The Interstate 80 Indiana Toll Road runs along the Michigan state line and is usually used for commuters making the big bucks in Chicago while living an economical lifestyle outside of the city. For us, however, we were travelling the cracked pavement and hitting the toll booths for a Saturday of cheap slopes, cheap drinks, and good vibes at Swiss Valley Ski & Snowboarding Area in Jones, Michigan.
If you are going to Swiss Valley for the pristine slopes and long runs, then you might be sorely disappointed; however, if you are searching for place to learn to ski or improve on your already existing skills in preparation for the next big trip out west, then this is the place for you. Swiss Valley offers a few quality runs that are simple enough for a beginner to overcome their fear of flying out of control and smashing into a tree, yet difficult enough to hone in on a certain set of skills for intermediate skiers/snowboarder.
There are two different terrain parks. One is made up of mid sized jumps and difficult rails designed to help young snowboarders fantasize about being in the X-Games. The other park is a little smaller with simpler rails that gives washed up has-beens, like myself, the thrill of what we once were. As the sun was setting on our final runs in the mild park, we started to notice an increasing population of pint sized boarders in white tank-top jerseys with numbers on their backs. Not only were these kids half my age, but they were twice as good. Not wanting to be bested by the toddlers, I stepped out of my bindings and took out the Nikon to shoot the Saturday Night Winter Jam beneath the lights.(http://skiswissvalley.com/events/winter-jam/)
After shooting the Winter Jam for an hour or so, the cold got the best of us, so we retired to the bar/lodge for some relaxation. In the bar we were accompanied by live music and a room full patrons who had made their runs for the day. The place was packed with liveliness and conversations over pitchers of Bud Light. The bar connects to the stunning Swiss Valley lodge with big windows that overlook the terrain parks beneath the lights. But the coziness of the beautifully structured lodge with a gigantic wood burning fireplace at its center made it hard to for the cold winter’s night to pull our attention away from the warmth of the dancing flames.