SKI TAWAS: A SURPRISE YOU SHOULD DISCOVER
by Gary Nelkie, Nordic Sports
Driving west of the Tawases, up the tree-lined Monument Road, into the heart of the Huron National Forest, there is little hint of what lies ahead. Then, suddenly, you round a curve at Gray Gulley and observe the first sign -- “Ski Area Ahead”. The Corsair Ski Trails are immediately visible on both sides of you as Monument Road passes through the interior of the immense trail system. The Silver Valley hills and snow bowls leap up to the north and the icy waters of Silver Creek knife through the forest below. The Corsair Trail System, a skier’s Shangri-La, nestles in this beautiful valley surrounded by the 120,000-acre Huron National Forest.
Skiers first discovered the Silver Valley area in the mid-1930’s. Since that time, winter fun seekers have explored every vertical square foot of this region. The lure is the forest itself, the deep snowfalls, and the clean fresh air. And the views -- from such sacramental spots as Silver Valley, Iargo Springs, Corsair, Lumberman’s Monument, or the Highbanks, you can see clear across the AuSable River Valley and watch snowstorms advancing 20 miles away.
During the winter season, the Tawas area is a full-fledged ski town. Iosco County is known for it’s many miles of scenic groomed trails -- some of the best anywhere -- and there is a growing legion of local ski aficionados to take advantage of it. The locals are often known to ski through these snow capped trees on a full moon night; over banks and swirls, up and down the hardwood ridges, experiencing reverence and heritage, as well as good pure fun on such an outing.
Some of the most notable touring is found at the Corsair Ski Trails. The Corsair system is one of the largest groomed trail networks in Michigan. The numerous miles of interconnecting trails cross forest and meadows, hills and valleys. They take you through sunny open vistas, into hushed stands of sweet-smelling fir and towering hardwoods, and along the edge of winding ice-locked streams. This diverse trail system is provided and maintained through a cooperative effort of the U.S. Forest Service and the Corsair Trail Council. The vast Corsair system is accessed by any of three large parking areas and trailheads which service the extensive facility.
Along the banks of the AuSable River, four miles west of the Corsair Trails, is the location of the Highbanks Trail. The Highbanks is one of the most scenic trail routes in the Midwest. Backcountry skiing and snowshoeing is very enjoyable here because of the exceptional natural beauty of the Highbanks setting. The trail follows a high bluff overlooking the historic AuSable River Valley, and the views are unparalleled. No matter what your skiing ability, you’ll have fun at the Highbanks. Relax in the sun at one of the scenic vistas and take in the view. You’ll enjoy the spectacular scenery and the charm of Michigan’s most famous river.
A challenging surprise awaits the expert adventure skier at the Hoist Lakes Trail System located on highway M-65, seven miles north of Glennie. This remote 10,000-acre area offers 20 miles of extremely challenging trails linking seven small lakes and steep unspoiled terrain. The trails are marked but not groomed, and the sheer elevations will test your skill and endurance. You may have to ski through miles of untracked powder, but you’ll have exciting views of wildlife that can be experienced nowhere else. Often, at Hoist Lakes, the only tracks will be yours and those of the resident animals and birds. Hoist Lakes offers skiing the way it used to be. Explore and appreciate this protected and unspoiled wilderness.
Reid Lake is another remote site that you’re sure to enjoy. Located four miles east of Hoist Lakes on highway M-72, the Reid Lake Trail is a favorite area for naturalists. This sedate route offers smooth rolling terrain through hardwoods, evergreens, and an abandoned orchard. The 12 miles of trail loops wind their way leisurely inland and around three small gentle lakes. The location holds the charm of the pioneer homestead that once occupied the site in early days. This route is not groomed, however, it is very popular and our will generally find a well broken trail. Motorized vehicles are not allowed in this semi-primitive area, and you’ll find the crystal silence broken only by friendly greetings.
Hedonistic adventurers will find their ultimate challenge skiing and winter camping along the route of the Michigan Shore-to-Shore Trail. This exciting wilderness experience originates in Tawas and stretches 210 miles to the shores of Lake Michigan. Offering endless miles of untracked powder, Michigan’s "Haute Route" is the ultimate invitation to the solitude of the forest. The trail is marked, but neither groomed nor patrolled, and some of it offers a strong dose of verticality. Far from home and far from care, this is, perhaps, the ski challenge of a lifetime. Allow 12 - 15 days to complete the trek, and check with local authorities before setting out.
As you can see -- there’s a lot going on here. Tawas’ ice covered lakes and streams, extensive trail networks, acres of thick fir forest, and crisp rolling meadows, all neighboring the scenic AuSable River, should be enough to keep you coming back to this area for many years. Discover our surprising variety of trail systems, and join us in sharing all of the fun. Together we’ll celebrate a very special winter!
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