Where to get some air: Top terrain parks in Michigan


Nathan Riley

Crystal Mountain’s early season terrain park setup next to the Crystal Clipper.

Tyler Berens and Nathan Riley

“Anything that gets your blood pumping is probably worth doing,” Hunter S. Thompson said. What’s better than feeling the wind rush by, as you race towards a jump? Your feet leave the ground and the scraping of your skis disappears. The world seems to escape your reach, but then your flight suddenly turns into a free fall. The ground surges toward you as you adjust your body to land. Finally, you hit the snow, releasing the breath that you were holding. 

   Only the greatest terrain parks can give that rush to skiers or snowboarders. Here’s a list of the best parks in Michigan.

   What Bittersweet lacks in size, the resort partially makes up for in the terrain parks. Bittersweet has three parks, Thistle Terrain Park, Poison Ivy Terrain Park, and Buttercup Terrain Park. Buttercup Terrain Park usually has a few boxes, and if you’re lucky, a rail. Coming off the end of a box, you will notice an enormous divot where the landing should be. The divots send your knees to your chin when you land, so stick to the other parks. 

   What Bittersweet calls two large parks lacks truth, instead having one park with two sections. The upper section, Thistle Terrain Park, has jumps and the lower section, Poison Ivy Terrain Park, has mainly rails. The lower rail section has a solid arsenal of features including a mushroom for ski bonks, a rail with about ten waterfalls, c-rails, wallrides, a banana box, a whale tail box, and more. Like the boxes in Buttercup Terrain Park, the jumps consistently have divots stretching the width of the landings, making them outright painful. People riding right over the lips and not popping off always ruin the take offs. 

   However, in peak season, the crew at Bittersweet does a phenomenal job having a solid mix of intermediate and advanced features with a few unusual jibs and jumps that you can express creativity on. The crew also does a fantastic job of switching up the setup at least once in the season to keep the park fresh. Making new setups keeps the terrain park fresh and ensures skiers don’t become bored because, without a solid park, you would have little reason to go.

   When skiing the parks at Bittersweet, make sure you keep your head on a swivel. Beginners can come out of nowhere. Even if you’re in the air or on a rail, keep looking around because you don’t want to end your day with Ski Patrol.

   Lapping the parks at Bittersweet make sure you have an amazing time with your friends, but if you want to learn advanced maneuvers like flips, find another resort to learn them. 

   Containing a total of three terrain parks, Crystal Mountain has something for everyone. Located off the Crystal Clipper High Speed Quad, the beginner park, Jester’s Alley typically has a dance pad, two easy flat rails, and two or three kinked boxes. The resort has two more parks, each having larger features than the first. The park on Little Vincent has medium rails with jumps and hips for you to catch some air. Similar to the Little Vincent park, the Ridge has large boxes mixed in with rails and jumps. The parks don’t have as many features as possible for as much space the parks take up. 

   While the park has amazing features, the park crew needs to put in a park earlier in the season. Most resorts put a few features in for the first couple weekends, but Crystal waits until they have enough snow to build the whole park. Never expect a solid park until holiday break. While true, once the crew does get the park up, you can expect a fun day on the hill.

   You can ride Crystal’s parks no matter your skill set because the parks cater to every park skier. Features like propane tanks and long tubes can be the favorite for beginners and experts alike. Beginners can practice simply sliding the rails, and experts can try complex tricks.

  While the main focus of Nub’s Nob isn’t the park, the highlight of your day on the hill can be the time spent lapping the park. The jumpline outshines the rail section as the best characteristic of the park at Nub’s Nob. The crew spends time crafting the jumps so the landing cradles your skis and minimizes the impact on your legs. While the big jumps have no issues, the small jumps up to the rails don’t launch you high enough for the rail, making locking onto the rails difficult. Even so, the crew puts rails together in combinations to create waterfalls and kinks to allow skiers to incorporate tricks while sliding rails.

   The park crew at Nub’s does a great job maintaining the park, but they rarely rebuild the park in the middle of the season. Not switching up the setup makes the park repetitive if you ski there more than five times a year.

  Besides a few features on the outskirts of the park, beginners may not feel comfortable hitting the jumps or rails in the park. However, if you’re an expert skier, you can definitely hit all the features and have a great time doing so.

   With four terrain parks, the Highlands has everything you need, no matter your skill. For complete beginners, you can start out on the Funland Terrain park. Highland park contains mellow rollers, bank turns, and small boxes and rails. For intermediate skiers trying more difficult stunts, look to the Challenger Terrain Park. The Challenger park even has a half pipe! The largest park in the Highlands, Amy’s Terrain park, has the biggest jumps and features. The Highlands also has an exciting Fun Cross Terrain Park, a ski cross course. With banked turns and rollers, you can race your friends or practice weaving around the markers.

   The transition from park to park enhances the experience at the Highlands. You can warm up in the beginner park and have fun even if you’re an expert. Then you can move to the intermediate park, locking in your tricks. Fully warmed up, you manage to finally move to the big park and go big.

   Because the Highlands has so many parks, you could spend the whole day skiing without hitting the same feature twice. Having such a variety ensures you can try out diverse styles of skiing and experiment with how you can hit new features in new ways.

   Boyne Mountain Resort has the most features on this list among its seven terrain parks. Two of the parks, Chmielew-Ski Cross and Campbell’s Alley Park, have snow features like rollers and banked turns so you can carve and add fun tricks to the rollers. With four traditional parks, Boyne Mountain has no lack of jibs or jumps to hit. The park crew sculpts the jumps extremely well and finds creative ways to position the features, ensuring you have a great time. The size of the features in the largest park at Boyne Mountain might surprise you. If you thought you could only find features as large as Boyne’s at the resorts out west, you’d be wrong. 

   The final park separates the terrain parks at Boyne Mountain from other parks. Containing natural features, Transfer Station Park has unique drops and logs that you can find creative ways to hit.

      Boyne Mountain has fantastic flow in its parks, with each feature leading directly to another. As long as you have the guts to hit the features, you can easily link up tricks. The parks at Boyne Mountain don’t have great beginner features that introduce you to park skiing, but once you’re good enough, you will have a blast. With no limit on the skiing you can do at Boyne Mountain, the terrain parks really are the best in Michigan.