffee to that cappa-frappa-latte. Bohemia has two lifts and offers the largest vertical drop in the midwest at 900 feet. While this is at least 500 feet less than the smaller resorts in Colorado, Bohemia is some of the best back country skiing found anywhere. Boasting 85 runs, only two of them are intermediate level skiing. I know you are thinking a black diamond in the midwest is notheing like on a mountain. Again normally you would be right, but this is Bohemia. You must sign a waiver to buy a lift ticket and the first sign you see after pulling into the lot says
“no beginners” and for good reason. This resort (I use that word lightly) has terrain, terrain, terrain. Everything is bone bare. They don’t make snow on the hill relying on Superior’s consistent lake effect snow dumping about 300 inches a year. You can drop off cliffs,
blast through trees, generally risk your well-being on every run.
Located in U.P., it does take some driving to get there from pretty much anywhere. I went with the my friends the Booth brothers. Mike and I came up from Madison, WI. and Pat came from St. Paul, MN. We met in Wausau and continued on in one vehicle. All in all it was about a 7 hour drive. Much better than Colorado’s 15. Of course it had to start snowing on the way in and in contempt of people driving 30 miles under the speed limit due to snow in Michigan (head shaking), I was so psyched to hit that snow the next day. We stayed right on the hill in one of Bohemia’s little cabins. They are built like tiny duplexes, offer two bunk beds, a shower, sink, and unstocked mini-fridge. Very simple accommodations, but they are clean and neat. If you stay at a cabin, bring bedding and towels since none will be provided. There is also a larger common area cabin with a full kitchen, lounging area, and large TV. Anyone who stays in cabins are likely to be found there and usually enjoy mingling. These cabins are about $520 for a weekend. Not too shabby to be able to step out of your door and ski to the lift. If that’s out of your range or you have a large group, Bohemia also has a hostel yurt that sleeps 20 or so and costs about $20 a night. Included in the cabin price is breakfast and dinner down in the North Pole Bar Yurt. We met Rick, the most
helpful bartender I have ever met, and Elaine, his soft-spoken wife and resort cook. The food was hardy and delicious. Elaine made shrimp pesto pasta, bacon mac-n-cheese, and scrumptious breakfasts. They were incredibly kind people and we liked them so much we made it a point to go down and say good-bye before we left.
Bohemia’s lift tickets are about $54 a pop, but they sell year passes in December for $100 bucks. If you can make it out one weekend you are $8 up on the season pass. Pretty sweet deal. We signed our waivers and off we went.
It snowed through the night and kept on as we rode the lift up. One draw back of Bohemia is the lifts. They are slow and small. Despite the tedium of our ride, I was ecstatic to hit that fresh snow so for a warm up we hit the front of the hill which is wide open and dotted with rollers (a bump running the width of the hill). I was on my old Fischers which are too short for me and after riding the equivalent of a water ski in Alaska I was tossing myself every where. The lift got a laugh or two has I flung myself all over the mountain. Lucky for me fresh snow is quite forgiving. The Booths were having a blast on their snowboards, cutting wide swaths through the open run. We quickly tired of this however and went in search of glade skiing. You don’t have to look far at Bohemia. I would say about 75% of the runs are glade.
The tree skiing is just awesome there and fresh snow abounds. At Bohemia you ride the lift to the top of a cone and pretty much go down in any direction. Both lifts are located on the front of the hill so if you go down the backside you end up on a road where a shuttle bus drives up and down every five minutes. Yes, it is a little tedious to get on a bus and ride it to get back to the lift to ride that to go down a 900 foot hill, but truly worth it. Mike Booth is a very adept border and went boarding in Ohio this year. He said Bohemia was the best riding he had all year. Take that tectonic shift. I’ll ride my glacial formed mountain all day, thank you very much.
Like the resort everything is simple, friendly, and bare bones on the hill. YOU WILL DAMAGE YOUR EQUIPMENT. Do not go there with stuff you want to keep pristine. Rocks, trees, and all manner of obstacles will reach out and crack, chip, and gouge your gear. I came around a corner and did a face plant due to an open trickle of a creek causing my skis to come to a dead stop. Wear a helmet. I over rotated and hit two trees on separate occasions. Yes, it was the operator’s error, but things will pop out at Bohemia. They have a rental shop so go with that if you sleep with your skis at night. Grandly the snow was fresh and deep so our gear came out relatively unscathed.
While all paths lead back to center it is incredibly easy to get separated from your group. Cell reception is bupkis so far north so I recommend bring a walkie-talkie to keep in contact. The resort does have free WiFi, but it isn’t terribly strong and doesn’t reach far enough to be of use on the hill.
The Hill is open from 10:30 to 4:30 daily, but just because the lift is shut down doesn’t mean you have to go
home. One of the runs through the trees opened up right in front of our cabin so a group of boarders made a jump and hit it time after time by hiking up the slope a bit until the sun went down. After that you can hit the North Pole Bar for good local beers at reasonable prices. If you are a liquor drinker you are going to want to come stocked. The bar only had Bushmills and Bailey’s. It was pricy to boot. We ran out of whiskey the first night; to get more we had to drive 30 or so miles south to the closest grocery store. If you are staying by the hill, come with what you need.
They cabins were a little tight and having four beds notwithstanding there was only one small table with two chairs. We had a 1000 piece puzzle to do and that was not going to cut it. The Booth Brothers solved this issue by taking the bathroom door off the hinges (don’t worry, we put it back before we left), laying it across two large trash cans, and stealing a third chair from the common cabin effectively making the space usable for sleeping, whiskey drinking, and puzzling. Animals, the lot of us.
Video of the boarders jumping in front of the cabin.
The second day was quite beautiful and clear. You could see vast expanse of Lake Superior from the top of the hill easily. The more open runs were chewed up so we spent our time in the Outer Limits and Haunted Forest glade areas where we regularly found untouched powder. The day went at a lazy pace stopping for hobo snacks and snowball fights often. Never having a shortage of fresh snow to carve up we skied til close and headed to the bar where we met some of the other hill dwelling patrons including a woman from Tennessee named Georgia and a 30 something gentleman who was feeling no pain and introduced himself to the female demographic, “Hi. My name’s Todd. I have braces.” In point of fact that was true. He was Todd and did have braces. We BS’ed with Rick about how the season was going and what to expect tomorrow until the puzzle in our cabin called us.
The 3rd and final day we decided to skip the skiing since it was a bit chewed up and I could save some money. We desperately tried to finish the puzzle instead but to no avail. There is nothing more defeating than taking apart a 2/3 complete puzzle off an unhinged door. Nothing.
We packed up and headed home. Happily the drive was shorter on the way back since we lost an hour on the way there and gained one the way back (I realize this is not actually shorter).
Conclusion: Mt. Bohemia can hold its own against out west glade skiing. The resort offers little but regardless of the simplicity it is comfortable and accommodating. Your gear will get damaged. If you live in the midwest you need to ride Mt. Bohemia. It is awesome!
Drive fast. Take chances. Thanks for reading.