Big Powderhorn Mountain Resort
When I was growing up, my family had a vacation home near Big Powderhorn Mountain Resort in Bessemer, Michigan. I spent countless hours there on the slopes. When you’re on top of the mountain, the views are so expansive — trees and rolling hills as far as the eye can see. Many of the runs are long and winding and gentle, perfect for a mid-level skier like me, but there are many challenging runs as well (which, at my age, I wisely avoid.)
A few years ago, Steve and I and Ben took our exchange student from Columbia, Rafael, to Powderhorn so he could learn how to ski (he did amazingly well), and while there, Steve and I, neither of whom had skied for about 20 years, decided to rent equipment and give it a go. We had a complete blast and have been skiing every winter since then.
So last year, when my parents called me with the news that Powderhorn’s lodge, an old, wooden structure built in the early 1960s, had started on fire and was burning to the ground, my heart sank along with it. I fretted that the resort would close for good, wondering if they could afford to rebuild. But at that time, I didn’t know Bruce Noren, Powderhorn’s general manager who, along with two other investors, is also the resort’s relatively new owner. Not only did Powderhorn not close for good, it didn’t close for even one day, not even when the main lodge was burning to the ground, not even with a mountain full of skiers.
“We reopened the next day at 9 a.m. as usual,” says Noren. “Our staff did a great job.”
Noren explains that, as the fire was blazing, the staff hurriedly gathered up their important items, including computers, files, and other things they needed to run the resort, and moved their base of operations to the Caribou Lodge, a building adjacent to the main lodge.
As fire trucks from all around the region were responding to the blaze, Noren’s staff was setting up their snowmaking machines to help with the effort.
Noren says he wasn’t concerned about the Caribou Lodge and other nearby buildings catching fire, but the cars in the main lodge’s parking lot were another matter.
One of the only casualties? Noren’s own car.
“I had parked right up next to the building that day,” he says with a laugh.
Over the next few days as the lodge continued to smolder, other ski resorts in the area, and even some as far away as New York offered the use of rental equipment, lift tickets, and anything else they might need to keep Powderhorn in business. And the resort didn’t miss a beat. Noren and his partners and staff kept serving skiers, while turning their focus toward the future.
Now, one year later, Powderhorn has a gorgeous new lodge called the Gun Barrel. It includes a cafeteria, plenty of seating for skiers wanting a break from the slopes, and a third-floor grill and bar, The Hideout, which has a dramatic view of the hill. This, in addition to the Caribou Lodge’s fun bar and grill, and the Alpen Inn, which is located on the other side of the mountain.
Spring skiing is excellent in the U.P., offering bright sunshine, warm temperatures and great snow conditions. If you don’t have skis, don’t worry. Powderhorn has plenty of rentals. If you’ve never skied, their professionals will have you on your feet in no time. And if you’re like me and getting back into it after several years, the Bunny Hill is right next to the lodge. Why not give it a try?
Big Powderhorn Mountain Resort
Bessemer, Michigan (about 2 hours away from Duluth~Superior)