In the midwest, we don’t so much chase the pow as we do hunt for strange, and with nearly 40 ski areas in the state of Michigan alone, it’s not difficult to find a place you’ve never ridden, it’s just a matter of getting there.
Under new management since mid-2010, Cannonsburg Ski Area has been making news in the local scene lately with a number of events and promotions like a 70-foot booter last spring, and most recently their ambitious park plans for this season. Located 2.5hrs west of Detroit, I had never been there before so when they invited me to come check the place out I wrangled up a few friends, put the roof rack on the Jeep, woke up earlier than I do on a work day, and took a day trip (1/22/2012) to the west side.
Lift tickets: Standard fare lift tickets are about average for the area but they have a promotion good all day every day for 2-for-1 tix as long as you get a voucher from a participating Shell gas station (10 gal minimum fill-up required). This brings the per-person price down to about $18 for a weekend day which is on the ridonculous side of ridiculously affordable.
Conditions: Unfortunately, not all of the trails were open for skiing/riding yet, but what was open was in very good shape. Mostly hardpack and groomed runs with the occasional sidepow on the steeper, less-traveled trails. Buffered by a recent snowfall of 8″+, the conditions were as good as could be expected given this winter’s roller-coaster ride of freeze, snow, thaw, rain, repeat.
Amenities: Although it is not a full-service overnight “resort”, Cannonsburg does a great job with a resort-like vibe. The bar is nice, clean, and up-to-date and the service was quick & friendly. They have a condensed menu serving staples like appetizers, chili, sandwiches and wraps. Prices are exceedingly fair (a 22oz. draft and a club sandwich set me back $12 and some change). There is also a cafeteria-style dining option on the main floor of the lodge. Both dining facilities offer panoramic views of the mountain.
Solid looking pro shop with a nice selection of hard and soft goods, it didn’t have that “We just added a pro shop to sell you crap” feel to it that you get some places, it was all legit stuff and laid out like a real shop.
Everyone we met from the front desk to the ticket counter to the lifties, shop kids and bar staff was friendly and accommodating.
Terrain Parks: This is what you’ve been waiting for. Unfortunately only a fraction of the features/park was set up yet, due to lack of cooperation from mother nature. Fortunately, what was set up was really dialed in. They had a few areas open.
- Front-and-center, the big park out front had a bike-rack style rail, a 24′ down box, a 22′ street-style rail next to a wall made of snow (saw a kid hit his face on said wall, LOL), and a nasty looking flat box to acid drop that was about a 7′ drop to flat. There was propane tank bonk set up sideways and a big ass Monster can that you could slide, and the Subway bank/wall at the bottom. In between donkey rail and the street rail was a nice lip you could jump, too.
- From the base, all the way to the left there was a set of rollers that were legit, a nasty cannon that probably could’ve been a bit mellower of an angle (I swear it was about 55 degrees), a wall ride, and some crazy donut type bonk. All the way to the right there were a few small kickers, next to the progression park, that were pretty tame.
- Last but not least, the progression park was pretty solid with 9 features, 3 lines of 3 features, all ride-ons. Left: flat box, battleship box (wide), butter box. Middle: flat bar, rainbow bar, something else. Right: flat box, flat-down box, butter box (wide). All of them funneled in to a skate-bowl type hip thingy. The flow in this park was good and you could really dial in new tricks here, since it was serviced by a tow rope you could lap it non-stop.
Park Maintenance: It’s obvious that Cannonsburg emphasizes their terrain parks and focuses on providing a unique experience for skiers and riders. They’re definitely doing it right. Several times throughout the day we saw two employees raking the lips, landings and sides of all the features, keeping them from getting too rutted out.
Summing it up:
The prices were right for skiers/boarders on any budget, the facilities were nice, the staff was friendly and the park was in tip-top shape all day I’m not sure what more you could ask for (more, please!). Well it is not the biggest mountain and in most regards it doesn’t compare to a full-service resort, don’t let that deter you from getting over there and checking them out. Pretty easy drive from Chicago or Detroit and there are plenty of lodging options in nearby Grand Rapids where you could enjoy the downtown nightlife, dining, etc. I’d feel confident putting their parks up against any in the state or even the midwest and although they have a heavy park focus, they assure that if nature will cooperate, there will be plenty of terrain for the groomer-cruisers, as well.
Overall Cannonsburg is a winner in my book and I will try to get back there before the lifts stop spinning this spring.