In pursuit of the great outdoors this summer, don't overlook Midwest ski resorts as destinations to dip into hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, tennis and, oh yes, golf, in forested, hilly settings. And, because this is off-season, accommodations, ranging from rustic to luxe, tend to be easier on the pocketbook. As at Rocky Mountain ski venues, Midwest resorts cannot survive on snow alone.
Summer offerings at the resorts vary widely, from sports and occasional concerts to virtually nothing but inhaling the fresh pine-scented air. In the main, vacationers can build their own packages and follow their own interests. Here's what's available at eight destinations in four states:
Chestnut Mountain . Eight miles south of Galena and overlooking the Mississippi River, Chestnut, with 120 rooms, operates year-round. Summer activities include an alpine slide (a 2,050-foot track to the banks of the river), Mississippi Explorer cruises into the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge, mountain bike rentals, 18 holes of miniature golf and trolley rides in Galena. A summer midweek one-night bed-and-breakfast package costs $89 per person, double occupancy. 800-397-1320; www.chestnutmtn.com
Boyne Mountain (including Boyne Highlands). Located in Boyne Falls, about 15 miles south of Petoskey near Lake Michigan in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula, the resort comes closest to competing with its Rocky Mountain counterparts in activities and lodging.
To tweak its summer, Boyne's Music on the Mountain concerts will feature, among others, country singer Randy Travis, July 22, and the 2nd annual Boyne Mountain Bluegrass Festival, Sept. 1 and 2.
Boyne offers as much activity as one can stand - hiking, nature walks, bike rentals, mountain biking, an indoor water park, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, chairlift rides, Michigan's largest spa and lots of golfing opportunities - 162 holes on eight different courses, including one by Robert Trent Jones. For children 6 through 12, Boyne has an adventure camp that focuses on outdoor fun.
Lodging ranges from $76 to $114 a night per room on the low end to $153 to $229 for spiffier digs. 800-462-6963; www.boyne.com
Shanty Creek. Between Petoskey and Traverse City, the resort launched what it calls a silent sports program _ ways to enjoy the nature and beauty of northern Michigan through hiking, kayaking, birding and geocaching, where guests are provided a GPS unit and directions to find treasure spots located somewhere in Shanty Creek's 4,500 acres.
Golfers can play on four top-flight courses, one designed by Arnold Palmer, another by Tom Weiskopf.
Guests can choose from three lodging villages, each with its own personality and a combined total of 600 rooms. Summit, the largest, has standard guest rooms for $79 a night. Schuss, more upscale, has condos that start at $120 a night to big homes that can sleep 20 for $600. At upscale Cedar River, a one-bedroom suite costs $250. Packages can be customized . 800-678-4111; www.shantycreek.com
Crystal Mountain . Midway between Manistee and Traverse City at Thompsonville, and near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan, Crystal is big on golf, with 36 holes and a noted golf school with more than 100 programs for players of every level. Besides golf, there's a one-acre water park, biking along the Betsie Valley Trail; hiking trails, tubing, canoeing and kayaking on the Platte River; chairlift rides, an adventure camp for kids and outdoor movies on weekends.
Packages include two-bedroom condos for six days and five nights; prices are as low as $199 a night. 800-968-7686; www.crystalmountain.com
Indianhead Mountain . At Wakefield, in the western Upper Peninsula, life is low key. Outdoor activities include hiking to waterfalls, mountain biking, canoeing, kayaking, trout fishing in streams, lake trout fishing, golfing on a par-3 course and disc golf. Indianhead offers hotel lodging, chalet, trailside condos. Rooms go for as little as $58 a night in the main lodge; one-bedroom condos, $125 a night. 800-346-3426; www.indianheadmtn.com
Lutsen Mountain . Lutsen is hard by the northwestern shore of Lake Superior. Duluth lies 90 miles to the southwest, Grand Marais 18 miles to the northeast. Lutsen Mountain's summer offerings include a mountain bike park, gondola for sightseeing, an alpine slide (a summer luge run on a twisty Fiberglas track), horseback riding, kayaking, canoe rides and hitting the links at Superior National Golf Course, a mile away.
Lodging is available at three properties on the mountain - Eagle Ridge Resort (condos from $84 a night), Caribou Highlands Lodge (from $69 to $139 a night) and Mountain Inn ($95 a night midweek, $119 on weekends). There's also Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior, which has bed-and-breakfast packages starting at $99.90 a night per couple, and a bevy of other lodging options in the area. 218-663-7281; www.lutsen.com
Devil's Head. Located at Merrimac, 3 miles from popular Devil's Lake State Park and south of the Wisconsin Dells, the resort has scenic hiking trails, mountain biking, indoor and outdoor pools, stocked ponds for fishing, tennis courts and a 36-hole championship golf course.
Golfers can get a two-night weekend package that includes lodging, two dinners, two breakfasts or lunches, 18 holes of golf including a cart, for $321.56 per person based on double occupancy. A two-night unlimited golf package with the same meals costs $370.52. Comparable week day packages start at $269.91. 800-472-6670; www.devilsheadresort.com
Whitecap Mountain. With views of Lake Superior's south shore and Weber Lake, Whitecap enjoys a true wilderness setting amid hardwood forests. Skye Golf is Whitecap's summer gem. Non-golfers can go on kayaking expeditions, swim in Lake Weber, fish for trout and bass, and soak in a hot tub. Hurley is the nearest town for shopping and nightlife.
Summer getaways in a chalet or condo start at $125 a night. An 18-hole round of golf costs $45. A two-night golf package, which includes two nights of lodging in a standard room and unlimited golf for one day, goes for $148.50 per person, double. 800-933-7669