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Mount Houghton - Touring one of Michigan's Largest

Mount Houghton - Touring one of Michigan's Largest

February 23, 2016

On February 19, 2016,  the Shaggy's "Team" took on Mount Houghton at the tip of Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula. The tour was one that we decided to finally document and show the world the awesome terrain we have right here in the Great Lakes State! Our "team" was filled with a distinct group, each with different perspectives of the trip. Check out everyone's story and you'll be stoked on winter, no matter what the temperature!

Jeff Thompson - Backcountry Skiing

Jeff Thompson

Partner - Engineer

Collin Rehm - Backcountry Skiing In Michigan

Collin Rehm

Ambassador

Austin Leder - Shaggy's Backcountry Skiing in Michigan

Austin Leder

Ambassador

Logan Stanley - Backcountry Skiing - Michigan - Midwest

Logan Stanley

Production Crew

Seth Shuster - Park Skier - Ambassador

Seth Shuster

Park Ambassador

Christian Raguse - Photographer

Christian Raguse

Photographer

Nick Fulton - Photographer

Nick Fulton

Photographer

Backcountry Skiing Fuel - PB&J

Sandwiches

PB&J

This trip that was actually planned two months in advance seemed to come up way too fast! The snow was drastically changing with wild temperature swings, and the certainty of the trip was in question. About one week prior to the tour, I (Jeff) checked the forecast through a couple of outlets and one thing was common between all of them:  Most of the UP was going to get warm and rainy. With each day moving on, the forecast got a little brighter, dropping a degree or two each day. Finally, the day before our Friday tour, the forecasts looked looming. Each hour was painful.  Regardless, I was going to make it out there. At a little before 11am, Logan Stanley and I took off from the factory in Boyne City, enroute to the Keweenaw. I wouldn't tell him or the other guys, but I was unsure of the trip's outcome. Hoping for the best, but planning for the worst, I packed garbage bags for everyone's packs. About two hours into the seven hour drive I checked the forecast again --- snow --- snow --- clouds --- no rain!      I was excited to say the least, but in reality,  ( I knew from my days living in the Keweenaw) the weather could change back just as fast. Regardless of the weather, we all finally met up at a cabin on Lac La Belle and the rest... Well, find out below!

Shaggy's Crew Team Shot Photo: Christian Raguse

Read through the eyes of:

Jeff | Collin | Austin| Logan | Seth | Christian

My Story (Jeff)

Our first step when finally getting together was to get everyone on the same page. We sat down (actually, I got my stuff ready and laid down about as fast as I could)  and I pulled out a topo map of our tour. The plan was to take on a few old logging roads, then bushwhacking until our ascent. Austin was quick to hand over a can of my favorite beer, KBC Widowmaker. From there I made sure the guys were at least somewhat prepared, and went back to my horizontal position in my bunk. 5:15 Friday morning came up on me a little quick.  Nonetheless, I was extremely excited to get out to the remote descents Mount Houghton had in store for us. We all started awaking.  When I finally made it outside, a miracle had taken place overnight - fresh snow! It wasn't blower pow, but it wasn't rain! The day was now off to a good start. We packed up the truck and set out to the closest road access to Mount Houghton. After a short five minute drive, it was time to park and skin up our skis. We quickly got our gear on and hit the trail, lit only by headlamps.

Dawn Patrol Skiing in Michigan's Upper Peninsula Photo: Christian Raguse

After a few minutes of skinning and trying to get our bearing right, I pulled out my Backcountry Navigator app with some downloaded topo maps of the area. I was surprised to see a few more old logging roads that didn't show up on any maps. This was going to take most of the bushwhacking to the base out of the equation; that's plus one for us! We followed a few of the well overgrown trails in the dark on our approach, changing layers, swapping trail breakers, and getting everyone at least somewhat comfortable with their BC gear.

Dawn Patrol - Michigan Backcountry Skiing
Photo: Christian Raguse

After a somewhat easy, yet long, trek in; daybreak came around and we were getting close to the "base" of Mount Houghton. I was getting antsy to get a real uphill climb going and it was just about here.

Photo: Christian Raguse Photo: Christian Raguse

Continuing our climb up Mount Houghton, we finally made it it an opening in the trees - definitely a sign we were on a solid rock face. The view was awesome, even with the haze of the clouds the sun was trying to peek through the horizon. We were close to approaching the summit and starting scouting for skiable lines we could lap a few times.

MT_Houghton_Skiing-Top_1 Photo: Christian Raguse

A short time later, we reached the high point. It was littered with wind-beaten brush trees, rock gardens, and a wide open south facing rock face. For a while we all explored the summit, skinning north to south, east to west, and trying to locate the first line to take. After getting the ever important group-shot, we decided to ski the northwest face as it was the furthest from our ascent.

Photo: Christian Raguse

Photo: Christian Raguse

Now it was time to really take off and make some runs! We ripped our skins off with excitement, and it was -- all downhill from here! Photo: Christian RagusePhoto: Christian Raguse

Photo: Christian RagusePhoto: Christian Raguse

We proceeded to quickly find a natural drainage route and slash some quick turns. Collin, always looking ahead, then sidestepped and found the jackpot! An open face scattered with the best Midwest pillows and just protected enough that the warm weather didn't slump them over.

Photo: Christian Raguse

Photo: Christian Raguse

We couldn't help but make some turns.  I dropped in first, wanting to get first tracks. After popping off a few pillows and getting thrown into my signature backseat position, the rest of the guys dropped in making it look easy. They bounced off everything with style, airing into the heavy powder with which the northwest face graced us.

Photo: Christian Raguse

Photo: Christian Raguse

Photo: Christian RaguseWe continued to lap this spot for about an hour, tracked it out, then continued down the backside of the mountain. We found some great mellow tree skiing, mobbed a run as a group, and explored all around. Towards the bottom Logan and I found what looked to be a massive pillow of snow from above (from below it looked like a death trap of tangled fallen branches). I took the open line and Logan shot the gap between a couple of narrow trees - he's a little crazy... From there we decided to make our way back to the summit, traversing through the brush, while Collin was looking for his ever elusive perfect line. It is worth noting that on our way up, Collin did make a half lap down, dislodged snow off the top of a cliff and was even carried a bit with the sluff (check out his POV video in his section).

We took a lunch break at the summit and rehydrated. Taking a minute to assess the snowpack and looming weather, we decided to make the long descent towards our inbound trail. The guys were hitting just about every cliff, bump, or creekbed they could find. Collin went big, Logan ducked between tight trees, Austin slashed big turns, and Seth made whipping around everything look easy - even with a bum knee! We eventually crossed paths with our skintrack, pulled those skins back on and hit the trail out. After some speed skinning on our previously broken trail, we reached our final descent down an old logging road - we couldn't help but mob the camera! It was a great trip and I personally cannot wait for another trip with this group!  But don't just take my word for it, continue reading below to get everyone else's story!

Photo: Christian Raguse

Photo: Christian Raguse

Follow Jeff's adventures on Instagram

Read through the eyes of:

Jeff | Collin | Austin| Logan | Seth | Christian

 

Collin Rehm

 

Photo: Nick Fulton

Our journey to Mt Houghton started off with one of the scariest drives of my life. Austin, Seth, Nick and I all met up after I got off work and we began our drive in clear weather. After a month of consistently cold temperatures the predictably unpredictable weather of the yoop decided to turn on us. About 15 minutes outside of Marquette it began snowing heavily. Between Ishpeming and Houghton we drove through a torrential downpour of every form of precipitation imaginable as a strong warm front moved through the area. Things were not looking good and I think we all had second doubts about what the snowpack was going to look like in the Keweenaw. It seems, however, that there is a magical line around Calumet where the snow never disappoints. While it was heavy, wet and slushy, it was white and about 2 inches of it fell overnight in the higher elevations of Keweenaw county before our tour began.


An early start was necessary and we geared up and headed for the trailhead at around 6 in the morning. Smith Fisheries road was not plowed, and as such we had about a 2.5 mile skin track to make before we reached the summit. We took several different abandoned logging roads, ATV trails, and eventually had nothing but a heading to follow through the trees to reach the summit. Over the entire trip we encountered just one other skin track, the only evidence that suggested we were not the first people to ski here this season. After around 2 hours we finally reached an opening which gave us our first view from the top. Nothing but Lake Superior and the forested hills of the Keweenaw surrounded us for miles.

Photo: Christian Raguse

Photo: Christian Raguse

While it had warmed up quite a bit and the snow was more mashed potatoes than powder it was still waist to chest deep anywhere off the exposed headwalls. Over 100 inches of snow had fallen in the past 30 days here and I can’t imagine what it would have been like had this warm front not compressed all the snow. Luckily however, it was still very soft and very skiable. The terrain of Mt Houghton reminded me very much of neighboring Mt. Bohemia, except that nobody had touched the snow here all year. Tight stunted trees near the summit gave way to open glades of steep, well-spaced trees, which had pockets of steep open terrain and some incredible pillow lines hidden within them. Lower down on the mountain some areas had been selectively harvested with some mountain bike style naturally bermed trails leading through the resulting dense brush. Tree features, rocks, and stumps made for endless natural features to keep things interesting all the way to the bottom.

Photos: Christian RagusePhotos: Christian Raguse
 

 

Photo: Nick Fulton

We quickly made a full descent of the North East face of the mountain, which ended up being nearly a mile of sustained vertical skiing. After reaching the summit again we took a lunch break and decided to begin our decent of the south face, and the trek back out to the trailhead. 100+ foot cliffs lined our route and made for some very high consequence traversing. After finding a spot to descend through the steep cliff faces we found this face of the mountain to be much lower angle with numerous gullies and creek beds for some fun technical drops and fast sections railing turns through pillows and over running water. After another mile of skiing and dropping cliffs we eventually reached our skin track from our initial approach.

Photo: Nick Fulton

Photo: Nick Fulton

The mostly downhill trails back to the car led to some fun gliding on the skins and the last section was even steep enough for us to ski the road all the way to the cars. The terrain of the Upper Peninsula never ceases to disappoint, the deep snow, diverse skiing and relatively short approaches makes the Backcountry around here a true hidden gem of ski touring. Hopefully the weather will flip again soon and the snow gods will smile on the end of our ski season, until then it looks like it’s time to catch up on all the homework I didn’t do this weekend!

Photo: Christian Raguse

Photo: Christian Raguse

Follow Collin's adventures on Instagram

A photo posted by Collin Rehm (@c_rehm) on


Read through the eyes of:

Jeff | Collin | Austin| Logan | Seth | Christian

Austin Leder

Photo: Nick Fulton We started the drive around 7:30pm from Marquette it was an interesting trip to say the least. After a dead battery, torrential rainstorm, and a few coffee hours later we finally made it over the Houghton portage and into the Keweenaw Peninsula. We were very worried about the weather, as any skier would know rain and snow don’t mix. But the snow gods were on our side. The rain let up as we entered the copper country. Seth (driver) could finally relax his white knuckles as I pour him another piping hot cup of Joe from the trusty Stanley thermos. We arrive at the cabin on Lac Labelle around midnight. Immediately we begin our PBJ assembly line, making sure to put peanut butter on both pieces of bread so the jelly doesn’t seep through (per request). After lunch was made we packed our bags, studied some topographical maps, made sure the skis were tuned up and skins ready to go, then it was bedtime. Four hours of sleep later the alarms rang at 5:30am. We loaded up the car and drove a few minutes to Smith’s Fisheries Road. Jeff had said earlier that there was a chance the road was going to be plowed and would save a mile or two of skinning… it wasn’t plowed. So the adventure began we all clicked into our array of Shaggy’s skis, we had the Ahmeek, Phoenix, and a few pairs of Tubbys. It was still pitch black, with our headlamps on we start touring into the woods. An hour later the sun began to rise and we could finally see the peak of mount Houghton, sitting one foot in elevation higher than Bohemia this was a sight to see.


Photo: Cristian Raguse

Austin Leder Dropping Cliffs in Michigan's Backcountry on Tubby Skis

Photo: Christian Raguse

Two hours of skinning from the car and we were finally approaching the summit. Winds were gusting to 40 knots and a thousand feet below lake superior was unleashing fury. The snow pack was measured when Colin clicked out of his skis and stepped to the side sinking up to his chest. To say the least we did not have to worry about hitting any rocks or down trees. The snow was a little heavy from the recent warm up but nothing that was going to stop us from having a blast. We ventured over to the leeward side of the peak where we proceeded to drop all our food and anything that was going to weigh us down. It was finally time to make our first turns, we ripped the skins off and locked in the heel. This terrain was all new to us so we scoped a line and dropped in for the first decent. The snow was so much better than expected, everyone in the group let out a loud hoot of excitement. Put the skins back on and to the top we go. A quick 20-minute trek made lapping this side of the mountain really fun. We found some tree jibs and pillow lines to keep the adrenaline flowing. A few laps later we met for lunch at the summit to replenish the calories. 

The group was beginning to feel tired so we agreed on one more run down the windward side of the mountain in the direction of the car. The snow on this side was marginal as the wind had blown it all to the opposing side. Once we arrived at the bottom we put the skins on one last time and trekked the last mile to the car. We made it back by 3:00pm with no serious injuries and a smile on our faces. After packing up the car we convoyed down to Roy’s in Houghton for a hot pasty and some liquids. We got back in the car and headed to Marquette for the Shaggy’s Backcountry Adventure the next day. It was a long and tiring adventure but so worth it in the end. It's amazing what you can find when you venture away from the ski resort and start earning your turns.

Austin Leder + Jeff Thompson Eating lunch in Michigan's Backcountry

Photo: Christian Raguse

Follow Austin's adventures on Instagram

Read through the eyes of:

Seth Shuster

Seth Shuster Close up and Personal

After making multiple trips back and forth between dorms and houses, at around 8 pm Austin, Collin, Nick and I had everything stuffed into my car and ready to make the trek from Marquette up to Copper Harbor. I was expecting a rather easy two and a half hour drive; that expectation was cut down 15 minutes outside Marquette. From there on out, it was a white knuckle, adrenaline filled ride involving freezing rail, windows that would not un-fog, losing traction with every turn, and my car dying in a gas station parking lot. So, finally, three and a half hours later, we pulled up to the cabin to meet up with the rest of the group – Shout out to Austin for hooking it up with a mean cup of Joe during the drive. Seriously, that dude can brew some damn good coffee. Upon arrival, Jeff, being the wise (old) man he is, tried to coax us into sleeping. But, it was to no avail. After making PB&Js with a pocket knife and venturing to a different cabin with loud noises and enough alcohol to send everyone to the ER, we were finally all asleep - more or less - by 1:30/2 am, ready for our 5:30 wakeup call. Seth Shuster Backcountry skiing in Michigan Photo: Christian Raguse

The alarm sounded way sooner than expected (at 5:15 rather than 5:30 - thanks Austin); we all arose, packed up and headed to Mount Houghton. Of course the one access road to the base of the mountain hasn’t been plowed. So, rather annoyed (myself at least), we set up at the start of the road and prepared for the skin up which was now an extra mile and a half - thanks to Copper Harbor’s limited snow plowing resources. Photo: Christian Raguse Photo: Christian Raguse

We were greeted at the top of Mount Houghton with 30+ mph winds, and one spectacular view of Lake Superior. The view alone was worth the venture up. After taking a copious amount of pictures, we set up camp and skied on. Surprisingly, the snow wasn’t bad even after the weather events from the day before. Logan and Collin were absolutely sending it, and Jeff and Austin’s turns were pristine. I was doing my utmost best to keep up considering the day before I had sprained my MCL riding park. Christian and Nick were gunning us down with their cameras, and from the looks of it got plenty of stellar shots. The trip was a huge success. I was able to vastly improve my touring skill and it was quite refreshing to get out of the park and streets and into the backcountry for a day. I’m already looking forward to the next trip. Something about earning your turns, man, it’s cool.

Follow Seth's adventures on Instagram

A photo posted by Seth Shuster (@sethshuster9) on


Read through the eyes of:

Jeff | Collin | Austin| Logan | Seth | Christian

Logan Stanley

PBJ_Building-Ski_Tour_Food Photo: Christian Raguse

Our Mount Houghton Safari started at about 11:30 Thursday morning as we left the Shaggy's headquarters for the Great North. The drive ended up taking all day as we stopped at about any place one could imagine. After arriving at Bohemia, we built some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with our hands and some plastic bags. Us not so wise "kids" (as Jeff would call us) then went out to the neighbor's cabin to see was going on, turns out they were having a pretty crazy party complete with turntables and all. We ended up staying awake for longer than we probably should have, but were quick to arise to our 5:15 alarm. Photo: Christian RagusePhoto: Christian Raguse

The skiing started with a pretty long skin to the bottom of the hill. Once we got to that point we made short work of the climb. The Photographers on snowshoes probably hated us for our pace, but we were eager to ski. Arriving at the summit around 8:30, we made a quick skin around the top to scope our lines for the day. On our scoping mission Collin found what was probably the perfect lap zone:  a "meadow" leading into a beautiful pillow patch. We decided to start our day out with this great find. Logan_Sideways_Drop_Backcountry_SkiingPhoto: Christian Raguse

This spot  was big enough for us to make 2 laps in some beautiful Pow. We then moved to another spot where Jeff and I found what looked to be a nice jump through a pair of ash trees.  Jeff decided he would test 'er out. Turns out it was a big ol' pile of sticks.

Photo: Christian Raguse Photo: Christian Raguse

In some tighter trees with some equally deep snow, Jeff and I found a tree to pole whack as we watched Collin ski his line into a small avalanche. At this point in the day we were all ready for a break, so we had some of our delicious PB and J's. After lunch it was time to start our way back towards the truck.  The exposed southern facing part of the mountain was pretty crunchy, but as soon as we got back into the trees the snow was good again. This is where I found a good gap shoot.Photo: Christian Raguse Photo: Christian Raguse

We continued to mob down the hill as a group until Seth and I decided to make a traverse across the hill to try to find some more features.  We ended up with some really flat light and no features that we could see. The other guys had already made their way down and were yelling for us to hit a gap jump. Neither of us could see this, so we decided to just ski down our own lines. Unfortunately I found the gap they had told us to hit, putting myself into a double ejection to scorpion situation.Photo: Christian Raguse Photo: Christian Raguse

After that fiasco we all skinned up and made our way to the snowmobile trail back to the truck. Photo: Christian Raguse Photo: Christian Raguse

Follow Logan's adventures on Instagram

Read through the eyes of:

Jeff | Collin | Austin| Logan | Seth | Christian

Christian Raguse

Photo: Nick Fulton

When I first heard from Jeff at Shaggy’s that he was interested in having me, as a photographer, come along with the Shaggy’s crew out to Mount Houghton I was stoked. At that point, it didn’t matter to me how many classes I had to skip to go on this adventure. What mattered to me was the opportunity to explore an area that I knew very little about, and at the same time, shoot pictures of a group of skiers with talents that expanded beyond any skier I’ve ever shot pictures of before. After a late night of prepping our gear/peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, mapping out our routes and meeting all the guys that had driven up from downstate, the 5:30am alarm was not the most pleasant sound in the world. Although there was no coffee in sight, I had more energy than I have ever had before any school day.

Photo: Christian RagusePhoto: Christian Raguse

Before long, we had packed up and left the cabin on Lac La Belle to make our way to the trailhead. As we began our hike to Mount Houghton, I had this constant anxious feeling hanging over me, warning me not to miss any moment with my camera. Despite the very casual and relaxed vibes among the group, I felt very pressured to capture shots of the guys that would do their talents justice, since I was an unknown to most of the guys on the trip prior to the night before.

Photo: Cristian Raguse Photo: Christian Raguse

Photo: Christian Raguse Photo: Christian Raguse

Making our way to the peak of Mount Houghton, one foot higher than Mount Bohemia, the snow was moderately crusty, due to the amount of rain we received the night before, and the constant wind being blown against the southwest face of the mountain. Despite the harsh, cold wind blowing in our faces, everyone seemed very comfortable and relaxed with the bitter environment. As soon as the skins were torn off and the group started pointing out various creative lines to each other, it was game on. Quickly moving from spot to spot in three feet of untouched snow was very tricky, especially taking into account that I didn’t want to walk through snow that would be in the shots.

With hours of scoping and sending behind us, we were ready to start making our way towards the bottom, where we had started the day in the dark. After pointing out a tree jib to Logan, I quickly made my way down to get an angle. A few sinking steps later, my right snowshoe caught hold of the snow on the way up and I was sent forward into a full fledged faceplant, packing snow into every contour of my face and into the lens hood on my camera. Despite my failure to capture the perfect spray of snow off the tree from Logan’s skis, I knew the day was a complete success from my side of the camera. With 1,500 shots from start to finish, I was stoked with the day, and hungry for another opportunity to do it all over again.

Follow Christian's adventures on Instagram

A photo posted by Christian Raguse (@goofyguuse) on



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Sizing Chart

Sizing skis is a little bit of an art and a little bit of a science. There are numerous factors that all effect the optimal ski length for you. 

A few of the factors are:

The list could go on and on, but if you need help with the decision, always feel free to call us at 231.459.4323, live chat, or email us!

Here's a basic chart based solely on height, to get you started.

Height Suggested Lengths (cm)
5' 135-155
5'2" 145-165
5'4" 150-170
5'6" 155-175
5'8" 160-180
5'10" 165-185
6' 170-190
6'2" 175-195
6'4" 180-200