The Inconstant Snow… Heck, Maybe it’s Time for Some Chili and a Drink

Good old chickadee: A More Faithful Winter Friend than this Darn Snow!END
Good old chickadee: A More Faithful Winter Friend than this Darn Snow!


My wife Karen and I are of two different minds when it comes to snow. She approaches the subject as a motorist; I approach it as a frustrated outdoorsman.

Needless to say, the two of us have very differently reactions to this on-again, off-again winter we’ve been having. She’d be content never to see another snowflake until next winter, while I’m scanning the weather reports looking for signs that we’ll get a nice big lake-effect blizzard to put some decent base on the ground. As it is, things are great over at ski resorts like Shanty Creek, where the cold temperatures have allowed them to make enough snow to open almost all of their runs, but down here along the coast it seems to melt away as soon as it falls.

Things are looking tempting toward the end of this week, so I’m hopeful about the coming weekend. (Ever the optimist, me!) But even if it’s too warm to strap on the snowshoes, there are ways to entertain oneself – most of which involve matters of food and drink.

On Saturday, for instance, the Downtown Traverse City Association will be holding its 17th annual Downtown Chili Cook-Off, where chefs from local restaurants serve up savory helpings of chili from their own secret recipes as they compete in eight different categories (one- and three-alarm chili, white chili, vegetarian chili, no-bean chili, seafood chili and ethnic chili) as well as the coveted People’s Choice Award. Hold it a minute – isn’t chili ethnic by its very nature?

A Sampling from the Chili Cook-Off

A Sampling from the Chili Cook-Off

There are a lot of chili cook-offs going on this time of year, since chili makes the perfect winter warm-up, but the Traverse City one is a biggie. Over 1,000 people show up each January at the Park Place Dome to sample the various chilis and vote for their favorites. The Cook-Off will be held from 11:00 a.m. to 3 p.m., and all proceeds from the event help support such popular free downtown events as Friday Night Live, and the Halloween Walk throughout the year.  For more information call (231) 922-2050 or visit

And even though cold-weather experts are always warning us that alcoholic beverages don’t really warm you up, there’s something about the red-cheeked flush and cheerful bonhomie of a shared snort among friends that perks up the dreariest day. Out in my neck of the woods, the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula and some of our restaurants and other businesses are once again putting on their annual Winter Warm Up. Guests who show up at any of the OMP wineries on Saturday can purchase a souvenir mug (it costs ten bucks) that serves as your “ticket” for the rest of the day for yummy warm comfort food and drinks at the wineries and special promotions at participating restaurants. Great treatment for those winter blues! If you want to learn more call 231-223-9303 or visit

Winter in the Chateau Chantal Vineyard on Old Mission
Winter in the Chateau Chantal Vineyard on Old Mission

By the way, I just read an awesome review of the Old Mission Peninsula wine country by Linda Murphy on She says Old Mission is the single wine region that excites her the most right now. “The wine quality is superb, the cold-climate wine styles cannot be produced on the West Coast, and a tight-knit band of seven producers have been positively proactive in marketing OMP in states afar,” she says. Check it out!

Oh, and if you’re more of a beer-and-ale person, Shanty Creek Resorts has got the perfect event going on both Saturday and Sunday. It’s their Fourth Annual Beer and Boards Festival at Schuss Mountain, where you can combine a day on the slopes with an après-ski featuring some of Michigan’s best known master brewers including New Holland, Bell’s, Right Brain, Arcadia, Mount Pleasant Brewing, and more —  including, of course, the brewery at the boom of the ski hill, Shorts Brewing.

And, oh, if you know the snow dance, START DANCING ALREADY!

About mikelovestc

These days, I’m the media relations guy for the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau, but before that I spent 25 years as a reporter and columnist at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, a job that frequently took me out into the most remote backroads, forests, beaches and islands of the beautiful Grand Traverse Region. My strategy was pretty simple — just drive, paddle, ski or walk until you’re certain you’re lost, and then find somebody to talk to. It was a great job! I never intended to live in Traverse City. I grew up in Grand Rapids, spent four years in the Coast Guard in places like Miami Beach, Monterey and San Francisco, and when I finally graduated from college I took a summer job at the Miami Herald. To my surprise, I discovered I didn’t like the tropics nearly as much as I thought I would — and when the Record-Eagle offered me a job I took it, figuring I’d put in a year or two and head off to someplace like Seattle or Portland. What I discovered very quickly is that this place gets to you in a variety of unexpected ways. The beaches here are as lovely as anyplace else I’ve ever been, the weather is mild all year round — warm enough for swimming in September and cold enough for skiing in December — and just about the time you’re getting tired of one season you get another one every bit as pleasant. The people are laid-back and friendly, the music and arts scene is awesome, and the place still hasn’t gotten so sophisticated that a guy like me feels out of place.
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