2012 Chef’s Challenge at Boyne Mountain via Instagram

Team one gets down to business by farlane
Team one gets down to business by farlane

Absolute Michigan was fortunate enough to be able to attend the 2012 Chef’s Challenge at Boyne Mountain last weekend. This annual event benefits Challenge Mountain, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching and improving lives for the mentally and physically challenged through outdoor recreation.

The team from The Art Institute of Michigan in Novi (who placed second last year) was named the 2012 winner, edging out the team from Odawa Casino & Resorts. Judges included Chef Angus Campbell of the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education, Chef Matthew Millar, Reserve Wine & Food in Grand Rapids; Chef Nathan Mileski of Northern Michigan University, Pastry Chef Rob Haney, retired pastry chef; Chef Robb White, Culinary Institute of Michigan and author Ruth Mossok Johnston. Chef Chris Kibit, professor at Northern Michigan University in Marquette once again served as liaison to the judges. Chef Michelle Bommarito served as emcee for the evening’s activities. The team from Marquette High School was named winner of the student competition on Friday night.

Check out our photos below and click the Facebook icon to the left to see more photos and video on the Challenge Mountain Facebook!

[slickr-flickr search="sets" set="72157629529824310" type="gallery"]

  • Boarder at Boyne courtesy Boyne Mountain
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    Absolute Michigan Giveaway: Boyne Mountain & Boyne Highlands Ski Tickets

Absolute Michigan Giveaway: Boyne Mountain & Boyne Highlands Ski Tickets

Absolute Michigan is committed to helping our readers get more out of Michigan with our giveaways of products and services from all kinds of Michigan businesses. It's free, fun and all you have to do to be eligible is to be on our email list!
If your business is interested in participating, you can get all the information right here.

All January we have been giving away ski tickets to Michigan resorts in our January Ski Month Giveaway. Our last giveaway is to one of the pioneering ski resorts in Michigan.

boyne highlands lodge by northernlightphotograph
boyne highlands lodge by northernlightphotograph

Boyne Mountain started in 1947 when Detroit native Everett Kircher moved to northern Michigan to build a ski resort. For just $1, he bought what is known today as Boyne Mountain. Kircher had many firsts including the world’s first triple chair and first four-person chair and America’s first 6-seat high-speed chairlift. Kircher also pioneered the design of much of the snow grooming equipment and techniques in use today and invented the Boyne Snowmaker, the first efficient marginal temperature snowmaking machine.

Boyne has grown into a nationwide empire that includes some of the nation’s premier resorts like Big Sky, and also two four-season ski resorts in Michigan: Boyne Mountain and nearby Boyne Highlands. A cool feature of tickets at the two resorts is that you can use the same ticket at either resort – ski in the morning at one and finish your day at the other, giving you 115 downhill runs & terrain parks between the two resorts!

Boarder at Boyne courtesy Boyne Mountain

In addition to skiing and snowboarding, Boyne has expanded the opportunities for winter fun with ice skating, tubing, snowshoeing, dog sled and horse drawn wagon rides, zipline adventures and the Avalanche Bay water park. They also have a wide range of dining and lodging options at each resort. If you want to take a look at what they have to offer, their webcams and videos are a great place to start.

All you need to do to be eligible to win is to be on our email list (below the video). This video gives you a first-person look at skiing at Boyne, but we have to go with this one from the incomparable Warren Miller!

Absolute Michigan is committed to helping our readers get more out of Michigan with our giveaways of products and services from all kinds of Michigan businesses. It's free, fun and all you have to do to be eligible is to be on our email list!
If your business is interested in participating, you can get all the information right here.

Absolute Michigan Giveaway: Ski Tickets to The Homestead

Absolute Michigan is committed to helping our readers get more out of Michigan with our regular giveaways of products and services from all kinds of Michigan businesses. It's free, fun and all you have to do to be eligible is to be on our email list!
If your business is interested in participating, you can get all the information right here.

View from Bay Mountain by Patrick Kuras
View from Bay Mountain by Patrick Kuras

Our January Ski Month giveaways continue with a chance to win a pair of lift tickets to The Homestead in Glen Arbor – to be eligible, just add your email to our list using the form above!

As you can see from the photo, Bay Mountain at The Homestead overlooks Lake Michigan and Sleeping Bear Bay, providing one of the most amazing views in the Midwest. While the terrain is by no means extreme, they have a nice terrain park and some fun runs. Their strength is as a destination for families, and their great ski program includes lessons and Camp Tam-A-Rack, offering child care for resort guests and a chance for parents to get out and enjoy the hill.

In addition to downhill, they have some great cross country trails at the resort and are moments away from some of the most amazing trails in the world at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. They also have a number of restaurants and a wide variety of condos and lodging options.

Absolute Michigan isn’t the only place you can win stuff – The Homestead is offering an $84,000 Winter Sweepstakes this winter with regular chances to win all kinds of prizes. Twenty-five skiers or boarders will win prizes each week for the first 10 weeks, two will win 2013 season passes in the last two weeks and they’ll even give away ski weekends!

Now here’s a video that gives you a look at the resort.

Absolute Michigan Giveaway: Lift Tickets to Shanty Creek

Absolute Michigan is committed to helping our readers get more out of Michigan with our regular giveaways of products and services from all kinds of Michigan businesses. It's free, fun and all you have to do to be eligible is to be on our email list!
If your business is interested in participating, you can get all the information right here.

Ski Month keeps rolling on Absolute Michigan with our latest giveaway, a pair of lift tickets to Shanty Creek near Bellaire in Northern Michigan.

Shanty Creek boasts a 450′ vertical drop and has 53 runs with 4 terrain parks and a 300′ half pipe on its two mountains. With nearly 200″ of snow every year and a wealth of additional resort amenities including a tubing park, 30km of cross-country trails, indoor & outdoor pools, a wellness spa and fitness center and multiple dining options, this full-featured resort is a top destination for Michigan skiers.

This Saturday, January 14 from 3-6 PM Shanty Creek Resort will host their 3rd Annual Beer and Boards Microbrew Festival, pairing a day on the slopes with an après-ski party featuring some of Michigan’s best known master brewers including New Holland, Bells, Right Brain, Arcadia, Mt. Pleasant Brewing, Shorts Brewing Company, and more.

They also offer super-affordable $15 lift ticket on Summit Mountain (a section of the resort that includes a terrain park) along with $20 ski rentals if you need them and packages and Monday – Friday lift ticket specials that can help you stretch your skiing dollar:

  • 4 For $44 Mondays – four lift tickets for $44; 9am-4:30pm on Schuss Mountain (Not valid 1/16 or 2/20)
  • 2 For 1 Two-sdays – Two for the price of one lift tickets, rentals and group lessons
  • KHQ Wednesdays – $20 day lift tickets (through March 14), $10 night lift tickets (through March 14), $15 Rentals (5-9pm) and $7/Hour Tubing from 5-9pm (through March 14).
  • Thankful Thursdays – $15 day tickets, $10 night tickets, $20 day rentals and $15 night rentals for seniors (62+), military, police and firefighters.
  • 9&10 News Fridays – Every Friday, ski Summit Mountain from 5-9pm for $9 and Schuss Mountain from 5-10pm for $10; rentals are $15 beginning at 5pm. Available every Friday night (excluding 2/17/12).

You won’t need ski deals if you’re this week’s winner – just make sure you’re signed up for our email list in the blue box at the top of the page!

January is Skiing Month on Absolute Michigan!

Mulligans Hollow by Second Glance Photos Kevin Ryan
Mulligans Hollow by Second Glance Photos Kevin Ryan

January is Ski Month on Absolute Michigan, and all month long we are celebrating skiing in Michigan with original articles and features on downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding along with photos and videos that take you up close and personal with the Michigan ski experience. We’ll also have features on Michigan ski pioneers and the rich history of skiing in the Great Lakes State, and from our friends at Seeking Michigan and the Archives of Michigan we’ll have a feature on the Suicide Hill ski jump in Ishpeming.

At the center of it all is a giveaway of 4 pairs of lift tickets to 4 great Michigan ski resorts:

All you need to do to enter is be on our email list – sign up at the bottom of the article! We’re not alone in celebrating skiing this month. Governor Rick Snyder has proclaimed January as Discover Michigan Snow Sports Month, citing the fact that we are home to more downhill ski areas than any other state and encouraging Michigan residents and visitors to use this month to take advantage of it.

Black Diamonds Will Have to Wait...
Black Diamonds Will Have
to Wait… by ( Jennifer )

The Michigan Snowsports Industries Association has jumped on board, offering a program called Discover Michigan Skiing that will give you a beginner lesson, ski or snowboard rental equipment and a beginner-area ski lift pass or cross-country trail pass at 23 Michigan ski facilities! It’s available through January 31 and costs just $20 for cross-country skiing; $30 downhill skiing and $40 snowboarding. The program is open to everyone 7 years and older and you can get all the details at their website While you’re there, don’t miss Cold Is Cool – a promotion that gives every Michigan 4th Grader FREE skiing at participating Michigan resorts.

All in all, it’s a great month to be skiing in Michigan. We’ll take you out to the slopes right now with the masters of ski videos, the good people at Warren Miller Entertainment and their feature on Boyne Mountain, one of the early and present leaders of the Michigan ski industry.

Absolute Michigan is committed to helping our readers get more out of Michigan. To that end, we are adding an exciting new program featuring regular giveaways of products and services from all kinds of Michigan businesses. It's free, fun and all you have to do to be eligible is to be on our email list - sign up using the form below. We guarantee that we will not share your email address with anyone!
If your business is interested in participating, you can get all the information right here.

Absolute Michigan Giveaway: Ski Tickets to Crystal Mountain

Absolute Michigan is committed to helping our readers get more out of Michigan with our regular giveaways of products and services from all kinds of Michigan businesses. It's free, fun and all you have to do to be eligible is to be on our email list!
If your business is interested in participating, you can get all the information right here.

There's an Upside and a Downside by farlane
There’s an Upside and a Downside by farlane

Northern Michigan kicked off 2012 with a big snowstorm and in January, Absolute Michigan will celebrate all that beautiful snow by giving away 4 pairs of tickets to 4 great Michigan ski resorts. We’ll also be heading out to the slopes to bring you reports & photos so stay tuned.

Our first giveaway (winner selected Jan 12, 2012) is from Crystal Mountain, a four-season ski, golf and spa resort located southwest of Traverse City in Thompsonville. Crystal has received a host of awards including Best Resort in the Midwest from Ski Magazine. With a nearly 400′ vertical, 45 slopes including a halfpipe and terrain park and 9 modern lifts across 85 acres of terrain, Crystal draws a quarter of a million skiers annually. While snow is not usually a problem, they take no chances with over 100 snowguns capable of pumping 1,000 tons of snow per hour.

To their wide range of hills for all abilities and great snow, Crystal Mountain adds great hospitality, with over 250 hotel rooms, suites, condominiums, townhomes and resort residences to choose from along with indoor pool and hot tub, a 20 person outdoor hot tub and their 18,500 sq. ft. state-of-the-art Crystal Spa. It’s the only LEED certified spa in the Midwest and makes a great place to unwind if you skied too hard! There are also a number of dining options including a personal favorite, the Thistle Pub & Grille, that features Michigan craft brew, a ton of local infused menu items and some truly awesome burgers that will keep you tearing up the slopes!

All YOU need to do to have a shot at 2 tickets – good any day – to Crystal Mountain is to be on our email list. Sign up in the blue box at the top of the page. Even if you don’t win the giveaway, you can still get great deals by purchasing your ticket online.

You can watch all kinds of videos on the Crystal Mountain YouTube channel. We’ll take you out with one of our favorites, a video from a 1 1/2 foot powder dump a few years ago – think SNOW!

Live at the Michigan Culinary Tourism Conference

Click here for a video from the conference!

Michigan Culinary TourismAll day today the Absolute Michigan team is at Creating Michigan Culinary Destinations, Michigan’s first conference on Culinary Tourism. The conference was a hot ticket, and nearly 200 tourism industry stakeholders are getting ready to learn about Michigan’s new initiative to increase tourism. You can learn all about the Michigan Culinary Tourism Inititative at that link and read on for updates as we have them!

Zingerman's Delicatessen
Zingerman’s Delicatessen by Ashley Dinges

1:30 pm The lunch keynote speaker is Ari Weinzweig of one of the giants of Michigan ‘s food scene, Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor. Ari is definitely a fast talker, and related that he got started washing dishes at Maude’s, and at that time, Tang and Space Sticks were his culinary adventures. He met co-founder Paul Saginaw at Maude’s and –  5 years after opening a deli in a town that wouldn’t support delis  at a location with no parking that people couldn’t find – was hailed as a genius. Today the Zingerman’s empire does $38 million in annual sales.

Ari says that (for him at least) all tourism is culinary. He relates  some “natural laws” from his book A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business that he thinks relate to building an authentic culinary destination. Natural law #1 is that an inspiring, strategically sound vision leads to greatness. He cautions that although  great visions come  from the heart, you need to develop your vision with enough richness and depth that people can understand what you’re talking about. He shared a bit of the vision for the West Side Farmer’s Market. With lines like “All these products have a story and none of them have traveled very far to get here,” it’s really clear that vision is a big part of what drives Zingerman’s.

His 2nd law is “You need to give your customers some really compelling reasons to buy from you.” He quotes Jim Hightower “Ain’t nothing in the middle of the road but 2 yellow lines and a whole lot of dead armadillos.” He  recommends that we seek to create offerings that have appeal for tourists AND residents to create a more resilient and dynamic customer base.

He closes with his belief that the customer experience is the most important thing. He breaks a recent study regarding employee attitudes toward their workplace into football terms: of the 11 players on a football team, only 4 know where the goal is, just two care who wins the game and all but 2 are just as likely to be  rooting for the other team as their own! Does this sound like your business? If it does, what can you do to change it? Ari suggests that maybe Michigan could steal a page from Hawaii and adopt the Ojibway word for welcome and become “The Aaniin State” … because someone has to be the most welcoming place in country!

Cheers,  ©n.walmsley
Cheers, ©n.wamsley

11:45 am – At the Building Lodging & Tour Packages session, Heather Price of Sandhill Crane Vineyards talked about the “Big Grape Bus” wine event they offer through the Pioneer Wine Trail in SE Michigan and all the pieces   – wine & food pairings, transportation, lodging and entertainment – that come together to create a compelling event. Steve Timmer of the Grand Traverse Resort in Traverse City echoed the importance of providing an all-inclusive experience and listed some of the things that his resort does including focusing on bringing local wines into their wine shop and even working with attendees on a cooking show.

One attendee (whose location shall remain nameless) wondered what to do when your area has little to offer in terms of culinary tourism. Steve suggested focusing on PR to invite food writers and the media and of course to leverage social media wherever possible. I asked him about if he had a sense whether today’s traveler is more or less interested in packages. He said that while packaging remains an important part of travel marketing, he’s finding that people are less interested in packages, preferring to design their own experiences. To me, that suggests that it’s really important for all players in the culinary travel industry to make their services and offerings clearly available across a wide spectrum of media, including that most old-fashioned of media: making your friends and neighbors aware of what you do!

The Bar @ Hopcat
The Bar @ Hopcat by stevedontsurf

11 am The “Marketing Your Culinary Destination” featured Dianna Stamfler of Promote Michigan, Sam Porter of Porterhouse Productions and Paul Stermer of Fair Food Matters. An audience member asked Sam how he got his nearly 300 volunteers. He answered “It’s all about fun. We take care of them pre and post event and engage them as partners to market and develop the events.” He also suggested engaging your fans to help you grow your social media network. The audience seemed to agree that social media is a vital component of an overall strategy.

Dianna mentioned that it’s the first-ever  Michigan Beer Week in Kalamazoo.  It’s been developed  in conjunction with the Winter Beer Conference and bars, restaurants and retailers will be teaming up to offer beer tastings, tap takeovers, brewer meet-and-greets and other special events.

Charlevoix Michigan Peppers
Charlevoix Michigan Peppers by DTWpuck

10  am Melody Johnson of the International Culinary Tourism Association was next up. She shared examples from all over the world of how everyone from third world nations on up the economic ladder are turning to culinary tourism as an economic driver. She cited rocketing technological advancements and our exploding interest in food as two prime drivers and talked about FLOSS (Fresh Local Organic Sustainable and Self-absorbed food). With  your average meal travelling 1500 miles, FLOSS is a concept that can  help keep food local.    Melody also gave a shoutout the the new “Boyne Appetit” marketing effort for Boyne City.

She showed three pictures – a museum, roller coaster and nice plate of food, and reminded attendees that food & drink IS an attraction as well, illustrating it with her discovery of Founder’s apricot wheat – a beer that she had last night with dinner and very much enjoyed. It’s not something you’re likely to find outside of Michigan, so to have it again, she’ll have to return. “The Michigan Experience” is what visitors are seeking – unique and memorable experiences that a tourist can brag about when he or she returns home.

9:40 am Steve Loftis of the Michigan Restaurant Association offered some thoughts about where Michigan’s restaurants are and what will be on their radar in 2011. One of his recommendations is that restaurants look to younger/technologically savvy members of  their staff for  ideas on more effectively using technology to acquire new patrons, but also to work more with existing customers.  He also stated that “the L word” should be on everyone’s mind as they work with their menu, trying to add more local offerings.

grits & bits (pre-syrup)
grits & bits (pre-syrup)
by jenny murray

9:15 am Linda Jones of the Michigan Wine & Grape Council opened the conference with an introduction to culinary tourism. One new resource for culinary tourists that she pointed out are the Michigan Foodie Tours.
The foodie tours feature local food and unique experiences from the whitefish and pasties of the western UP to the 200 restaurants of Ann Arbor.

7 am Last night I had a chance to talk with Melody Johnson, a founding member  of the International Culinary Tourism Association. Melody is the organization’s Community Manager and helps partners develop collaborations and inititiatives to capitalize on their culinary tourism assets. She gave me a simple thought to frame the day: “You always need to keep in mind what your customers  want to be successful. When people are coming to Michigan, they are wanting Michigan. They want authentic culinary experiences, the flavors and experiences that they can only get here.”

Although saying “It’s the food, silly” may seem a little simplistic, as the nation’s second most agriculturally diverse state, Michigan is in a unique position to tout itself as an unparalleled food destination. The local food movement has already started many on the path to promoting the strength and quality of Michigan food & drink and this effort will hopefully encourage many more to  “make it a Michigan wine/beer/fill in the blank.”

Celebrating Michigan’s Water Winner: Golden Dip

Golden Dip

Golden Dip, photo by Aver123

Our judges have selected the winner in the Celebrating Michigan’s Water Photo Contest. The winning photographer, Avery Sullenger-Wedder will receive 2 nights at The Homestead Resort in Glen Arbor along with a Crystal River eco-tour!

View it bigger or in the Michigan Water slideshow and thanks to everyone who participated!

Celebrating Michigan’s Water Photo Contest

In the Michigan Immense Public Park by farlane
In the Michigan Immense Public Park by farlane

Nearly 2400 photographers have shared over 100,000 photos with Absolute Michigan and Michigan in Pictures in the Absolute Michigan pool. We are ready to go with the next photo contest in Absolute Michigan’s Summer Photo Celebration, and we have decided to feature what nearly 8,000 photos in the pool feature, water.

Absolute Michigan’s Celebrating Michigan’s Water Photo Contest begins today (June 23, 2010) and entries end in a month (July 23, 2010).


2 nights for 2 people, any season, subject to availability at The Homestead Resort in Glen Arbor, Michigan. The Homestead is located on the shore of Lake Michigan’s Manitou Passage, right across the bay from the largest shifting sand dunes in the world, the Sleeping Bear Dunes. In any season, you’ll find rich woods criss-crossed with hiking trails, bike-friendly country roads dotted with barns and farms, wilderness streams & backwoods lakes and miles and miles of secluded, sandy beaches that you can walk for hours. (note: room may not be as pictured)

crystal-river-tourCrystal River eco-tour for up to 6 people from The River in Glen Arbor. Bald eagles, otters, herons, several species of ducks and geese, deer, possibly a bear or even the elusive cougar may be witnessed along the river and the guide will also fill you in on the local flora and fauna, ecological facts, and even a narrative history of Glen Arbor for the last couple hundred years.

Other prizes as we get them! We are working on more prizes to help you enjoy Michigan’s water – if you have a prize to offer, send us an email!

Contest Rules

To enter, all you need to do is add 1-3 photos to our Michigan Water photo group on Flickr.

  1. Limit 3 photos per person – you may change photos until July 23.
  2. The photos must be of a Michigan lake, river, waterfall, pond or wetland
  3. You must own the rights to the photo and have it at a resolution of 1026×768 or greater (the photo doesn ‘t have to be on Flickr at that size though)
  4. Entrants grant Absolute Michigan & Michigan in Pictures rights to publish their photo online with credit and link.
  5. Winner grants Absolute Michigan, contest sponsors and online and print media rights to publish photo and their name in articles and features referencing the contest.

Tweet & Taste Michigan: Wines from Old Mission Peninsula

Courtney & Shannon Casey of are all about letting you know what’s what in Michigan’s fast-growing wine industry. One fantastic thing that they are doing are the Tweet & Taste Michigan virtual wine tastings conducted through Twitter.

View from Chateau Chantal by troyryans
View from Chateau Chantal by troyryans

Their next Tweet & Taste takes place tomorrow night (Monday Jun 7 @ 8 PM). Sorry about the late notice. Featured will be the wines of the Old Mission Peninsula near Traverse City. The wines they will be tasting are:

Over at #TTMI on Twitter, Michigan Master Sommelier   Claudia Tyagi aka winegenie is educating folks on the wines of Old Mission. Here’s a couple tweets – definitely try and pick up one or more of the bottles above and take part – it’s fun and you can do it in your PJs! (check the video below for a step by step explanation of TTMI).

RT @cortcase @tweetandtastemi: Read up on Wineries of Old MIssion Peninsula to prepare for TTMI WOMP on Monday #ttmi

CGT began it all 1st OMP winery, 1st Vinifera #ttmi Leadership! #wine #Michigan Go Riesling!!!!

For more about the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula, see their web site at and also check out this Winery Report on the Old Mission from Toledo Wines & Vines.