My Two Favorite Winter Sports — Snowshoeing and Beer Drinking — in One Event!

Timber Ridge Ladies Showing ShoesEnjoying good times during Suds & Snow

Every winter, we Traverse City beer aficionados face the same problem.

Thanks to our large German, Bohemian and Polish population, we’ve always had a healthy appreciation for the brewer’s art. In recent years almost a dozen microbreweries and brewpubs have sprouted up around the region, and as soon as the snow begins to fall, those talented brewmasters begin devising spicy wheat beers, fragrant ales, creamy porters and rich dark stouts for the discerning palates of their fans.

Each deserves our respectful attention – but how in the world does one consume so much seasonal cheer without acquiring a waistline of Dickensian proportions?

Fortunately, seven years ago Kristin Levesque and her pals up at Timber Ridge RV & Recreation Resort came up with a simple answer to this perennial problem: snowshoeing. After all, nothing burns off excess carbohydrates faster than schlepping through a wintry pine forest on a pair of snowshoes.

And Timber Ridge is the perfect place for a workout. An all-season recreation center in the forested hills above Grand Traverse Bay, it has an extensive on-site trail system with access to the famed North American Vasa Trail, and it does a brisk winter business with cross-country skiers and snowshoers.  And it also devised the perfect wedding of winter brew-tasting and exercise.

Called “Suds & Snow,” it’s a day-long celebration of specialty brewing, outdoor fun, food and music that allows microbrew aficionados, snowshoe hikers and other fun-loving types to mingle in midwinter – with all the proceeds donated to charity. Over the last six years, Levesque says the event has raised more than $30,000 to help local nonprofit organizations.

This year’s Suds & Snow will be held Saturday, with creations from six quality Michigan breweries: Bell’s, Greenbush, Saugatuck, Schmohz and our own Right Brain and Shorts. Guests can enjoy an afternoon on the trails in snowshoes (and as you probably know, no experience or particular skill is required to have a good time in snowshoes) followed by a visit to the beer and food tasting trail station. Participating restaurants include Schelde’s, TraVino and Red Mesa Grill; they’ll be offering small plates at the stations.

Some years as many as 800 people have turned out for Suds & Snow, and with the snow and weather conditions we’ve been having, I’m going to guess they’ll have a great turnout this year, too — so you should register early to get the commemorative pint glass for this year’s event (they only made 500). Tickets are $20 in advance, or $30 at the gate. Five dollars from every ticket will be donated to Child & Family Services of Northwestern Michigan.

Both locations will have live music from local bands. This year, it’ll be Jason and Nick, as well as Levi Britton, & Chris Sterr, with special guest Jonny Tornga. And here’s something new: Disc Golf out on the trail. They’re putting up golf baskets along the route to add a little extra entertainment to the trek through the woods.

Don’t own snowshoes? Don’t worry, there’ll be rentals available — and a hard-packed trail just for hikers. And if you’re really not there for the exercise (slackers!) the sampling will also be going on indoors at the resort’s rustic lodge building. Also, a free shuttle to downtown and the hotel district is being provided by Celtic Transportation, just to make sure everybody stays safe.

Visit www.TimberRidgeResort.net or call (231) 947-2770 for more information.

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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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