Worth the Trip: Muskegon Winter Sports Complex
When Jim Rudicil learned that a luge track would soon take the place of his favorite sledding hill, the then 12-year-old was a little miffed.
It’s safe to say he’s come around since then. As the executive director of the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex, Rudicil is the biggest promoter of the luge track, along with all the other winter activities that attract people from around West Michigan and beyond to the complex.
Situated on about 400 acres at the northern end of Muskegon State Park, the sports complex offers visitors the opportunity to take part in cross-country skiing, ice skating, and snowshoeing, as well as the chance to zip down the luge, one of only four tracks in the United States. People can use their own equipment or rent what they need at the complex’s lodge.
“We make it very easy for folks to come out here and learn one of these great winter sports,” Rudicil said.
The luge gets the most attention due to its novelty. Thrill-seekers from all over the Midwest travel to Muskegon to experience the speedy track, and the youth luge program there feeds into the U.S. national team.
“That dream starts right here,” Rudicil said.
In fact, Rudicil’s childhood neighbor, Mark Grimmette, went on to great success as an American luger, bringing home many medals for Team USA.
As a kid, Rudicil actually helped carry boards up the hill as the luge was being constructed, the sting of losing his sledding hill eased by the knowledge that he’d soon have a luge track to play on.
That early love of being outside, even in the winter, is something that staff at the sports complex try to share with the many students who discover the complex on field trips that take place there every season. Rudicil said he hopes learning and experiencing a winter sport will inspire the kids who visit to put down their screens and get outside.
“Activity is really diminished and we hope to really serve as an answer to that,” he said.
The original intent of the facility when it was built in 1984 was to improve the health and wellness of the local community. Living in Michigan, it’s difficult to get outside in the winter months when daylight is typically gone by the time people get out of work and sit down for dinner. At the complex, visitors can enjoy the longest, lighted cross-country skiing trail in the Midwest, and lights also illuminate a skating path, rink and the luge.
While the complex ranks as the top winter destination in Muskegon County, there’s plenty to do there in the summer as well, with additional attractions in the works. A universally accessible wheel luge track – the first of its kind in the world – allows for year-round luging. A TrailQuest game and archery are also current offerings. Rudicil said plans are in place and moving forward to develop a zip line aerial canopy tour that would tell the story of the park’s dunes.
Efforts are also ongoing to make the facility as accessible as possible. Adaptive sports equipment is available and staff are working to build a hillside elevator that would make the winter luge track accessible to all.
Want more great destinations to visit in Michigan in the winter? Check out these blogs:
- Why Hiking to Marquette’s Black Rocks is Worth It
- Why Kitch-iti-kipi is a Must-Visit Michigan Natural Attraction
- Tahquamenon and Beyond: Michigan’s Best Quiet Winter Recreation Spots
Photo credit: A Healthier Michigan