Pros: Good variety of beginner, intermediate, and expert trails. Friendly staff. Food/beverage is tasty. Lots of great lodging options.
Cons: Terrain parks are well maintained but could use more features. Night life is spotty midweek.
Greetings from the UP of Michigan, officially known as the Upper Peninsula.
I have been skiing for about 25 years and have been a Big Powderhorn Mountain customer for approximately the past 8 seasons. It's not the tallest, does not have the most extreme terrain, and lacks in night life during the week, but it more than makes up for it in the quality/amount of seasonal snow and family-first atmosphere.
Big Powderhorn Mountain (BPM) is located between Ironwood and Bessemer, MI. It's about a 5 hour drive from my home in Milwaukee, WI. Driving is fairly easy from all points South and West. Hwy 51 running north and south through the heart of Wisconsin is a direct route and takes you through the scenic northwoods. Snow storms and specifically lake effect snow are common, so leaving yourself extra travel time is a good idea.
Upon arrival, the mountain is surrounded by what is known as the Powderhorn Village. You can find anything from a small A-frame, to large scale trailside homes, many of which are available for rent throughout the season. The Village really adds a community vibe to the area that other local mountains can't match.
Skiing/boarding is excellent with all of the natural snow that falls throughout the season. Trails and terrain are fairly well-divided, with beginner, intermediate, and expert representing approx. 1/3 of the total area respectively. My favorites include intermediate groomers Bovidae and Ricochet which lend themselves to long and fast GS turns. Expert runs Cannonball, Blunder, and Louie's Chute offer a mix of groomed steeps and naturally occurring bumps when conditions are right. Powder days can be frequent when the North and Northwest wind belts churn up lake effect snow off of Lake Superior. Grooming tends to cater to the weather for the day. Often times many runs are left alone on powder days, while sunny days can turn BPM into groomer heaven.
Big Powderhorn has two main base lodges. The Gun Barrel Lodge is where everyday operations originate out of, including lift ticket sales, ski rental, ski/snowboard school, ski shop, cafeteria, and the Hideout Bar and Grill. The Caribou Lodge houses a larger bar and restaurant, warm water pool and sauna, gift shop, and Ski Patrol. The Caribou restaurant and bar is mostly open Thursday-Sunday, with some extended operations on holiday week/weekends. Checking with the front desk on the status of the Caribou lodge is a good idea as the hours can change based on how busy the resort is.
As I stated before, night life can be spotty in the Village early to mid week, however there are several bars and restaurants. Alpen Inn is located trailside on Flintlock run. It's a great place to have a hot chocolate or grab a quick bite while taking a break from the slopes. Alpen also is open for apres-ski activities, often having live music during happy hour. Black River Valley Pub is located on Black River Road on the northern outskirts of the BPM Village. It offers great food and drink, and often has live music on weekends. Caribou Lodge offers delicious food and beverage options, and also offers live music on select weekends. Perhaps the best part of the night life is the BPM shuttle bus. It is offered free of charge and is a safe and convenient way to get around the Village. Hours of operation vary for all of these locations, so giving them a call or checking their website is a safe bet. If all else fails, Ironwood and Bessemer are close by, and have many options for night life.
Over the years I have come to appreciate the northwoods feel, family atmosphere, and great snow conditions that are offered at Big Powderhorn Mountain Resort. Hopefully this can inspire you to give my favorite ski area a try as well.