Outdoor Rec and Tourism Make a Michigan Winter Wonderland

Garrett Anderson

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Michigan’s winter wonderland has everything you need to enjoy the season


Every winter, Michiganders and visitors alike can enjoy the charming communities, lively businesses and near-endless recreation opportunities the state has to offer.

From skiing down slopes to cruising charming towns, winter is the perfect time to enjoy the state’s great outdoors and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Join the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and The Michigan Opportunity, with host Ed Clemente, to learn more about the different elements that come together to make Michigan a winter wonderland.

An Economy That Runs on Local Experiences

Winter is a great time to experience what Michigan has to offer, and it’s also the perfect opportunity to support local businesses and communities in the process. Michiganders can participate in the Support Local campaign this holiday season by shopping, dining and traveling – and giving the gift of experience – across Michigan communities.

“The gift of Pure Michigan travel is a great option,” said Dave Lorenz, vice president of Travel Michigan. “Perhaps you know that they've been talking about trying downhill skiing, or trying snowmobiling or a sled dog experience. There are so many cool things you can do in Michigan at this time of the year.”

By supporting local throughout the holiday season and beyond, Michigan’s communities and small businesses will continue to thrive while helping Michiganders make memories for years to come. You can also listen to The Michigan Opportunity episode to hear more from Lorenz and how tourism plays an important role in Michigan.

Find places to shop, eat and stay local

Hitting the Slopes, Michigan-Style

In 1908, Sulo "Shaggy" Lehto started hand-carving wooden skis for his family and neighbors in Kearsarge, located in the heart of Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula. In 2005, when the Thompson family started making skis, they wanted to keep their great-granduncle Shaggy’s heritage alive, so they named their business Shaggy's Copper Country Skis. The company now makes specialty skis that follow their ancestor’s lead and help Michigan’s outdoor industry.

“Tourism and outdoor recreation are such an economic driver, especially in northern Michigan where we're located,” said Jeff Thompson, co-founder. “To see everyone pushing towards being outside, being active, it's a really important thing, and we're excited to be part of it moving forward.”


Listen to Thompson explain the Boyne City business’ unique approach to manufacturing, and its efforts to become more sustainable while still offering a less expensive, custom process.

Listen to the Michigan Opportunity episode

Recreation is Big Business in the Michigan Winter Wonderland

Michigan’s snow activities are adding to the economy more than any other outdoor recreation industry, and it’s thanks in large part to the work of the Michigan Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. This Michigan agency pairs the state’s natural beauty with its business resources and production ability to create endless opportunities to research, test and design gear for the great outdoors.

“It's all the gear and equipment and vehicles and things that support that outdoor recreation lifestyle, that we all love to live in Michigan, and we make a lot of stuff, and we can make more,” said Brad Garmon, director of the Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. “So, what I'm here to do is help Michigan really take advantage of the full spectrum of opportunities that the outdoor recreation economy provides.”

Read about big wins for Michigan’s outdoor recreation economy, and listen to the podcast episode to learn more about how the Outdoor Recreation Industry Office works to develop, promote and enhance testing and manufacturing, outdoor retail trade and wholesale.

Listen to the Michigan Opportunity episode

Ice Climbing for Everyone

In mid-February, the annual Michigan Ice Fest attracts ice climbers from around the world to Munising, Michigan, with its access to Lake Superior and its numerous waterfalls. Last year, the festival brought nearly 1,400 people from seven countries and every state in the U.S. The festival provides all the equipment needed for ice climbing, allowing anyone to try the sport regardless of their experience level or background, an intentional approach to making ice climbing a more inclusive experience.

“A second year of Black, Indigenous and People of Color-centered introduction to ice climbing courses allowed Detroit Outdoors staff and participants to engage with Michigan Ice Fest in a meaningful way,” said Garrett Dempsey, lead Sierra Club staff with Detroit Outdoors. “Seeing how our instructors, who were both climbers of color and white climbers, worked together as peers and friends reminded us that we had a place in that community.”


With support from the Michigan Office of the Outdoor Recreation Industry, the festival is able to offer an accessible and welcoming experience for first-time climbers. Read on to learn more about the positive impact Michigan Ice Fest has on growing the ice climbing community.

Read more about Michigan Ice Fest

Learn More About Those Helping Everyone Enjoy Michigan

Visit The Michigan Opportunity podcast page to learn more about the places and experiences that make Michigan the ideal place to live, visit and enjoy, such as: the Nature Conservancy of Michigan, an organization dedicated to protecting Michigan’s lands and lakes for generations to come; Jacquart Fabric Products and the iconic Stormy Kromer brand, which puts the spirit of Michigan tenacity into their high-quality products that symbolize winter in Michigan; and Crystal Mountain, which has expanded beyond skiing to also offer spring and summer entertainment.

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