‘No Beginners Allowed’: A Midwestern Paradise for Skiers Who Dare

Before you board the chairlift at one of the continent’s most unusual ski areas, a sign tells you exactly what’s in store: “Steep Slopes. Cliff Bands. Exposed Rock Formations.”

The slopes are not groomed. The trail map is a study in black: black diamonds, double black diamonds or even triple black diamonds. Of the 107 named runs here, 104 are for experts only. You cannot take a lesson. You cannot rent skis.

“NO BEGINNERS ALLOWED,” the sign blares.

Of the 107 named runs in the Mount Bohemia area, 104 are for expert skiers only.Credit…Tim Neville

On a brittle day last January, six of my friends and family and I got off a chairlift and disappeared down a double-black diamond slope called Tommyknocker’s Plunge. It was minus 3 degrees. I wore two down jackets and a beanie under my helmet, which was entombed under two hoods.

But what a day this cruelty brought. Feathery flakes had fallen the last 16 hours, luring every powderhound in a 100-mile radius. Given how remote this place is, that means maybe 300 skiers and snowboarders. The forest echoed with the hoots and hollers of my people as they bounced through some of the best snow we had experienced in our collective 150 years of skiing. With no wind the snow crystals had stacked up along the spindly hardwood limbs in lines as delicate as a haiku. Indeed, Hokkaido, Japan, might be the only other place I’ve ever skied that could match these conditions.

But this was not Japan. This was Mount Bohemia, in Michigan.

To those in the know, this ski area, seven-hours from the closest major airport in Minneapolis-St. Paul, is legendary.

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