|Debate continues around lodge fireplaces and
in warming huts over which of the three Petoskey slopes is the best. Ultimately
it comes down to what your skiing comfort level is. For those who ski mostly
Greens and Low Blues, the Highlands edges out its two rivals. As a matter
of fact, Boyne Highlands is the best Green and Low Blue skiing facility
in the region.
The advantage starts with pure numbers. The Highlands has more Green runs, of greater length, variety and scenic interest, than anywhere else. They’re challenging enough to give a skier a sense of achievement. These are not short straight sprints across the yard near the lodge. They are runs which, at other locations, would be the premier attractions, the ones appearing in the cover photos and ski cams. Many of them would also be rated Blues on other slopes.
|Little John is the feature. It is the finest Green run in the nine state
region. Admittedly, this is not a true “beginner” trail. Newcomers
will need a lesson or two and a couple of days practice down by the lodge
before they can cruise Little John. But it’s well within reach of
a second or third day skier under competent coaching, and what an introduction
to the sport it is.
Little John provides a few steep drops, several sweeping turns, some banking, and a few straightaways for picking up speed. It is wide enough to be forgiving, but keeps throwing new challenges at the skier. Winding as it does around deep cuts in the heavily forested banks, one cannot see too far ahead, so must respond relatively quickly to each new situation.
The run starts down from the warming hut atop Mac Gulley and Heather lifts, and comes out at the base of Amy’s Run and Interconnect lifts.
|However, Little John is not the only great Green at the Highlands.
Mac Gulley, taking the skier back to the main lodge through a deep cut in
the forested ridge, and Stephens Pass, which winds around through the woods
above Alpine Village, are much narrower than Little John but present the
same variety and challenges. Kath Run is a classic wide open meadow descent
to the left of the main lodge, listed as a blue but really a high Green.
It is a good place to practice carving or speed management. None of these
are quite as long as Little John, but still surpass their rival runs across
Every decent ski facility has its classic cruising run, a long gentle trail where the skier can just relax and enjoy the scenery. In this category, the Highlands offers Valley Parking and its branches. The odd named run heads off to the left from the warming hut atop the Mac Gulley lift and follows the ridgeline for about a mile. The skier then chooses one of three options, all of which are borderline Blues dropping off to the side before merging back into Valley View, which curls around and finishes at the base of the Valley lift.
|All these Greens were part of the original Highlands layout.
But over on the newly developed North Face are also Lois Lane, another narrow
run winding its way through the woods back to the Interconnect lift, and
North Park Pass, basically a linking route to allow the residents of Alpine
Village Chalets to access the two northern lifts, but still a fine Green.
The Highlands offers another half dozen Greens which are basically connectors or alternates, so a novice has more than enough variety for a day’s skiing without much retracing. Four warming huts offer restrooms and the chanced for a quick respite from cold winds, always a consideration for parents with children.
The only complaint first time visitors have is the spotty signing of trails up on top. Blacks and high Blues go off from the same lifts, and often it is not clear from above which is which. The sight of parents with young trainees walking back up a hill after realizing they were on a black by mistake is not unusual. Of course, once one becomes familiar with the layout, the problem ceases.
For all its Green appeal, the Highlands is also a great place for intermediates, who live on Blues, high Greens and low Blacks. Boyne’s Blues do not show the same length or variety as its Greens.
|The definition of Blues seems to be steep, wide,
opening out at the bottom. However, within this rather narrow definition,
the Highlands has a fine selection.
Amy’s Run is probably the best Blue here, steep and mostly straight. Intermediates who love flat out speed skiing will love Amy’s. Heather is not as steep and winds more than Boyne’s other Blues, unusual in that it is wide at the top and narrowing towards the bottom.
The best Blues at the Highlands are over on the North Face, where they have their own lift and warming hut. They are narrow and winding, with sudden drops and rough terrain, coming down through steep cuts in the forest. But the window of ideal conditions is narrower than the better serviced runs over on the original mountain.
Blacks here are accessible to intermediates. North and South Tournament have the steepest pitch, but are short. Olympic and North and South Challenges are all quite steep but good runs with wide and long runouts. Rob Roy is a nice dash through the trees, opening out onto the huge meadow of Kath Run, just above the main lodge. The Dark Side is an odd run, really just a flank dropping off the north side of Olympic.