The Muskegon Winter Sports Complex: a Michigan Destination for Winter Sports Lovers of all Skill and Courage Levels
Midwesterners tend to fall into two categories. Those who despise winter and are miserable for 4 months of the year. And those who embrace every minute of the season, knowing it’s only here for 4 months of the year. Okay, some years, 6 months, but still.
We happen to fall in the winter-obsessed group! (Read how that happened.) So we’re always on the lookout for new, fun, exciting winter getaways to enjoy the season. And this winter, we hit the jackpot: the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex (MWSC) in Muskegon, Michigan!
You don’t have to have a great deal of skill to participate in Muskegon’s winter activities. In fact, our family’s biggest winter skill might be our ability to pull our boots on over double-socks! Anyone —like us, like you— can roll up to Muskegon and find a winter pastime —or five!— to love.
What’s your winter thrill level and skill level? Chances are, the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex has got you covered!
This post would not be possible without the effort and sponsorship of Visit Muskegon, Muskegon Winter Sports Complex, Western Michigan Tourism, and Shoreline Inn. Our sincere gratitude for your work and financial support!
We’ve rated each activity on a scale of 1-3, for its adrenaline rush and its required skill level.
Snowshoeing at Muskegon Winter Sports Complex
Adrenaline Level 1 / Skill Level 1 (and up)
Snowshoeing. What a perfect winter sport! Like going for a walk, but floating on snow.
The sport takes almost no skill to learn and can be enjoyed by almost anyone, at least at the most basic level. Master turning around without stepping on your own snowshoe, and you’re ready to go!
Skill Level 1 snowshoeing can be enjoyed by first-timers at MWSC along Woods Loop, a flat, 1K trail that stays entirely within the Complex.
At 1.5K, the flat Lake Michigan Loop is also perfect for beginners. This trail heads out of the Complex and into the state park campground across the road before looping back into MWSC. This trail’s highlight is the campground’s overlook deck with a broad view of Lake Michigan. Facing west, the overlook offers impressive sunset views.
The .8K Highland Loop (off the Lake Michigan Loop) offers steeper grades, so a higher skill level, particularly comfort with ascents and descents in snowshoes, will be necessary.
Lost Lake Dune Trail gives snowshoers the chance for a longer, 5k walk through the woods.
Our MWSC snowshoeing highlight:
Eleven-year old Mag loved the experience of being our orienteer, following the signs and colored ribbons that marked our path through the woods and campground. And we were all awed by the sunset view along the Lake Michigan Loop.
If snowshoeing with children, consider hand warmers (inserts for mittens) and be prepared to carry their poles if/when they tire of the novelty. Trail snacks, a.k.a. bribery, also work well!
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Ice skating at Muskegon Winter Sports Complex
Adrenaline Level 1 / Skill Level 2
Ice skating. Does anything make a more rewarding ASMR sound than skates on ice? (Don’t know ASMR? Google it. Then be ready for quite the rabbit hole!)
We call ice skating a Skill Level 2 activity because some experience on skates is helpful to make the most of this activity.
But “trainers” (looks like a walker, helps maintain balance) are available for complete novices, meaning anyone can come out and enjoy the serene experience of skating along MWSC’s 1/4-mile frozen woodland trail.
Families with young children also love the shorter track and small ice rink; a larger rink is popular with local hockey enthusiasts.
All in all, MWSC offers more than 2 acres of ice skating opportunities.
Our MWSC skating highlight:
We were mesmerized by a game of pond hockey taking place under falling snow. Like a Normal Rockwell painting come to life. Scroll this IG highlight for footage, plus hear that ASMR sound!
Remember that skating on ice in nature will feel different than skating on indoor rink ice. Skate attentively while you adapt.
Sledding near Muskegon Winter Sports Complex
Adrenaline Level 2 (and up) / Skill Level 1
What Midwesterner doesn’t have fond memories of daylong sledding sessions during childhood snowdays? Memories 2.0 about to be made here!
Sledding takes virtually no skill (although good health and conditioning are necessary), but provides all the thrills of high rates of speed.
Within MWSC, there is a fun, mini hill with a few moguls to catch some air and build speed. We love the nearby Sugar Bowl Dune (still within Muskegon State Park, but not in MWSC) for more extreme sledding.
Head south out of MWSC, pass Memorial Drive, then watch for a small parking loop on the left (about 1000ft after Memorial Drive). That’s Sugar Bowl Dune, where sledding hills (which are actually snow-covered sand dunes) range from fun to full-on frightening. We found some great, long runs with mid-gradients, but the sky’s the limit for what can be done by the bravest sledders at Sugar Bowl!
Our sledding highlight:
Sledding on snow-covered sand dunes can’t be done many places on the planet; we embraced every minute of this unique opportunity. The views of a frozen Lake Michigan were pretty amazing, too!
Sleds are available for rent at MWSC. Bring your own if heading to Sugar Bowl. And use the restroom beforehand, as none are available at Sugar Bowl.
Cross-country skiing at Muskegon Winter Sports Complex
Adrenaline Level 2 / Skill Level 2
Workout meets meditation in this relaxing and exhausting winter sport.
We list cross country skiing as Skill Level 2 because, unlike snowshoeing, first timers aren’t likely to just step into the equipment and be on their way. A little previous practice and experience will definitely make a day at MWSC more enjoyable, if only for the ability to focus on the surroundings and not on skill acquisition.
But don’t feel like you have to come in with ski experience to enjoy the MWSC trails. Complete first timers —like us!— can count on staff to talk through at least the basics of getting started. Depending on the day, you may get lucky and find a staffer with enough time to really get into the fundamentals, but just know that is not a guarantee, in which case, we recommend watching this tutorial by MWSC before visiting.
Beginners —yep, us!— can enjoy the 2.5K White Night Trail, complete with opt-out at around the .5K mark. Three additional trails, ranging from 3K to 5K, are perfect for intermediate x-country skiers. Experts will find the 2K Spencer’s Advanced Trail waiting for them.
Our MWSC cross-country skiing highlight:
We’re sending a special shout out to staffer Tom Jackson for his patient instruction as we eked our way through the woods during our first time on skis. Tom made the learning process so exciting that we couldn’t wait to come back. And so we did, after dinner for a lighted nighttime ski!
Cross-country skiing tip:
Leave your other sports skills behind as you take up x-country skiing. Or at least, don’t use your poles the way you would use your paddle in kayaking, or your hand in surfing. The pole won’t act like a fulcrum; it’ll just push you over. Not that I know from experience or anything…
Learn to Luge at Muskegon Winter Sports Complex
Adrenaline Level 3 / Skill Level 2
Luging. What a highlight! Not just a highlight of the MWSC experience, but a highlight of winter. A highlight of a lifetime of winters! How many people can say they’ve tried this usually-reserved-for-the-Olympics sport? Well, three more now. Us!
Skill Level 2 might need some qualifying. Almost no one comes to MWSC with prior experience in luging; virtually everyone is here to try out luging for their first time. We note a Skill Level of two because we felt it important to have at least a functional core strength and cardio fitness just to get up the stairs with a sled (they weigh about 30 pounds). Plus, getting into position and enacting the subtle body position changes during the luge will require some confidence and physical fitness.
Basically, if you’re over 8 years old, can carry a heavy sled up steep steps for maybe 180 seconds, and are willing to push through a little first-time jitters, you’ve got the skill for this.
And the Thrill Level of 3 won’t disappoint! Two good sized turns, a fun little one, one really big one, plus a couple of straightaways, and you’re in for 25 seconds of pure thrill!
If you’re really not up for the adrenaline rush, we still recommend the spectator experience. Watching the sleds whoosh by is fun; seeing the expressions on lugers’ faces is even better!
And in the center a the luge area, a large bonfire creates a space for good camaraderie, a great vibe, and amazing photo opps.
Our MWSC luge highlight:
Summoning our inner Olympians and running the course was not just a highlight of our time at MWSC, but a highlight of our entire winter. Actually, a highlight out of all 10 of our winters in the Midwest!
We appreciate Bill Bailey and the the entire luge team for providing phenomenal training in luge basics, and the courage their training inspired.
If you love waterslides in the summer, remind yourself that the luge is similar to the waterslides where you sit in a tube. You’ll be laying back a bit more on the luge than in your tube, but your body-leans will be very similar.
Skill Level Summary
Ultimately, there is only one skill truly needed to enjoy a weekend at Muskegon Winter Sports Complex: the ability to embrace winter and all the adventure it offers!
Hunger Level: 3
Yep, outdoor enthusiasts get pretty hungry! Some places we loved near MWSC and Muskegon included:
∙ 360 Ruddiman Dr, Muskegon
Just minutes from MWSC is Bear Lake Tavern. One of the Muskegon area’s oldest restaurants, Bear Lake Tavern is popular with locals year-round.
To eat like a local, we recommend the yellow belly perch!
∙ 1308 W. Sherman Blvd, Muskegon
If you appreciate a good “hole in the wall” —yep, us again!— this will be your favorite post-adventure spot! A bit farther from MWSC, but worth the drive for their bigger-than-the-plate burritos, Skeetown Tavern is a great, appetite-crushing local find!
∙ 350 W. Western Ave, Muskegon
Is it a craft cocktail bar? A restaurant? A woodfire pizza house? An ode to the blending of 140 years of architecture? It’s worth a visit to decide for yourself! While you’re there, we recommend the weekly rotating hot toddies (seasonal) and the Chesterfield bourbon cocktail.
Exhaustion Level: 3
Of course, all that eating, drinking, and adventuring is exhausting! We were so happy to be hosted by:
∙ 750 Terrace Point Rd, Muskegon
Shoreline’s location is the perfect blend of waterfront-meets-downtown-walkable. It’s also an easy, somewhat scenic 20-minute drive to Muskegon State Park and MWSC.
We found the beds ultra comfy, including the pillows; a rare joy for the pillow-picky —yes, us again! And an absolute highlight was Shoreline’s buffet-style breakfast. All-you-can-eat takes on a whole new meaning when you’re spending a weekend crushing it outdoors!
Ready for your trip? Here’s a little more info:
For more than 30 years, MWSC has partnered with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Muskegon Sports Council to achieve their goal of getting locals and visitors from all walks of life into the outdoors to develop an active, healthy lifestyle.
Things to do
MWSC offers cross-country skiing, ice skating, hockey, snowshoeing, sledding, and luging.
MWSC’s luge track is one of only four in the United States that is accessible to the public, and is the only U.S. luge track designed specifically for recreational luging.
Trail fees and rental fees apply. $5 and up, depending on the day. “Learn to Luge” experience, $49.
Adaptive equipment and services are available, including for the luge. Pre-arrangement is necessary for some adaptive equipment/services.
Hours & Season
December through early March, 10am to 10pm daily, weather permitting; fully lighted trails, tracks and rinks
Location & Contact
426 Scenic Dr., N. Muskegon, MI 49445 (inside Muskegon State Park)
Fun fact: 5-time luge Olympian Mark Grimmette had his first luge encounter at the MWSC track as a tween in the ‘80s!
Do you embrace winter as an adventure? Are you ready to?
Tell us about it in the comments!