Friday, November 7, 2008

Big M Added to Get Off The Couch

Big M Map
Big M map- right click to see full size
by Joan H. Young

It has been my goal to get the Big M trail system on the Get Off The Couch web site for over a year. Let me just say that Big M is, well, big! Big M is located in Udell Hills nine miles east of Manistee, Michigan and west of Wellston. Just to add extra confusion to the name, it was formerly operated as the Ward Hills ski area until the 1970s.

The trails were laid out professionally in the 1950s by John Capper who lived in the area. Designing ski trails was his life work. Big M is one of the largest trail complexes in Michigan with 30 kilometers of groomed ski trails. There is an additional outer loop of 39 kilometers designed for mountain bike riding. In the summer bikers may ride any of the trails. Also, the North Country National Scenic Trail traverses the hills.

Of course, hiking any of the trails is popular, and snowshoeing is allowed as long as you walk beside the groomed tracks rather than in them.

Lumberjack Trail
the Lumberjack Trail in autumn
The ski trails are maintained by the Manistee Cross Country Ski Council. Michigan Mountain Biking Association works on the outer loop trails. The North Country Trail is maintained by the Spirit of the Woods Chapter of the NCTA. All these volunteer groups work in cooperation with the Manistee National Forest, which owns the property.

In the past two years the Ski Council has been working hard to revitalize signage. It used to be a wonder that people were not constantly lost in the Udell Hills. Now all the junctions in the eight ski loops are numbered, signed and provided with maps, making the whole area much more user friendly.

There is no other guide currently in existence for this trail system. There are still a few tweaks to do, a couple of short, missing trail descriptions, and a link from the Manistee County map. But it's loaded and usable. At the present time, descriptions of the bike trails are taken from a flyer prepared by B.U.T.T.E.R, the Big Udell Trail & Tarmac Eco Riders. This was a group of students from Manistee High School who wrote the first guide to the bike loops. This brochure is not readily available any more, so I've quoted their colorful comments for now.

Get Off The Couch offers guides and information on over 70 locations in Manistee, Mason, Lake and Oceana Counties where you can enjoy quiet, muscle-powered recreation in an outdoor setting.

See Big M at Get Off The Couch
See Manistee Cross Country Ski Council
See Michigan Mountain Biking Association
See Spirit of the Woods Chapter of the NCTA
See Manistee National Forest
These links are checked on the date of the article. As the article ages, some links may become invalid

Go To for all the news
See Big M
See Get Off The Couch

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You mention that the downhill ski area in the Udell Hills was known as Ward Hills. I thought it was called Big M?? I also have been told that Ward Hills ski area was in Lake County, just north of Branch on Hamilton Rd.?? My info comes from people who skiied at both downhill areas when they were operating, many years ago.
I found your site after reading the column in the Daily News. Thanks . . it is full of information about our area. Big M is my favorite place to XC ski.

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