Patrons sled down a snow-covered hill at Kensington Metropark.

Patrons sled down a snow-covered hill at Kensington Metropark.

Photo provided by Danielle Mauter


Give the gift of the outdoors this holiday season

By: Sarah Wojcik | Metro | Published December 8, 2021

 Fat tire biking is a winter draw at Stony Creek Metropark’s natural mountain biking trails.

Fat tire biking is a winter draw at Stony Creek Metropark’s natural mountain biking trails.

Photo provided by Danielle Mauter

 A group snowshoes at Stony Creek Metropark.

A group snowshoes at Stony Creek Metropark.

Photo provided by Danielle Mauter

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METRO DETROIT — With Michigan leading COVID-19 case numbers across the country, a thoughtful gift this year is one that will continue to give all year long — the gift of the outdoors, given that indoor activities carry a higher likelihood of virus transmission.

A simple way to start is an annual pass to the Huron-Clinton Metroparks. The system includes 13 parks throughout metro Detroit, including 25,000 acres of parks and nearly 400 miles of trails in five counties.

For residents of Oakland, Macomb, Wayne, Livingston and Washtenaw counties, the cost of a 2022 annual pass for a regular vehicle is $35 if purchased before Dec. 31; the cost for seniors ages 62 and older is $24 for residents if purchased before Dec. 31.

Danielle Mauter, the chief of marketing and communications for the Huron-Clinton Metroparks, said she recommends the paved hike-and-bike trails for first-timers to the outdoors. Such paths can be found at Stony Creek Metropark in Shelby Township and Kensington Metropark in Milford Township.

“They are our most popular trails. They’re marked with signage, and people can walk, bike, hike or walk their dogs in the winter. They’re also salted and cleared, and patrons can use them year-round,” Mauter said. “If people are more adventurous, we also offer rustic hiking and nature trails.”

She added that the park system also has a variety of nature centers and farm centers, as well as a history center.

“Within, you will find interpretive staff who are our educational frontline staff and offer programs and events all year,” Mauter said. “We offer a variety of free and paid programs, including guided hikes; owl programs; programs for kids; environmental programs; and programs that cover astronomy, birding, climate change and more.”

Winter activities are just starting to ramp up at the Huron-Clinton Metroparks.

The most popular winter activities, Mauter said, are sledding and cross-country skiing.

Patrons can rent ski equipment at Stony Creek, Kensington and Huron Meadows metroparks. Huron Meadows, located in Brighton, in Livingston County, is the only park in the system to make its own snow for its cross-country skiing trails.

Kensington, which straddles Oakland and Livingston counties, is the Huron-Clinton Metroparks’ most popular sledding destination, with hills ranging from beginner to experienced. Stony Creek, which straddles Macomb and Oakland counties, also has sledding hills.

Mauter said Lake St. Clair Metropark, located in Harrison Township, is a popular destination for ice fishing in the winter, and its nature center is also a large draw.

Fat tire bikers are also welcome to enjoy the natural mountain bike trails at Stony Creek Metropark. Mauter said the mountain bike trails are not groomed, so patrons should be cognizant of weather conditions and take necessary precautions.

“In the winter, we do remind visitors to remember that it’s cold outside, so dress in layers, depending on the activity they’re doing,” she said. “If they get hot and sweaty, they can take layers off, but also have them at their disposal to keep warm.”

Mauter also recommended appropriate footwear, since trails may be wet, icy or covered in snow, so patrons do not slip and fall.

For more information, visit metroparks.com or call the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority at (810) 227-2757.

For those who would like to shred some powder or take a beginner’s lesson to learn the ropes, Pine Knob is a ski and snowboard resort located in the village of Clarkston in Oakland County.

Jeff King, the Pine Knob ski school director, said the organization is focused on helping people have a great experience, whatever their financial status.

Thanks to a partnership with McDonald’s, King said, a program called Discover Michigan provides an hour-long beginner lesson, ski or snowboard rental, and beginner area lift ticket for a cost of $45. The lesson covers basic maneuvering on skis or snowboards, including stopping, turning, riding the lifts and getting up from a fall.

Skiers must be at least 7 years old; snowboarders must be at least 10 years old.

“The (Discover Michigan program) is a great, inexpensive way to get a taste of the sports,” King said. “Our numbers are huge for all of our programs this year. It’s just blowing up. A lot of people are coming back to it, and we’re expecting the best year ever.”

As long as the temperature and humidity cooperate, King said, the ski and snowboard resort blows its own high-quality snow.

He advised newcomers to skiing or snowboarding to dress like they are going sledding, including wearing a good pair of gloves, different layers of clothing, one pair of socks, snow pants, a jacket and a helmet.

“Pine Knob is inexpensive as far as the ski industry goes, compared to going up north, because it’s close to home and we have incredible snow,” King said. “We’ve also got a big staff to keep the slopes in good condition.”

The Pine Knob Ski & Snowboard Resort 2021-2022 season hours of operation 10 a.m.- 10 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturdays, and 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays throughout the season.

The resort is located at 7778 Sashabaw Road in the village of Clarkston. For more information, visit skipineknob.com, call (248) 625-0800 or email office@skipine knob.com.

Eight of the Oakland County Parks Commission’s 14 parks require a vehicle pass. Prices start at $30 for residents, and packages and discounts are available for the purchase of two, for joint passes with the Huron Clinton-Metroparks. They’re free for county seniors, active veterans and people with permanent disabilities.

The county offers gift cards for sale online at www.oakgov.com/parks.

The park system comprises  6,700 acres acres and offers groomed trails for fat tire biking, as well as skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, platform tennis and more.

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