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Posted on Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 1:20 p.m.

Cross-country skiing in the Ann Arbor area - rentals, equipment, and ski clubs

By Edward Vielmetti

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 Ann Arbor Ski Club has extensive Nordic (cross-country) ski information, with details of area events, tutorials on maintaining your skis, and training in the off season.

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. 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.

Edward Vielmetti sings the Heikki Lunta Snow Dance Song for Contact him at



Sun, Jan 16, 2011 : 8:55 a.m.

I completely missed this post too. I stumbled on it because I also stumbled on Jes Reynold's latest blog (never saw those before either), and wondered what else was going in the "passions and pursuits" bucket. Normally I'd avoid something labeled "passions and pursuits" like the plague. It sounds too much like something they'd target in marketing 101. I was just talking to my wife about writing a local biking transportation blog, but where would it go? I'm sure a lot of people would think it belongs in "passions and pursuits", but the people really passionate about biking for transportation are the motorists who want us off the road. For those of us who bike for transportation, we're no more passionate about it than people driving cars to work every day. We can get passionate about defending our right to do it, but again, that's only because other people are passionate about taking away our freedoms. Some kind of outdoors or environment category would make a lot more sense. I always look forward to a few good, hard snow storms each winter so I can ski to work. It takes a lot longer than biking does, but it's a nice change, better exercise, and a beautiful ski through the woods (my route crosses three roads but otherwise is completely in parks!) I get to get out my backcountry skis and give them a proper workout.


Thu, Jan 13, 2011 : 10:28 a.m.

"I often miss articles like this one since there is no good "outdoor" classification on the web-site. I think enough people are interested in environmental news and outdoor pursuits, so that some assistance in finding such articles would be helpful." Seconded! This is an excellent suggestion.

Rork Kuick

Thu, Jan 13, 2011 : 8:43 a.m.

There are lots of places in the Waterloo and Pinckney Recreation areas. Tens of thousands of acres. Still, I do Stinchfield about half the times I go. The Southern Michigan Orienteering Club has great maps of it, but they are custom, and hard to obtain. I often miss articles like this one since there is no good "outdoor" classification on the web-site. I think enough people are interested in environmental news and outdoor pursuits, so that some assistance in finding such articles would be helpful. And now to be cranky: If you are walking in an area where there is clearly a trail being used by many skiers, think about not walking right where the skiing tracks are. Folks often do that because it is the easy thing to do, but they are making it worse for the skiers, and it constitutes a taking. Try to break a walking trail off to the side. Yes, you are free to do the mean and lazy thing since there is no rule most places, but you could decide to be nice to the skiers, where there are many of them.


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 10:55 p.m.

According to this Ann Arbor Adventure Club event, (skiing and snowshoe-ing at Radrick Farms on Saturday), the public are welcome as long as the snow is deep enough to protect the course surface.


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 9:47 p.m.

Any idea why skiers are no longer allowed at the UM Radrick golf course? It used to be a great place to go, but I've been hearing of people being chased off... to bad since it is a public institution that pays no taxes on that land...

Jim Gilligan

Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 7:28 p.m.

When I'm in town, I like to ski the Arb. Otherwise, it's Huron Meadows all the way! @Townie - you can drop some tele turns in the Arb when the snow is thin since many of the hills are clear of brush and mowed.


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 6:41 p.m.

great timing, I was just looking for rental info this morning. Thanks!


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 4:30 p.m.

Doesn't anybody ski behind cars anymore?


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 3:30 p.m.

I like Rolling Hills and Hudson Mills. Rolling Hills actually has some interesting topography on the backside of the pond. What I don't like about rolling hills is that you need at least four inches of snow so you don't scrape your skiis on the black top. Hudson Mills is always a pretty place summer or winter.


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 2:42 p.m.

Silver Lake, part of the Pinckney State Rec Area, has really wonderful and challenging trails too. Stinchfield Woods is awesome too but not for beginners. There are some scary hills there. I think Hudson Mills is the best place for beginners.


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 2:06 p.m.

Huron Meadows Metropark just south of Brighton is the only place in southern Michigan to rent skating skis as well as classic ski. Huron Meadows grooms for both skating and classic, one of the only two place in southeast Michigan to do so. This Saturday, Huron Meadows will host the REI Frosty Freestyle 5/15km Cross Country Ski race. There will be both classic and skating divisions. See On Sunday, Huron Meadows will also host a 10k Classic race, the Huron Meadows Invitational (aka Krazy Klassic). See Huron Meadows groomed an awesome 1km loop on their lake last week when the rest of the trail system lacked snow. 24-foot wide, doubletracked and huge skating lane. See video at Trail report from a few minutes ago (2:00pm): All the trails have been rolled with the Tidd Tech but not tracked yet. Trail reports at


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 2:04 p.m.

Also the Metroparks (only on weekends I think) - Hudson Mills and Huron Meadows. I heard Huron Meadows has all new equipment this year.


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 2:01 p.m.

Thanks Ed! I used to be a heavy duty cc skier (and telemarker) in the Adirondacks and haven't found much decent skiing here so I'll have to check out Stinchfield. I miss the lighted cc ski trails (tracked and skateable) I once had in NYS just down the street as well as the access to Van Hoe in Lake Placid. Still a bit thin in my opinion but as long as their aren't a lot of rocks perhaps it's doable.


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 1:33 p.m.

great timing, I was just looking for rental info this morning. Thanks!