Tag Archives: Cherry Capital Winter Wow!Fest

Restaurant Week: Great TC Food at a Decent Price!

Having fun at Shanty Creek's snow-tubing hill at Winter Wow!fest
Having fun at Shanty Creek’s snow-tubing hill at Winter Wow!fest

By MIKE NORTON

All right! Wasn’t that the greatest Cherry Capital Winter Wow!fest ever? After all those snowless days, who’d have guessed we’d get a nice deep snowfall on Friday night – just in time to make everything appropriately wintry on Saturday!

Everybody was in such a great mood all weekend – and I think it was a great idea to bring so many more events down to the area around Open Space Park. People really seemed to love getting involved in the games, the artwork and the music – and that  huge tubing hill Shanty Creek Resorts built in the middle of the parking lot was a major kid magnet!

Even though I’m in the tourism business, what really warms my heart is to see local residents enjoying themselves at these events, mixing in with visitors and sampling the best of what this area has to offer. In the end, that’s what it’s really about: enjoying the blessings we’ve been given, taking good care of them, and sharing them with folks who don’t have the good fortune to live here but who love this place just as much as we do.

Which is why I’m really excited that it’s almost time for Restaurant Week!

Get ready to make those dinner reservations, folks, because every night from Sunday (Feb. 27) to the following Saturday (March 5) you can enjoy a three-course meal at any of several excellent Traverse City restaurants for just $25 per person.

By now, everybody in the world should know that Traverse City is one of the great “foodie” towns in America. Wonderful restaurants, excellent wine, talented chefs, fresh ingredients. Heck, even Bon Appetit magazine thinks so! But it irks me sometimes to see how darned expensive this is all getting to be. Folks ought to be able to go out and enjoy a nice dinner once in a while without having to take out a second mortgage on their home.

I’m actually thinking about doing an article on restaurants in Traverse City where you can get a good meal – and I mean a good meal – for less than ten bucks per entrée. It can be done, especially at breakfast and lunch, so stay tuned.

Anyway, that’s why I love Restaurant Week, and why I’m really proud of the Downtown Traverse City Association for organizing this great event, and the Park Place Hotel, the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula, WCCW radio, ABC 29&8, and My North Media/Traverse Magazine for stepping up to the plate and sponsoring it.  Restaurant Weeks have been popping up in communities all over the country and have proved to be a success, and Traverse City had its first one last year.

Cozy eating at Amical
Cozy eating at Amical

Here are the participating restaurants – and they’re good ones. I’m going to include links for each place, so if you click on their name it’ll take you directly to the restaurant – and where possible I’ve also listed their Restaurant Week menus.  As I said, get your reservations early – these will go fast! And do remember: this price doesn’t include the cost of beverages, taxes or gratuities, so don’t be so eager to get a good deal that you stiff your server. (Tacky, that.)

7 Monks Taproom

128 S. Union St.

(231) 421-8410

Amical

229 E. Front St.

(231) 941-8888

Apache Trout Grill

13671 S.W. Bayshore Dr.

(231) 947-7079

Restaurant Week Menu

The Bay Leaf

120 Park St.

(231) 421-5912

Restaurant Week Menu

Blue Tractor Cook Shop

423 S. Union St.

(231) 922-9515

Restaurant Week Menu


The Boathouse

14039 Peninsula Dr.

(231) 223-4030

Restaurant Week Menu

Chez Peres/Patisserie Amie

237 Lake Ave., Ste. 200

(231) 922-9645

CW’s Blue Water Bistro

Holiday Inn West Bay

615 E. Front St.

(231) 421-2128

Restaurant Week Menu

Firefly

310 Cass St.

(231) 932-1310

Restaurant Week Menu

Hanna Bistro

118 Cass St.

(231) 946-8207

Restaurant Week Menu

Harrington’s by the Bay

13890 S.W. Bayshore Dr.

(231) 421.9393

Restaurant Week Menu

Mackinaw Brewing Co.

161 E. Front St.

(231) 933-1100

Restaurant Week Menu

Minervas

300 E. State St.

(231) 946-5093

Restaurant Week Menu

Modes Bum Steer

125 E. State St.

(231) 947-9832

Restaurant Week Menu

North Peak Brewing Co.

400 W. Front St.

(231) 941-7325

Restaurant Week Menu

Phil’s on Front

236 E. Front St.

(231) 929-1710

Poppycock’s

128 E. Front St.

(231) 941-7632

Restaurant Week Menu

Red Ginger Restaurant

237 E. Front St.

(231) 944-1733

Restaurant Week Menu

Reflect at Cambria

255 Munson Ave.

(231) 778-9000

The Soul Hole

408 S. Union St.

(231) 929-7238

Restaurant Week Menu

Trattoria Stella

1200 W. 11th St (Village at the Grand Traverse Commons)

(231) 929-8989

Restaurant Week Menu

Travino, Traverse Wine & Grille

4341 M-72 East, Williamsburg

(231) 938-9496

The Union Cantina

127 S. Union St.

(231) 941-5038

Restaurant Week Menu

“Stomping Snow” for this weekend’s Winter Wow!fest 2012

The CVB girls pose beside one of the big snowcubes at the Open Space.
The CVB girls pose beside one of the big snowcubes at the Open Space.

By MIKE NORTON

Some people will do anything to get out of a day of work. They’ll even spend hours shoveling snow into a giant wooden cube, jump up and down on it like maniacs to make sure it’s properly packed, and then move on to another cube to do it all over again. And again. And again.

Every February, that’s what we do – a dozen of us from the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau and the National Cherry Festival – as part of the preparation for our annual winter carnival, the Cherry Capital Winter Wow!fest. One of the most popular attractions at Winter Wow!fest (held this year on Feb. 17-19) is the Snow Sculpture Garden: 10 massive sculptures carved from huge blocks of snow by teams of master artisans from all over Michigan.

If you’ve been in Traverse City over the last few days, you’re likely to have seen them – covered in custom-fitted tarps of silver and black at Open Space Park, at the foot of Union Street. And who mades those huge blocks of snow? We did!

Fortunately, it doesn’t take a lot of skill – just a lot of time. (Well, big feet are helpful, too.) A week before the festival, relays of trucks shuttle back and forth between Traverse City and Bellaire, bringing loads of pure white snow donated by Shanty Creek Resorts to the sculpture garden site near the Clinch Park Marina. Then, for two days, we go to work stuffing snow into large 8′x 8′ x 8′ wooden forms.

Each time a load of snow is dumped into the top of the big cubes, we “snow-stompers” climb up into the interior with shovels, breaking up the bigger chunks, spreading each layer out evenly, and jumping up and down on it to pack it into a firm, carvable mass. It’s a little intimidating at first, because you have to jump down into the bottom of a nearly empty box, but as the level of snow rises it gets easier and easier – until you’re standing on the very top trying not to fall off!

Snow-stomping is actually a lot of fun. We get a lot of encouragement from passers-by, and we feel a sense of proprietary pride to watch the master carvers transform our blank-faced cubes into whimsical works of winter art. But we also know that we’re only a few of the many volunteers who help out at Winter Wow!fest, a celebration of  music, food, and fun that takes place each year on the President’s Day Weekend.

A carver sculpts a rattlesnake head at Winter Wow!fest 2011.
A carver sculpts a rattlesnake head at Winter Wow!fest 2011.

This season’s Wow!fest will feature several new events – including the Soup’R Chili 5K, where runners will compete on an oval course along the beach, and the “Curb Crusher” Rail Jam, in which snowboarders and skiers will compete on a series of snow-covered 10-foot ramps.

For the first time, several events – such as the popular Snow Ball Co-ed Softball Tournament and snow sculpture competition – will be held in the City’s Festival Open Space Park on West Grand Traverse Bay. Most other activity will be located across the Grandview Parkway at “Celebration Central,” between Cass and Union streets.

That’s where the action begins on Friday night with “Winter, Wine & Wow,” a reception featuring local wines, craft brews, edibles and live entertainment in a huge heated tent.

Saturday morning will begin with a new, kid-friendly feast – a Cherry Pancake Breakfast in the new ECCO meeting center on Front Street, linked to the festival area by a pedestrian bridge across the Boardman River. The downtown area will continue to be used for a number of Wow!fest attractions, including a series of popular ice sculptures created by the Ice Brigade (of Food Network fame) and a three-day Presidents Weekend Sale.

Other Saturday events include the Monster Dog Pull,where canine Olympians compete for the title of “monster dog” by pulling weighted sleds. There’ll also be winter versions of popular Cherry Festival competitions like the Frozen Pit Spit contest and the Brain Freeze ice cream eating contest,  the uproarious Frozen Bed Race, and the Soup r’ Bowl where participants slurp up soups created by local chefs.

The famous Frozen Bed Race!
The famous Frozen Bed Race!

One special Saturday event is a once-only extravaganza to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Wow!fest partner WKLT as Traverse City’s premiere rock station – it’s the Winter Wow!fest Summer Festival Fantasy, an 80s party featuring music from the 1980s featuring music videos and huge summer festival giveaways including the season’s hottest concert ticket – VanHalen for two!

Snow for the various snowsport competitions is being provided by Shanty Creek Resorts, which is lending some of its winter magic to the festival. In addition to the snow they supplied for the sculptures, the resort is building a Snow Park and Tubing Hill where families can enjoy the fun of snow-tubing, while local outfitters will be introducing novice skiers and snowshoers to the joys of cold-weather sports.

Competitions that require steeper hills will still be held at the nearby Mt. Holiday Ski Area, including such offbeat competitions as the Friday “Downhill Dash,” a no-holds-barred mountain bike/ski/snowboard race down the ski hill and the “Cardboard Classic” in which competitors must use sleds made only with cardboard, tape and paint. As always, the festival will end Sunday night with a fireworks display above the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa.

Come and join us! It’s a lot of fun – even if you’re not stomping snow!

Closing night fireworks over the snow at Grand Traverse Resoprt & Spa
Closing night fireworks over the snow at Grand Traverse Resoprt & Spa

Keeping Hope Alive for the 2012 Vasa and Winter Wow!fest

Beautiful winter weather at Sleeping Bear Dunes, but not much Snow!
Beautiful winter weather at Sleeping Bear Dunes, but not much Snow!

By MIKE NORTON

Putting together any kind of outdoor event — whether it’s a family camping trip or a week-long community festival — will keep you humble. You can plan and organize as much as you want, but you can’t control the weather. All you can control is how you respond to it.

This winter’s unseasonably warm temperatures and lack of snowfall this year have forced many Midwestern communities to cancel their winter festivals. This past weekend, the White Pine Stampede ski race in Bellaire had to be called off at the last minute because the trail was nearly obliterated by sun, rain and melting.

Here in Traverse City, fortunately, things are looking a bit better. The big North American Vasa Festival of Races is still scheduled to take place Feb. 10-12, thanks to some lucky breaks (the course is through deep woods, which protected the snow from too much melting) and some hard work from festival volunteers, who’ve been out shoveling snow onto the trail wherever it’s too thin. And since temperatures are starting to drop again, they think they’ll be able to hang on to what they’ve got.

No Snow for Wow!fest? Not to Worry -- the Show Must Go On!
No Snow for Wow!fest? Not to Worry — the Show Must Go On!

It’s the same story with the Cherry Capital Winter Wow!fest, which will also go forward as planned. Festival planner Trevor Tkach says organizers have devised a host of contingency plans for the Feb. 17-19 festival, and have been stockpiling their own snow supplies in anticipation of just such an eventuality.

“We’ve got snow – and come rain, come snow, come shine, we’ve got a festival,” said Tkoch.

Now in its sixth year, Winter Wow!fest is  a wintertime celebration of competitions, music, games, food, wine, entertainment and fun. It includes such events as the Soup’r Bowl soup contest, a Frozen Bed Race, a Winter, Wine & Wow!  food & drink reception, a Cardboard Classic downhill race, a Monster Dog Pull and fireworks, as well as new features like the Curb Crusher Rail Jam and the Soup r’ Chili 5K run.

Officials at  nearby Shanty Creek Resorts have been storing hundreds of cubic yards of clean white snow that will be hauled to Traverse City to supply what Mother Nature hasn’t provided.

For a full schedule of events and online registration for races, dinners and other reserved events, go to www.winterwowfest.com.

One event that may reap a little extra benefit from the warmer temperatures is the Traverse City Winter Microbrew & Music Festival which will be held this Saturday evening on the Historic Lawn of our 19th century mental asylum, the Grand Traverse Commons. Billed as a “winter wonderland of craft beer, live music and local food,” the festival will feature beverages from over 50 microbreweries, meaderies, cideries and wineries, a “silent disco,” and nearly a dozen live bands. (In a silent disco, dancers are issued wireless headphones through which music is broadcast via an FM transmitter – nobody else has to listen.)

The events will be held in a small city of heated tents: three main heated music and microbrewery tents, a silent disco tent with a full roster of DJs, a snow fort-building competition among local businesses — and for the first time, a polka-themed tent hosted by local comedian Marti Johnson.

Performing for the event will be several acclaimed musical and entertainment acts including Funktion, beatbox champion Heatbox, The Crane Wives, Whitey Morgan and the 78′s, Dragon Wagon, Rootstand, Laith Al-Saadi, DJ DomiNate, DJ Wulf Pak (and his popular laser show), the non-profit Grand Traverse Pipes & Drums and local fire dancers.

Celtic Dancing at the 2011 Winter Microbrew & Music Festival
Celtic Dancing at the 2011 Winter Microbrew & Music Festival

The polka tent, a promotional partnership with the Cedar Polka Fest held nearby during the first week in July, will feature popular polka bands (including Squeezebox and The Kielbasa Kings) with dancing, authentic food and special activities celebrating polka culture.

Already well-known as a food and wine destination, Traverse City is also making fans in the burgeoning microbrew community; Draft magazine just named it one of Americas’ three newest Emerging Beer Towns (along with St. Louis and Oklahoma City).The Grand Traverse Commons lawn has long been the home of Traverse City’s Summer Microbrew & Music Festival, which is held there each August, but the winter event has been more nomadic – the first one was held on a local golf course, and last year’s was in downtown Traverse City.

Festival promoter Sam Porter said the move to the Commons made good sense, but he regretted that downtown businesses won’t reap as much of an economic benefit from this year’s festival. To take some of the sting out of the move, his company — Porterhouse Productions — will host a pre-festival concert Friday night in Traverse City’s historic downtown opera house, featuring Grammy-winning band Blues Traveler.

Renowned for their high-energy live shows, Blues Traveler is behind such massive pop hits as “Run-Around,” “Hook” and “You, Me and Everything.” Their album “Four” reached triple-platinum status, and “Run-Around” was the longest-charting single in Billboard history. The Feb. 10 concert marks the band’s second return to Traverse City after their sold-out appearance at Porterhouse’s Paella in the Park festival in 2010.

“Our hope is that we’ll have a great sold-out show with Blues Traveler the night before the festival, with concertgoers eating, drinking and shopping downtown before and after the concert,” said Porter. His company is also planning several “after-parties” on Friday and Saturday nights at downtown establishments (including Union Street Station and the Loading Dock) to further connect festival attendees with the downtown district.

The festival will offer free shuttle service to attendees between the Commons, downtown, the Old Town parking deck, and participating hotels.

General admission tickets for the Traverse City Winter Microbrew & Music Festival on February 11 are $30 in advance or $35 at the door and include all festival entertainment, musical acts, shuttle service and five (5) 7-oz pours. Additional pours will be available for purchase on-site for $1 each. Tickets can be purchased online at www.porterhouseproductions.com or at Oryana, Blue Tractor and Left Foot Charley in Traverse City.

Attendees are strongly encouraged to purchase tickets in advance, as the festival has sold out in past years. Ticket buyers must be at least 21 years old. Attendees are encouraged to carpool, use the shuttle service or walk, sled or snowshoe to the event. Festival proceeds will benefit the non-profit Bay Area Recycling for Charities.

Reserved seating tickets for the Blues Traveler concert at the City Opera House on February 10 range from $29-$45. Tickets can be purchased at the City Opera House box office, by phone at 231-941-8082 or online at www.cityoperahouse.org

Off to the Races: and Three-Course Dinners for $25 During Restaurant Week

Restaurant Week: a Chance to Try Chef Dan Marsh's Great Food at Red Ginger

By MIKE NORTON

Whew! What a weekend!

First there was rain, then wind, then sunshine, and finally some long-awaited snow. But hey, it was a wonderful Cherry Capital Winter Wow!fest! I was stunned at how many people turned out night after night and day after day to defy the elements and enjoy themselves. You folks amaze me!

Now we can start planning for the 2012 Wow!fest, right?

Ah, but that would mean we’ve got nothing else to do – and even though there’s only one more week left in February, there’s still a lot going on in Traverse City. (Does anybody remember when this used to be our quiet season?)

Just for one example, as many as 150 snowmobile racers are expected to turn out on Saturday to Blaze a Trail — a major snowcross event at the  Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel. The event will be part of the 2011 Michigan Snow X Series. Gates will open at 8 am; the races begin at 9:30 and go until around 5 pm. Admission is $10 at the gate, and entitles you to a $10 E-credit at the casino (you have to be at least 18) and a $5 Coupon towards the Season’s Buffet or Bourbons 72 Restaurant.   Children 6 years & under are admitted free.

A Food & Beverage Tent and a Beer Tent will be open on the grounds from 9am until racing ends, and the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel is offering an  $89 per room, per night special. If you’re interested in more information, call 800-922-2WIN or visit www.turtlecreekcasino.com.

Speaking of specials, next week (Feb. 27 through March 5) is Traverse City’s first-ever Restaurant Week. Most of you know that TC has been getting all kinds of national accolades lately as a “foodie” town. Well, here’s a chance to try some of that amazing cuisine at a very reasonable price. During Restaurant Week,  15 of our  finest restaurants will offer special three-course dinners especially prepared for this gourmet week for only $25 per person.

Participating restaurants include Amical, the Blue Tractor Cook Shop, The Boathouse, The Cook’s House, Hanna Bistro, Jolly Pumpkin, Lil Bo Pub & Grille, Minervas, Mission Table (Friday & Saturday Only), Mode’s Bum Steer, North Peak Brewing Co., Patisserie Amie/Chez Peres, Phil’s on Front, Red Ginger and Trattoria Stella.

Restaurant Weeks like this one are becoming increasingly popular in communities all over the country, and the Downtown Traverse City Association decided that the Traverse City region would be a natural fit.

“We’re excited see Traverse City Restaurant Week grow and become not only a community favorite, but also a tourist attraction in an otherwise slow time of year,” said DDA marketing director Colleen Paveglio. And if that $25-a-plate menu isn’t enough incentive, diners who participate in Restaurant Week and also enter to win a prize package that includes $50 gift cards to each participating restaurant.

Visit the downtowntc.com website for further information on participating restaurants and menus.

The Usual Thaw (Just in Time for the Cherry Capital Winter Wow!fest)

Saturday's Frozen Bed Race -- a Wow!fest Favorite 
Saturday’s Frozen Bed Race — a Wow!fest Favorite

By MIKE NORTON

It happens every February. For a brief few days, the weather turns warm and windy – just long enough to fool everyone into thinking that winter is past, and to irritate those of us who still aren’t ready to say goodbye to the snow. We’ve been around long enough to know that the cold weather will return – we just want to make sure we can still enjoy ourselves outdoors when it does.

Here in Traverse City, of course, we’re all looking forward to the start of the Cherry Capital Winter Wow!fest this week. The Wow!fest is a celebration of  music, food, and fun that takes place each year on the President’s Day Weekend. There’s so much going on that we couldn’t fit it all into a single location — so there are events and activities happening all around the Traverse City area. (Best of all, most of them are absolutely free!)

Festival regulars will be glad to know that many of their favorites will be back from previous years. For instance, the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa’s “Winter Fun Zone” will still have the traditional selection of  rides on ponies, snowmobiles and horse-drawn sleighs as well as sledding, ice skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing.

 There’s also a selection of competitive events that range from the familiar (the Frosty 5K Foot Race and a kid’s snowshoe race) to the unlikely (ever hear of the Frozen Fish Toss?). There are bonfires, films, live music, fireworks, and lots of festive food and beverages. And this year, the Winter Fun Zone features a little something extra: a Sunday afternoon parade of vintage snowmobiles.

 Nearby at the Mt. Holiday Ski Area, they’re returning with popular competitions like the Downhill Dash race down the ski hill (on skis, snowboards, even bikes), a “Big Air” Championship, and the Cardboard Bobsled-o-Rama in which competitors must use sleds made only with cardboard, tape and paint. And the Saturday co-ed Snowball Softball Tournament, sponsored by Blue Care Network of Michigan, will return to the Grand Traverse County Civic Center for a second year, hosting teams from across the state of Michigan on four neighboring diamonds in this ASA-sanctioned tournament, which will feature a beer tent (sponsored by H. Cox & Son/Bud Light) and other concessions.

 But there are big changes in store for 2011. Most of the events that were once held on Front Street in downtown Traverse City are being moved to a brand-new venue just across the river. The new “Celebration Central” area (along the Grandview Parkway between Cass and Union streets, where the Farmers Market is held during the summer and fall months) will host such popular Wow!fest events as the Grand Beach/Sugar Beach Frozen Bed Race, the Brain Freeze, the Pit Spit, the Northern Michigan Veterinary Hospital Monster Dog Pull and the beloved Munson Medical Center Soup’r Bowl” competition (where you get to slurp up soups created by our best local chefs and cast ballots for your favorite!)

Best of all, the new venue is going to be the site of some awesome new events. On Friday night, for instance, the festival will begin with a new wine, food, art, and entertainment reception called Winter, Wine & Wow! Saturday will feature the  EpicHappens Downtown Throwdown Rail Jam with special guest appearances by Danny Kass and The Dingo. This day-long ski/board competition (on a specially made 30-foot snow hill trucked in and built on site) will show off the talent of some of the youngest riders to the most experienced. There’ll be arena seating, and no admission charges!

 Meanwhile the folks from Shanty Creek Resorts will be creating a special Snow Park and Tubing Hill to introduce families to the joy of snow tubing! All day and into the night, you’ll also be able to enjoy refreshing beverages, food and live entertainment under the big heated tent.

Since the new venue is just a short walk from the Front Street shopping district, attendees will be able to enjoy all these exciting new events without giving up the convenience of nearby shops and restaurants. The downtown district will continue to host several favorite attractions, including its   “Sweetheart of a Sale” promotion, horse and carriage rides, and the popular avenue of ice sculptures.

And it’ll all be happening no matter what kind of weather we get this week!

(Want more information? Check out their website at http://www.winterwowfest.com/ and their Facebook Page at http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Traverse-Citys-Winter-WowFest/146902325347369)

The North American Vasa: A Great Weekend for XC Skiers!

OK, just so everybody knows, none of these guys is me....
 OK, just so everybody knows, none of these guys is me….

By MIKE NORTON

 Man, what a perfect skiing weekend we just had. Every weekend I think it can’t possible get better (except for that slushy rainy New Year’s weekend) but then the combination of snow, temperature and atmosphere just gets better. For the first time in a while, I left the snowshoes behind and got out on the cross-country trails by the Old Mission Lighthouse with my skinny-skis.

 I meant to go out for an hour, but I ended up taking two, listening to a little Bruckner (the fourth and fifth symphonies) on the old IPod. There’d been almost no wind, so the pines and spruces and hemlocks were all dusted with fresh snow, and there was enough new stuff on the trail to give me a decent amount of traction. The experience got me thinking about how you can forget about something you really enjoy if you neglect it for too long.

 Which brings me to the subject of the North American Vasa, one of Traverse City’s great winter events – a massive cross-country ski race that’s been going on for the past 35 years, bringing hundred of skiers to the Traverse City area in mid-February. (This year’s Vasa Festival of Races will be held Feb. 11-13.) In recent years, a lot of new events have been added the area’s February lineup – the Cherry Capital Winter Wow!Fest, the Traverse City Comedy Arts Festival, the Traverse City Winter Microbrew & Music Festival all come to mind – but the Vasa is still the king.

 More than most events, I think the Vasa plays to who and what we are as a community. Not just because it’s out in the snow, but because the people who organize the race have really worked hard to make it an event that every skier can enjoy – not just the hard-core competitive skier. Even though it’s been chosen to host the 2012 American Cross Country Marathon National Masters – a major coup in the ski racing world – most of the folks who compete each year are not professional racers.

 The main Saturday race, which features 12K, 27K and 50K loops, in either freestyle or classic styles, is one of 14 U.S. events listed in the prestigious American Ski Marathon Series, where most of the nation’s elite and professional ski racers compete. Sunday’s 16K traditional-style race, the Gran Travers Classic, is an equally prestigious event for old-school Nordic skiers, and one of the events in the Michigan Cup classic race series. But over the past decade, race organizers have added a wide range of other events for skiers of all shapes, ages and skill levels: 1K sprints for preschoolers, 3K freestyle and classic events for older youths, and even noncompetitive tours for those who prefer to enjoy winter’s natural beauty at a more leisurely pace.

And after all,  there’s a lot of beauty to appreciate. The Vasa is held on a beautifully crafted trail that winds through the dense pines and hardwoods of Michigan’s Pere Marquette State Forest, just east of Traverse City. Since 2005, the start and finish lines have been at the Timber Ridge RV and Recreation Resort, whose trails connect to the main Vasa system.  Hundreds of spectators come to watch the race and enjoy the festivities that surround it. Over the past three decades, the Vasa has become a treasured part of winter life in Traverse City.

Want to find out more about the Vasa? Here’s their web link http://www.vasa.org/ and here’s their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/North-American-Vasa/135050486535054

The Vasa may be Traverse City’s best-known winter event, but it is by no means the only one. The dense forests, towering hills and stunning shoreline views that make this a favorite summer resort area also lure thousands of visitors here each winter for skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and other cold-weather sports.  On Feb. 5, for instance, yet another major Nordic ski race is held a few miles to the north in the  village of Mancelona, near the Shanty Creek Resort & Club, known as the White Pine Stampede, it, too, is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. To learn more about them, go to http://whitepinestampede.org/