A Little Bohemia

flyover

Member
(O.K., I understand that by all rights, this probably belongs in the “Midwest” section and I’ll try not to carp if it gets moved there. I’m putting it here in “General” for two reasons: (1) MI’s Keweenaw Peninsula is a Universe away from the environments commonly associated with flyover land (the farm belt, the rust belt, and the prairies), and (2) let’s be honest, few people would read this TR if placed in the “Midwest” section. Bohemia gets an average of over 270 inches a year of mostly dry, light, powder on some decidedly advanced terrain. IMHO, it deserves this small nod of respect.)

Just say “yah” to da U.P., eh? Where the forests are endless… where Superior is oceanic… where the snow is deep… where seemingly all the men have mustaches… where the place-names are either in Finnish or the nomenclature of copper or iron mining… where many young people still speak with Scandinavian inflection… where “pasties” have nothing to do with adhesive nipple coverage… where even the lowliest motels advertise (and usually have, a blistering-hot) sauna… and where it is evidently necessary to post signs that say things like “no snowmobiling in the cemetery,” or “no hockey sticks allowed inside the hotel.”

The Minneapolis forecast was for -15 to -20 F, making it the perfect weekend to head North (and East) up to the Keweenaw for a little skiing at Mt. Bohemia. The hill had picked up about 24 inches over the previous week, and with a lake-effect cycle in full effect they were expecting constant gentle snow amounting to an additional 5-7 inches per day for several days, and temps in the (positive) single digits.

On the 8-hour drive out, we entered the lake-effect in Ironwood, MI, requiring us to drive about 150 miles of two-lane roads on solid snowpack through alternating bands of mild-to-heavy lake effect. Every oncoming truck produced a white-knuckle whiteout that required driving by feel for the next quarter mile. As we neared Houghton (the gateway to the Keweenaw), the plow wash and snow drifts in the isolated and depressed-looking (former) mining villages we passed through stacked up to well over 7 feet in many places.

As we passed through downtown Houghton, there was still no pavement to be spotted on the city’s ancient streets and the cars shared the snowpack with a handful of snowmobiles. Once we were out on the Keweenaw, the last 8 miles along the shore of Superior from Eagle River to Eagle Harbor took us about 30 minutes to drive as the wind and snow was howling in off the lake and reducing visibility on the deer-infested, curvy shoreline road to just a few feet.

Morning brought quieter winds, 2 degrees F, and intermittent, gentle, snow-globe lake-effect snow. The hill had about 6 inches of new snow, over well-preserved chopped powder, over packed powder. The following day was 8-10 degrees warmer with another 5-6 inches of fresh and fluffy snow. In two days of skiing almost exclusively in the trees, we found our share of shallow freshies, lots and lots of soft snow, almost no ice or hard-pack, an assortment of lurking rocky-spots (not enough to spoil to fun) and at least one nasty, submerged and cemented-into-the-snow tree branch (more on that some other time). The snow was a little slow and squeaky on Friday with the colder temps. Saturday’s snow was delightful and mild face shots were possible in the some of the deeper collections of fresh snow.

For the skier who can be satisfied with 900-foot verts, Bohemia offers some truly fine tree skiing. The vast majority of Bohemia’s terrain is in the trees. For good tree skiing, points of comparison for me include MRG/Sugarbush, MaryJane, Steamboat, Powder Mountain/Snowbasin, and years of skinning around the backcountry of MI’s Porcupine “Mountains.” Natural tree spacing in the old-growth hardwood and hemlock forests of the U.P. is generally wider than what can be found in the Northern Greens, but more constricted than western aspen groves. Spacing in the secondary growth areas is generally a little tighter, but Bohemia has aggressively brushed-out of some of these parts of their forest to the point that some might worry about long-term sustainability.

Bohemia’s two, slow, ancient fixed-gripped chairs (a triple and a double) are arranged in an A-frame layout and terminate on the same summit. The “Haunted Valley” and “Pirates’ Cove” areas are essentially the backside, and skiers return to the base of the triple by either a gravity traverse, or a short hike back up to that gravity traverse.
The “Bohemia Mining Co.” area is essentially the triple chairlift’s front side and offers good, moderately steep and very well-spaced tree skiing in a mature hardwood forest. Take your first laps here on a powder day as it’s the best place on the hill to wrack-up some quick verts. The “Mining Co.,” “Bohemia Bluffs” and “Bear Den” areas are arranged around the triple and double chairs respectively as are the hill’s handful of cut trails. The cut trails under the double have a steep, narrow and rolling feel reminiscent of classic New England trails. Trails under the triple are cut wider. Bohemia does absolutely no grooming, and must bump up pretty nicely with the spring thaw. The near-constant snowfall over the 4, late-January days I have now skied at Bohemia, has kept the moguls from really developing.

The “Extreme Backcountry” (a misnomer for sure) is located between the two lifts. It is here (and in the inner reaches of the “Bohemia Bluffs.” and “Bear Den” areas) that Bohemia offers its most satisfying sustained-pitch skiing. Shorter runs in the “Backcountry” allow gravity traverse back to either lift. Longer runs require kicking back to the double or waiting for shuttle service (think Powder Mountain’s “Powder Country” with much more frequent service) back to the triple. The center-piece of the “Backcountry” area is a series of bluffs, threaded with short, narrow chutes. This small area provides Bohemia with a few descents that are moderately steep by even western standards and fairly technical by Northern-Greens standards (ala MRG or Castlerock), but only for about 5 or 6 linked turns. In other words, IMHO, although Bohemia has some very satisfying sustained-pitch skiing, Bohemia’s steepness is greatly exaggerated by Bohemia itself and the ski press that has written about the area.

Bohemia’s “Outer Limits” area offers skiing much more reminiscent of the U.P.’s backcountry. The tree spacing and brush are thicker, the steeper pitches are interrupted by flatter sections, and relatively long stretches of freshies can last for days for those with the nose to find them. Shorter runs out here allow skiers to gravity traverse back to the double. Longer runs end at the road, again serviced by shuttle.

A word about the lake-effect. When it is cold, the snow is usually light, dry, comparable to good powder in the inter-mountain West, and a lot of fun to ski. Lack of heavier, wetter snow can make Bohemia’s woods a little risky to ski as some of the more prominent rocks and roots can go well into the winter without getting cemented completely under. The lake-effect can be highly localized to the point that it is not likely to turn up on the Marquette, MI weather radar, simply because all of the action is happening too low to the water/ground. The tip of the Keweenaw is, essentially, in the middle of Superior, and it has not been an uncommon experience over my two trips to Bohemia to be skiing in heavy snow with a small patch of filtered blue sky and sunshine directly overhead for much of the day. Big dumps at Bohemia certainly happen, but seem to be somewhat rare. Mid-winter lake-effect cycles, during which it may snow 5 inches or more, 5 or 6 days a week, for weeks on end, seem to occur with much greater frequency.

Bohemia’s infrastructure in certainly minimal (the two lifts described above, a handful of lukewarm yurts, no lodge, no restaurant, no bar, no grooming, a ski patrol that, for all appearances, must be all-volunteer) and there are aspects of Bohemia’s management that can seem amateurish (charmingly and annoyingly so, in equal measure). For example, the two, very young, snowboard-riding patrollers seen from the lift helmet-camming each other in a seemingly-endless cycle of huck and crash were certainly amusing. The well-below-industry-standard weekday operating hours of 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., being cut fifteen minutes short by lifties that evidently operate on bar time, was not so amusing. Neither are the long lines for tickets faced every single day BY SEASON PASS HOLDERS. One does get the sense that if the management spent just a couple of days learning how things are done at any major North-American resort, they might learn a few tricks to make the Bohemia experience a little more convenient without any dramatic increase in operating costs.

Finally, while I wouldn’t recommend skiers from other parts of the country put in the time and effort it takes to get out onto the Keweenaw just for the skiing, the surrounding environment is enchanting and full of recreational opportunities: endless forests, steep rolling hills with lots of rocky bluffs, deep snow, small, (former) mining and fishing villages that are now mostly deserted in the wintertime months, the omnipresence of the big lake and the unique climate it creates. Friday night, after a long, hot sauna, a big meal and a couple of the local craft brews, we walked through the deserted, snowy streets of the village of Eagle Harbor down to the waterfront and the harbor entrance. It was zero with a light breeze and light snow. We walked up to the 140-year-old, red brick lighthouse and watched the alternating white and red beam swoop across the harbor and out over the breaking surf rolling in off of the lake. The rocky shoreline and the hardwoods and tall pines behind it were are encased in a season’s-worth of rime ice. Very cool.

I’m not very good with the camera. Nonetheless, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. None are of yours-truly as I neglected make the time to hand the camera over to one of my compatriots.
 

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mikesathome

New member
Great TR, everything was just the way I recall it, I must get back!

Oh, and I wish more people did read the midwest forms that's where I post LOL
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
flyover":8ynbi80m said:
Big dumps at Bohemia certainly happen, but seem to be somewhat rare. Mid-winter lake-effect cycles, during which it may snow 5 inches or more, 5 or 6 days a week, for weeks on end, seem to occur with much greater frequency.
This is the pattern here in Niseko AFAIK, except multiply the numbers by 2. Is UP lake effect also concentrated in December/January and done by end of March like here?

For the moment I've declined to move the post because of the point mikesathome makes. More people will probably read it here. Eventually I think it should be moved, since someone wanting to look up Mt. Bohemia would logically look in the Midwest section.
 

jamesdeluxe

Administrator
Tony Crocker":167hu2yp said:
More people will probably read it here. Eventually I think it should be moved, since someone wanting to look up Mt. Bohemia would logically look in the Midwest section.
Which once again brings up the question of whether the Midwest should be combined with either the east or the west forums. If the goal is ease of finding information after the fact, keep it the way it is. If the goal is to increase views of midwest content while it's fresh, combine with the other forum.

Based on culture, snowfall, conditions, etc., the midwest is closer to the east, but I'm not sure what the right answer is. Maybe Tony's solution for Bohemia is best.

A quick question: I understand that Bohemia has minimal (none whatsoever?) grooming and base facilities, but how the hell does it stay in business being eight hours from the closest decent-sized population? What are its yearly ski-visit numbers? As unique as it appears to be, a trip to any of the western joints would be a far less time-consuming trip.
 

flyover

Member
Admin, Jamesdeluxe and mikesathome, thanks!

Tony Crocker":3c3si0cx said:
Is UP lake effect also concentrated in December/January and done by end of March like here?

My school-kid understanding of lake-effect snow is that the basic ingredients are cold air and warm (in a relative sense, i.e., not yet frozen) water, both of which may be present in the Superior basin anytime from late October to early April. Of course all bets are off if winter arrives late or spring arrives early or the big lake freezes (an increasingly rare occurrence). Watching from a distance via the web and reports of multiple friends from Duluth/Superior who ski Bohemia several weekends a winter, it seems like the best part of the season is late-December (Bohemia NEEDS base to be skiable) to early March. Watching from a distance, it does seem like Bohemia goes from powder paradise to closed awfully quickly some years.

jamesdeluxe":3c3si0cx said:
I understand that Bohemia has minimal (none whatsoever?) grooming and base facilities, but how the hell does it stay in business being eight hours from the closest decent-sized population? What are its yearly ski-visit numbers? As unique as it appears to be, a trip to any of the western joints would be a far less time-consuming trip.

I don't have any information about skier-visit numbers.

I have not spoken to management, but as far as I know, there is in fact no grooming whatsoever. (I've yet to see a cat or any evidence of the stealthy operation of some hidden and secret grooming device. I suppose it is possible that some of the base traverses are maintained via some kind of snowmobile-towed contraption, but I haven't seen evidence of that either.)

What's your definition of a decent-sized population? Duluth/Superior are 5 hours. Milwaukee is 6. Green Bay is something less than Milwaukee. Bohemia has pursued the insanely-cheap-season-pass strategy ($99) and based on liftline chatter (short, as liftlines over the weekend were seldom more than 5 or 6 chairs deep) a fair number of season pass holders seem to come from these places. Additionally, both Madison and Chicago are not any further than the Twin Cities. Finally, I think Bohemia gets a lot of visits from MI Tech students in Houghton and Northern MI students in Marquette.

If time were the only consideration for me, a trip to SLC would certainly make a lot more sense. Delta's death-grip hold on MSP (and the resulting requirement to book far in advance to get an affordable fare), however, means it is easier to cherry pick my days at Bohemia than it would be in Utah.
 

rfarren

New member
Marc_C":q5zbgm3y said:
mikesathome":q5zbgm3y said:
Oh, and I wish more people did read the midwest forms that's where I post LOL
There's a Midwest forum? Seriously?
This is that Utah centric elitism. Normally, Marc_C won't bother reading the midwest forum.

Sent from my computer which isn't my Iphone, on which I use Tapatalk.
 

flyover

Member
mikesathome,

I should have mentioned that I do read the midwest forum. I just haven't bothered to post there since this: viewtopic.php?f=10&t=8412

Also, with the exception of running down to Buckhill on weekend mornings to ski with my daughter (she just turned 5), in the years since she was born, I have generally skied more days east and west than I have on the North and South shores of Superior. Otherwise, my local skiing is restricted to x-country.
 

Marc_C

Active member
rfarren":1h387toj said:
Marc_C":1h387toj said:
mikesathome":1h387toj said:
Oh, and I wish more people did read the midwest forms that's where I post LOL
There's a Midwest forum? Seriously?
This is that Utah centric elitism. Normally, Marc_C won't bother reading the midwest forum.
This isn't the midwest forum.
 

Harvey

Administrator
Staff member
flyover":1qgxhs42 said:
For the skier who can be satisfied with 900-foot verts, Bohemia offers some truly fine tree skiing. The vast majority of Bohemia’s terrain is in the trees. For good tree skiing, points of comparison for me include MRG/Sugarbush, MaryJane, Steamboat, Powder Mountain/Snowbasin, and years of skinning around the backcountry of MI’s Porcupine “Mountains.” Natural tree spacing in the old-growth hardwood and hemlock forests of the U.P. is generally wider than what can be found in the Northern Greens, but more constricted than western aspen groves....

...Bohemia’s two, slow, ancient fixed-gripped chairs (a triple and a double)...

...Bohemia’s infrastructure in certainly minimal (the two lifts described above, a handful of lukewarm yurts, no lodge, no restaurant, no bar, no grooming, a ski patrol that, for all appearances, must be all-volunteer)...

Agreed a great report. Bohemia is my kinda place.

As Tony mentioned (in that other thread? - I forget) internet time is tight. I've got FTO East bookmarked, and I go into FTO West maybe once a week. Midwest... I know even less about the Midwest than I do the West. The fact: I look into the Midwest to see if there are any Bohemia TRs. It may have been flyover who posted one as few years ago. I'm hooked.

In this case it was Admins Facebook link that got me here.

Nice work flyover!
 

dank

New member
As probably the only other Midwest poster (once or twice a year), I do like the midwest section, that way I can see where mikesathome has skied and be jealous. Yes, I said jealous. Midwest skiing is better than no skiing.

And that is a great TR on Bohemia, I keep saying I need to get up there, but it's hard to justify a 9 or 10 hour drive for a weekend trip.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
I've moved the topic to Midwest, but left it as a shadow here. I normally just put topics where they belong, but it occurred to me in this case that the dual objectives of proper location and maximum exposure of an excellent report are best served by leaving the shadow here.
 

Evren

New member
Great post about Bohemia... and relevant a year later -- as others have said, more of an article reviewing area than a trip report.
I've been curious about Mount Bohemia, ever since I saw their famous/infamous trail map, with nothing but single and double diamonds and even a triple-diamond(?!?)
http://skicentral.com/mountbohemia-trailmap.html
As someone who spent over a decade in Chicago, this is the type of place I'd daydream about for a weekend trip. The North Woods and UP of Michigan has an edges-of-the-earth quality that is so refreshing when you live in the urban-suburban sprawl of Chicagoland.
 

flyover

Member
Evren":2g28zvf0 said:
Great post about Bohemia... and relevant a year later -- as others have said, more of an article reviewing area than a trip report.
I've been curious about Mount Bohemia, ever since I saw their famous/infamous trail map, with nothing but single and double diamonds and even a triple-diamond(?!?)
http://skicentral.com/mountbohemia-trailmap.html
As someone who spent over a decade in Chicago, this is the type of place I'd daydream about for a weekend trip. The North Woods and UP of Michigan has an edges-of-the-earth quality that is so refreshing when you live in the urban-suburban sprawl of Chicagoland.

Thanks.

Yeah, Bohemia's trail maps (there is more than one: http://www.mtbohemia.com/index.php?opti ... &Itemid=55) and the names of the trails are pretty silly. A sort of goofy and naive hyperbole has long been a part of Bohemia's regional marketing strategy. With regard to the maps, the funny thing is, they have a really nice, detailed, accurate and comprehensive topographical trail map mounted as a large, outdoor map just outside the primary base yurt. Clearly somebody put a lot of work into it. Yet, when I was there last winter it was not available in printed form for use on the hill and it has yet to appear on their website.

So far, it has been a lousy winter out on the UP for snow. Bohemia has only been open a couple of weeks, with limited terrain. Things may be turning around now with colder temps and a mild lake-effect starting to kick in, but word on the street is that they need a lot more snow to justify the trip out there.

Also, I agree, the UP generally, and the Keweenaw in particular, do have an edge-of-the-earth feel, especially in winter in a lake-effect cycle.
 

flyover

Member
From today's snow report:

EPIC CONDITIONS
Come up now!
Still fresh tracks

Past 24 hours: 0 inches
Past 48 hours: over 13 inches
Snowfall Total: 157 inches

WE ARE 97% OPEN
81 out of 85 runs open
425 acres of terrain open

Can you tell it has been a lean year for snow? :lol:
 

flyover

Member
. . . and . . . closed for the season.

"Epic" might be a good word to describe the spring thaw in the upper midwest this year. 74 in Minneapolis yesterday, shattering the previous record of 64. High temps are forecast to be in the 70s for the next five or so days. These are our average high temps for early June. It looks like it has been only 10-15 degrees cooler out at Bohemia. Also, much of Bohemia faces south. Bohemia only managed to stay open for about 2 1/2 months this year, and from a considerable distance, it didn't look to me like they ever had conditions that warranted making the trek out there. Ugg.
 
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