With about 2 feet of snow over the previous week, it seemed like kind of a no-brainer to head up to Caberfae Peaks for opening weekend. They counted 18 open trails (most if not all of the South Peak) serviced by 3 chairs and a tow-rope and their new “backcountry” territory.
Recent cold temps allowed for some aggressive snowmaking to augment what Mother Nature had provided: the groomers were in great shape with plenty of snow and even the banks were well covered for buttery shenanigans or boosting the occasional orange fence. The glades between trails were thinly covered but rideable (Cab is pretty chill about this as long as you’re not ducking ropes you can ride the trees anywhere), so Joe and I spent a lot of time in the trees, and checking out the new terrain.
Caberfae’s New Backcountry Terrain
If you’d ever gotten off the chair at the summit and wanted to drop in off the top side of Smiling Irishmen, you’re now in luck because one of Caberfae’s improvements in the off-season is the addition of some new “backcountry” terrain.
Accessibility: The terrain is only kind of not lift-serviced: when fully open you will be able to drop in from atop Smiling Irishmen. From the Mountain Slayer Chute, the hike out is maybe 100 yards of flats. From points further, you may experience a longer hike but nothing that would warrant any extreme safety measures, you can basically see the parking lot or the old cafeteria from anywhere back there.
Terrain: This new terrain includes that scary steep north facing aspect connecting in to the Mountain Slayer Chute, and alternatively extends over a few more ridges, chutes and fire roads to the West, which I believe was part of which was previously lift- or tow-serviced terrain that has been out of service for a few decades.
From the very top there were some tasty drops but it looked like it was ready to slab (seriously) but mostly I didn’t want to spend an hour bootpacking out of a zone that didn’t have enough snow or steep enough grade to ride out, so we heeded the “Closed” signs and found entry points lower.
While there was not enough snow yet to fully explore the backcountry at Caberfae, we spent a lot of time in the Mountain Slayer Chute and surrounding terrain.
From the trees along Irishmen it funnels in to a very low pitch chute with steep embankments on each side. There are side hits and smallish drops (4-6 ft) for days back there. While there is some potential for 10+’ drops on skier’s left from the top, the pitch of the landings doesn’t really support it unless you have bionic knees. The surrounding backcountry looks to offer more in the way of a few bigger drops and short steep runs.
Highlights: Big Al’s Pizza in Manistee. Joe’s hand-crafted snowboard “leash”, made from weed-whacker string. Spotting, and then promptly destroying the log-gap-to-log at the top of Mountain Slayer Chute, hot dogging underneath the Clubhouse Double chair in the glades between Monty’s and Easy Street, taking a good-sized drop to shallow pow off of Irishmen in to the backcountry terrain.
Summing it up: The glades are fun, they’ve got decent vert by Midwest standards, and lots of fun terrain if you’re creative, but the new backcountry terrain really stole the show. While the runs are somewhat short and there’s no real danger to be had (you’re almost always within shouting distance of the parking lot), but the re-addition of the westerly “backcountry” territory to Caberfae’s terrain is a truly unique terrain offering, unrivaled by the other ski areas in Michigan’s lower peninsula. I’ve always enjoyed riding at Caberfae, this just makes it better.