The New York Times has an article on how Gaylord, Michigan has become a favored practice ground for Olympic snowboarders from around the world:
The Otsego Club in Gaylord built its first Olympic-size halfpipe for this season, and the world’s elite snowboarders are coming in droves to train.
Teams and individual athletes from Australia, New Zealand, Italy, France, Japan, Canada, Germany and Switzerland ditched the usual training hot spots in favor of Gaylord, an Alpine-themed town of 3,800 located a four-hour drive north of Detroit.
“You look around, and you see no real mountains here, but this is the best training we could possibly have right now,” the French snowboarder Olivier Gittler said. “Amazing. We heard this was a really good place to train, so we decided to leave Europe and come here.
“We were driving here at night, and everything looked so flat. We weren’t sure if we had made a mistake, this was the wrong place?”
When the sun rose the next day, Gittler saw the halfpipe. “Very surprising,” he said.
The Otsego Club, a private ski/golf club and resort founded in 1939, has been a good destination for snowboarders, with a terrain park of 45 trails and jumps to complement its 31 downhill runs. This season, it decided to take a chance and spend more than $100,000 to build the halfpipe. The club has a membership of 400 families, of which 75 percent are from the Detroit area.
While the Gaylord area—and nearby Boyne—have gained attention for their golf courses, most of the resorts are four-seasons affairs. They offer golf, tennis, swimming and boating in the warmer weather, and downhill and cross country skiing, skating, snowmobiling and so on in the cold. There are some terrific lodges, and they always seem to have special events going on.
The golf is terrific. There are 21 golf courses in that immediate area, including the terrific Black Forest, which I reviewed here. With the long, cooler summer days, its entirely possible to get three rounds in from sunup to sundown (I have done just that).
But the skiing also is very good. You don’t have the mountains of the rockies or even the Appalachians, but the hills are good enough for most skill levels. And they’re very family friendly, very pleasant operations.
“I think this is the perfect training environment, seriously,” said Bright, one of four Australians training here. “The snow is great. The pipe is perfect. You get down and up on the chair in like three minutes. There are tons more runs than at other places. You get back to the lodge and you can get lunch in like 10 minutes. We sleep right here. We have no distractions.”
Gaylord (and the rest of Michigan) has long been advertising itself as a golf mecca. Maybe it’s time to also start promoting the skiing.