Guide to Detroit's Big Four Ski Resorts
Brighton. Alpine. Holly. Pine Knob. You know them, you've skied them, and generations have loved them. But what makes each resort stand out from the pack? Are there any special features, offerings, or other traits that could influence buying one lift ticket over another? We dive into these questions and more in our official Guide to Detroit's "Big Four" Ski Resorts.
Ladies and gentlemen, it's officially time to sharpen your skis, wax your boards, and buy that over-priced jacket you've had your eyes on. The snow makers are blowing, which means winter has finally arrived in Detroit.
As excited as that makes us, let's hit the pause button real quick and look outside the window. I'm not sure where you're reading this from, but we at Expedition Detroit HQ do not see any of that sweet, fluffy powder that we're oh so impatiently waiting for. Lack of pow equals delayed backcountry skiing and snowshoeing adventures, but simultaneously highlight an under-appreciated element of our region:
We have four premiere ski resorts within an hour's drive of our near-sea-level city. Four destinations that get busy cranking out snow in November while we're still waiting on Jack Frost to show face. Our "Big Four" resorts - Alpine Valley, Mt. Brighton, Mt. Holly, and Pine Knob - have formed the bedrock of Detroit's wintry outdoor economy for generations, providing slope access to generations that would otherwise need to travel hundreds of miles for the same experiences.
This article provides much-overdue recognition and information regarding each of the Big Four. Beyond providing stats and recommendations, we also want to highlight what makes each of these resorts stand out in their own right.
Spoiler alert: you're going to want to ski all four by the time that you finish this article.
ALPINE VALLEY SKI RESORT | White Lake, Michigan
Hours: Weekdays: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Weekend: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Saturday) or 9 p.m. (Sunday)
Elevation: 1,210 feet
Vertical Rise: 300 feet
Total Runs: 17
Pass Affiliation: Regional Season Pass
All-Day Lift Ticket Price: $65
Expedition Detroit Award: Best for the Weekend Warrior
Imagine this: you start your day with a leisurely paddle down the Huron River, launching from Milford Central Park for an out-and-back to Proud Lake State Recreation Area. After a quick refueling stop in Downtown Milford, you bust out the fat tire bike for a ride through either the Milford Mountain Biking Trail or Highland State Recreation Area's A-B-C-D Loops. Still not enough adrenaline for a Saturday? Well, thank God you packed your skis - Alpine Valley Ski Resort is less than 5 miles away from the Highland MTB trailhead.
Beyond having the most affordable lift ticket prices in the Detroit region, Alpine Valley provides the most equal distribution of beginner, intermediate, and expert slopes among the Big Four. The expert-rated slopes feature the resort's terrain park runs, which Alpine Valley has improved significantly in recent years. The resort also boasts the Hornet's Nest Lounge, an ideal après-ski destination for enjoying favorite cocktails, dancing, entertainment, and a panoramic view of Alpine Valley's ski slopes.
Regional Season Pass: Alpine Valley, Mt. Holly, and Pine Knob are all members of what we're dubbing the "Regional Season Pass." The Pass costs $800, so the somewhat steep price tag really only makes sense if you plan to hit these resorts consistently throughout the season. Other resorts included in the Pass that are outside of the Detroit region are Bittersweet (Ostego, MI), Alpine Valley Resort (Elkhorn, WI), and Searchmont (Sioux Ste. Marie, ON).
MOUNT BRIGHTON | Brighton, Michigan
Hours: Weekdays: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Weekend: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Saturday) or 8 p.m. (Sunday)
Elevation: 1,330 feet
Vertical Rise: 230 feet
Total Runs: 25
Pass Affiliation: Epic
All-Day Lift Ticket Prices: $64 (M - F), $84 (Sa - Su)
Expedition Detroit Award: Best for the Jet-Setting Explorer
Although Mt. Brighton has been around since 1960, Vail Resorts' acquisition of the mountain in 2015 breathed new life into the Detroit region's largest man-made ski resort. Vail's acquisition included a $10 million investment into improvements like new chairlifts, enhanced beginner terrain, new base area facilities and children’s ski and ride school center, innovative terrain parks, and a state-of-the-art snowmaking system. Seven years later, the net results of those improvements includes transforming Mt. Brighton into an "out west enclave" in the Detroit region, including the modern amenities that top-tier skiers and snowboarders should expect from an industry-defining powerhouse like Vail.
While the quality of Mt. Brighton's well-manicured runs and cutting-edge facilities provide the most imminent attraction for riders, the value emanating from the resort's Epic Pass inclusion is undeniably powerful. Especially if you were to purchase the discounted Epic Local Pass, you could ride not only Mt. Brighton to your heart's content, but take a few trips to world-class resorts out west, back east, or around the world with the same pass. As much as we sing the praises of Detroit's outdoor recreation opportunities, we're certainly not immune to the allure of big mountain skiing. Mt. Brighton and its Epic Pass affiliation make such adventures more economic, efficient, and practical for us all.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article misprinted Mt. Brighton's lift ticket prices. Please note that while Mt. Brighton's main lift ticket includes the night session, the resort also has a separate "Night Ski-Only" lift ticket starting at 3 p.m. that costs $54 (adult) M-F and $74 (adult) on the weekends. These prices make Mt. Brighton the most affordable of the Big Four for weekday sessions, which we are very stoked about!