It’s a true story that the promotions people at Travel Michigan bureau will love to hear – related during a Saturday morning breakfast at the Otsego Ski Club, in Gaylord.
            The father of four, a young professional from Toledo, Ohio, said that he sat his family down in November and gave them a choice.
            “We can take one ski trip out west…or we can join Otsego Ski Club and make trips up to Michigan all winter,” he proposed. He’d calculated that each option would cost about the same price. “They chose a full winter of skiing in Gaylord as opposed to a single trip to Colorado. So here we are.”
Driving east off of Interstate 75 for two miles, passing just through downtown Gaylord, you will not see the Rocky Mountains. In fact, you won’t even see a hill. But up the drive through a split rail fence bordering a golf course along M-32 lies a charming, convenient, European-flavored ski resort. Once inside the cozy lodge, it only takes a few steps past a roaring, aromatic fire to see the big reveal: through the expansive back windows you will look down over the panorama of a scenic valley of ski slopes, trails and trees. The fun begins fast. Since the adjacent skip shop and rental counter are only steps away from that edge, you can be schussing down into the big bowl in a matter of minutes, targeting your first lift on the way down.
Lift lines will not be a factor in choosing your next run since the Otsego Club’s ski facilities are available only to members and resort guests. (Public access is available on weekdays; and anyone is welcome at Otsego’s restaurants and bars.) With just over 400 ski members and quaint lodging, the 32 ski runs, five lifts, half pipe and terrain park, laid out over 1,000 acres, plus the swimming pool, are never crowded. And the layout is such that observers can enjoy watching family members in action from a fireside chair in the cozy lodge or the Sitzmark Lounge, or even, in some cases, their guest room. Outdoor campfires throughout the grounds add to the festive nature of Otsego. The compact size of the resort facilities mean all of the lodging and amenities, including the lively Logmark Bar, gourmet Pontresina Steakhouse, and Duck Blind Grille are conveniently clustered, low rise, and easily walkable…all of them offering outdoor access, balconies and views. The quality of the restaurants, too, should not be underestimated. Pontresina’s Lamb Lollipops, 14 oz Delmonico, and Chicken Oscar with blue crab were among a number of items of big city quality without the big city price, complemented by an outstanding wine list.
Families, couples and friends have been enjoying the lively events and quiet privacy since 1939, which makes Otsego America’s oldest private ski club destination. So esteemed was Otsego’s terrain park Planet Snow that the world came to Gaylord last winter: snowboarders from Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland, France, Poland, Finland, Canada and Italy chose to train at Otsego just before the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.
A family of three or more can enjoy unlimited downhill and cross country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, and the swimming pool and sauna for the entire ski season (Dec. through March) for $2,650, spread over three payments. Annual memberships for couples and individuals are lower. Families can try out the club with an Otsego Ski Club Test Drive Weekend: two nights lodging; two days of lift tickets, and breakfast for only $595. The hotel is open to the public, and guests can enjoy rooms as low as $69 per night and two room king suites and condos for $349.
  The great intangible for any type of resort is the mood and attitude of the staffers. While the ski school attendants were the only chilly types I ran across over two days, everyone else at the Otsego Club was quick with a sincere smile. A hilarious Korean bartender named Song was the star attraction in the Logmark Lounge, where pool shooting, sports on TV, and a live band also got plenty of attention from cute couples and singles. The lift operators displayed a sense of humor and the ever-present ski patrol members, all volunteers, were very cheerful guides, willing to take pictures, help someone who slipped, and offer advice. At the River Cabin, a warm lunch spot and bar down in the valley among the slopes and beside the rushing stream, the black and white bearded executive chef, who playfully calls himself “Kabuki,” was dishing out impossibly satisfying comfort foods like chili and macaroni and cheese. “Are ya hankerin’ for some cheese?” he asked the children in line in a comical voice before singing tunes while ladling out the noodles himself. Meanwhile parents, hankering for a cold brew, were sipping such across the room.
For information visit or call (800) 752-5510.

Michael Patrick Shiels may be contacted at

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