Gavin Gibson    

We haven't stepped foot into the lodge at Nub's Nob before Thomas asks me if it's “different” here.

Anyone from the Mitten State knows there's a conflict between the two peninsulas, and it's hard not to take sides in this imaginary civil war. Efforts to secede and form a new state date back to the late 1800's when there was a movement to split the Upper from the Lower Peninsula. The miners and loggers in the north had nothing in common with the automakers of the south except for an interest in the state's deer herd to which territorial rights are hotly contested. Although the differences Thomas observes while roaming the well-lit lodge aren't exactly related to a southern shift in geography.

Ski areas in the Upper Peninsula see a steady influx of tourists, but most of the crowds on a typical day spend less than an hour in cars before booting up. Nub's skiers don't have it so easy. They live in places like metro Detroit or rural Cadillac and spend several hours driving through traffic before making any turns. The suburban weekend warriors are all gunning for the same fix and Friday night traffic on I-75 does hell to their psyche. It's why “Front Rangers” and Sugar House residents have such a bad rap. If you don't leave your auto-induced anger in the parking lot it's liable to be the biggest snowball anyone sees all day.

So here are some words of advice; if you're of age, bring a Thermos of hot chocolate, some Peppermint Schnapps and mix them accordingly as soon as your engine shuts off. If you don't drink, do a crossword puzzle. Practice some yoga. Follow #mountainbabes for tips on great parking lot poses. Do anything to interrupt the maniac beeline for the perfect ski day. We get it, you're a powder fiend. So was Tony Montana.


You made it. Nobody can prevent a day-long marathon ski of a single blue square called “Birch Run” if that's what you seek. If you stem-christie one less run than originally planned, it's only a reason to come back and try again next weekend.

So here are some words of advice; if you're of age, bring a Thermos of hot chocolate, some Peppermint Schnapps and mix them accordingly as soon as your engine shuts off.

The nine color-coated lifts at Nub's Nob whisk away people's road rage sooner than later and troll-like attitudes melt into general warmth. Nub's is known for it's modestly-sloped open glades, and park skiing best suited for anyone who's ever pushed a skateboard. The mountain shuts down at four for grooming and the line at the tap inside Nub's Pub starts forming around 3:30. Inside, a friendly middle-aged man strums the guitar with the ferocity of Jimmy Buffet making a Vitamin K discovery while singing parodies about lions, packers, and bears. The bar erupts in laughter every fifth bar of the melody. It's like the family reunion that could have been if Uncle Buck would just stick to singing songs without breaking down into a long slow series of weeping fits. I give it full approval and order another drink.

Once the lights kick on outside the main runs of the hill are lit, including a park with large enough kickers to keep any skier humble. I don't fancy the possibility of shorting jumps this late in the day so I ski through the park following everything but the fall line. There's clearly pride in the grooming here because every tillable plane has a corduroy coat. My zig-zag tactics catch on and soon a dozen teenagers put down their iPhones and start zig-zagging the park backwards. We watch each other from the chairs but never connect, lapping in symmetry. It's not that I've gifted these kids with some revolutionary new form of skiing, they watch the same videos I do, but I do have some time on them fighting the waning motivation of day-end boredom.

“I like Nub's.” Thomas says when we finally get back to the parking lot, forgetting how jarring his morning was. He doesn't quite realize it yet, but he's figured out why so many people make the drive.

For Part 4 at Marquette Mountain Click Here

Gavin Gibson



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