Cross-country skiing in the Ann Arbor area - rentals, equipment, and ski clubs
When it starts to snow, I start to think of skiing. I grew up in the Upper Peninsula where there were cross country ski trails out my front door and many miles of groomed trails available for four or more months each winter.
Ann Arbor's climate doesn't have quite as long a cross country ski season, so you have to be much more on the ball when it comes to being ready to hit the trails when the weather is suitable. Here's a guide to where to go and where to get the gear you need to enjoy this part of the winter sport season.
Where to go skiing
If you own your own skis, they can be effective transportation in the middle of a snowstorm. Sidewalk not shoveled? No problem, just ski right through it. Keeping a beat up pair of old skis, affectionately known as rock skis, is recommended if you regularly find yourself gliding over pavement.
Several area parks have ski rentals available, so you can head out to the trails and rent equipment on site.
Rolling Hills Park (7660 Stony Creek Rd., Ypsilanti; 734-484-9676) has 3 miles of trails. Rentals are available ($4 for 2 hr). You'll pay a park fee to get into the park ($5 daily, $25 annual for county residents; $9 daily, $45 annual for non-residents). Rolling Hills is a water park in the summer, so your annual fee pays for year-round recreation; it's run by the Washtenaw County Department of Parks and Recreation.
The Huron-Clinton Metroparks is a regional special park district encompassing the counties of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw and Livingston. There are cross-county ski opportunities at several of these parks. Annual vehicle permits are $25 regular and $15 for senior citizens; day permits are $5.
Hudson Mills Metropark (8801 N. Territorial Road, Dexter; 734-426-8211 or 800-477-3191) has 6 miles of trails. Half-day ski rentals are available on weekends for $10, and group rates for groups of 10 or more during the week offer $6 rentals. On Jan. 29, the Chillin' at the Mills event features snow shoeing, Klondike racing and dog sledding demos, weather permitting.
Cross-country skiing is also popular at various city parks that don't rent equipment, for people who have their own gear. Huron Hills Golf Course (3465 E. Huron River Dr., Ann Arbor) is a perennial favorite, both for cross-country skiing and for sledding. Buhr Park (2751 Packard Road, Ann Arbor) has 3 miles of ungroomed trails.
Stinchfield Woods is a favorite for backcountry skiing. It's a University of Michigan property, located at 9401 Stinchfield Woods Road in Pinckney; park near the road in the lot across from the Dexter Animal Clinic. Ann Dwyer interviewed skiers who love the challenging trails.
Where to rent, buy equipment
The Outdoor Adventures Rental Center at the University of Michigan (336 Hill St, Ann Arbor; 734-764-3967) is run by the Department of Recreational Sports. Equipment rentals are available to students, faculty, staff, alumni and the general public. Cross-country skis are available for rental ($13 for 1 day, $8/day for 2-4 days), and you can also rent snowshoes, tents, cook stoves, and sleeping bags - everything you'd need for backcountry winter adventure.
Sun and Snow Sports (2471 W. Stadium Blvd, Ann Arbor; 734-663-9515) rents cross-country skis ($15 for same day rental, $5 each additional day), as well as downhill skis, snowboards, and snowshoes. They have a full line of new equipment for sale.
REI (970 West Eisenhower Parkway, Ann Arbor; 734-827-1938) rents cross-country skis, snowboards, and snowshoes. They have a full line of new equipment for sale.
Play It Again Sports (2461 A W Stadium Blvd Ann Arbor, MI, in the Westgate Mall; 734-747-6277) sells used skis, poles, and boots. If you are a regular on the trails, this can save you some money.
Resale stores including the ReUse Center, Salvation Army, and Ann Arbor PTO Thrift Shop will sometimes have ski equipment, though there's no guarantee on any given day what will be there. See my earlier story on area resale shops for details.
Used ski equipment is sold at annual ski swaps, organized by the various ski clubs around the area. Sun and Snow organizes an annual November swap; the 2010 event was the 32d year.
Ski clubs and organizations
Several area ski clubs organize local outings, ski swaps, race information and tours.
The Washtenaw Ski Touring Club focuses on cross-country skiing, with regular meetings in Ann Arbor during the season and group outings for members. The club has organized upcoming for members, including one upcoming to the Hiawatha Sportsman's Club in Engadine in the Upper Peninsula.
NordicSkiRacer.com is Mike Muha's personal site, where he tracks cross-country racing opportunities in southeastern Michigan and across the state.
The Ski Michigan trail directory has ski trail conditions all over the state.