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Detroit Ski Resorts. Mt Holly vs Pine Knob and the others

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Updated March 27th, 2024

Detroit is not exactly the mecca of skiing or winter sports in general. It gets cold here but it’s flat and we don’t get a ton of snow. The yearly average is only around 30 inches. Despite this, we do have skiing in the winter. There are a lot of really passionate people who take to the slopes here. Currently, there are 4 Detroit area ski resorts to tide you over when you don’t have time to drive up north or a different state. Each one has a slightly different flavor. The 4 Detroit ski resorts are as follows:

Detroit Ski Resorts. Where are they at?

detroit ski resort map

3 of the 4 ski resorts are now owned by Wisconsin Resorts (A Michigan based company). They own Mt Holly, Pine Knob, and Alpine Valley. They also own Bittersweet in western Michigan, Alpine Valley Wisconsin, and Searchmont, Ontario. They have started offering a multi-mountain season pass for all 6 of their resorts for $620. This is the only season pass offered for Pine Knob and Alpine Valley, Michigan.

Mt Holly – Holly Michigan

Mt Holly Ski Resort Sunset
Photo courtesy of Mt Holly

Mt Holly is located in Holly, Michigan about 45 minutes from downtown Detroit. It has the longest vertical drop of the 4 at 350 feet. It also boasts the only highspeed detachable quad at the 4. Mt Holly has a respectable lodge with a bar, cafeteria small ski shop. The hot chocolate in the bar is especially good.

The terrain

Mt Holly is entirely beginner to intermediate level terrain. They have one very short mogel run. Per standard resort marking practices, they have black diamond runs. Nothing here would be considered above a blue run even up north at say Boyne Mountain.

The best feature of Mt Holly is their highspeed quad and the blue run Woodward. This is an excellent even pitched fairly wide run suitable for those trying to learn to parallel turn.

Special Events

Mt Holly hosts a decent New Years’ Eve celebration that is free of charge and features live music, fireworks and a torch parade down the mountain at midnight.

  • Mt Holly – Holly Michigan
  • Vertical Drop – 350 feet
  • Skiable Acres – 100 acres
  • Day or Evening session Saturday lift ticket price – $47
  • Season Pass price – $620


  • Highspeed chairlift
  • More vertical
  • Good beginner to intermediate runs for learning


  • No advanced terrain
  • Distance from Detroit
  • Feels like you are skiing on an artificial landfill

Pine Knob – Clarkston Michigan

Pine Knob is located in Clarkston Michigan. In the summer it is DTE Energy Music Theater. Pine Knob is a bit shorter and smaller then it’s slightly more north cousin Mt Holly.

Advanced Terrain

The Wall is an actual true black diamond advanced run. It allows a couple of advanced steep turns before getting to the bottom. This is my favorite feature of Pine Knob and the reason I like to ski it more than the other 3.

For beginners, Pine Knob has a fairly wide learning area with a chair lift. The quicksilver run and 2 chairs are another nice long smooth easy blue trail suitable for beginners learning to parallel.

Pine Knob has the standard lodge with a cafeteria, bar, and small shop.

  • Pine Knob – Clarkston Michigan
  • Vertical Drop – 300 feet
  • Skiable Acres – 80 acres
  • Day or Evening session Saturday lift ticket price – $47
  • Season Pass Price – $620


  • Best advanced terrain run
  • Closer distance to Detroit


  • slow lifts
  • Feels like you are skiing on an artificial landfill

Mt Brighton – Brighton Michigan

Mt Brighton Ski resort
Photo Courtesy of Mt Brighton

Mt Brighton is located in Brighton Michigan. Mt Brighton is the smallest of the 4 by vertical drop. They claim 250 feet and that is a really optimistic number. If you use a tracking app such as Ski Tracks you might find it closer to 200-230 feet.

Vail resorts purchased Mt Brighton in 2012. Following the purchase, they did a $10 million upgrade to the resort. It now has the most modern lodge in South East Michigan. The lodge and rental shop are now first rate.


The main focus at Mt Brighton is the terrain park that is serviced by 2 chairs on the less steep of their 2 peaks. On their more advanced peak, the vertical feels really short. You can only do a few turns Grand River or Ore Creek before hitting the bottom. They have an honest black diamond run in Challenge and Perk’s Folly. You get a couple of turns before hitting the bottom. It is considerably shorter than The Wall at Pine Knob and also requires a rope tow to get back to the lift.

The season pass at Mt Brighton is pricy but for only a little more you can get the Epic Local pass that gives you a lot of access to the rest of Vail’s ski resorts which then makes it a pretty good value. As part of the Mt Brighton preferred program (free to join), any money you spend on lift tickets at Mt Brighton can be redeemed for lift tickets at other Vail resorts. If you are planning a trip out west to somewhere Vail owns you can more or less ski Mt Brighton for free.

  • Mt Brighton – Brighton Michigan
  • Vertical Drop – 230 feet
  • Skiable Acres – 130 acres
  • Day or Evening session Saturday lift ticket price – $49 with the preferred program
  • Season Pass Price – $545


  • Very short advanced terrain run
  • Epic Pass system allows cheap skiing
  • Nice modern base lodge


  • Very short vertical drop
  • slow lifts
  • Season Pass price if not purchased with Epic pass

Alpine Valley – White Lake Michigan

Alpine Valley Ski Resort
Photo courtesy of Alpine Valley Ski Resort

Alpine Vally is located in White Lake Michigan making it the closest ski area to the Detroit area. It is located in a fairly wooded and hilly area and as a result, it doesn’t feel like your skiing a man made lump out in the middle of the flat land. Skiing Alpine Valley feels more like skiing at a mountain resort than the others.

The lodge at Alpine Valley has a bit of swiss chalet feel to it and the bar upstairs, The Hornet’s Nest, has a bit more authentic ski bar feel than the others. The chair lifts at Alpine Valley seem a bit older than at the other 3.

Alpine Valley puts a lot of effort into their terrain park. They have won national recognition for one of their terrain park feature structures.

The runs at Alpine Valley are standard southeast Michigan. Short and groomed. The run Everest is steep enough to let you get a few highspeed carves in.

  • Alpine Valley – White Lake Michigan
  • Vertical Drop – 240 feet
  • Skiable Acres – 100 acres
  • Day or Evening session Saturday lift ticket price – $48
  • Season Pass Price – $620


  • Doesn’t feel like skiing on a landfill
  • Base lodge and bar feel.


  • Short vertical drop
  • slow old lifts
  • No advanced terrain

Mt Holly vs Pine Knob

Mt Holly and Pine Knob are without a doubt the 2 most popular Detroit ski hills. They are both owned by the same company so prices are always the same. With their new season pass structure, one season pass will work at both. It really boils down to the terrain.

Mt Holly has slightly more vertical drop and in general longer runs. It has a longer steep run with Thunderbolt. Pine Knob however has the steepest short true black diamond skiing with The Wall. People seem to prefer the terrain park at Pine Knob over Mt Holly.

  • Longer Runs – Mt Holly
  • Steeper Runs – Mt Holly
  • Steep Short Black Diamond Run – Pine Knob
  • Terrain Park – Pine Knob
  • Faster Lifts – Mt Holly

History of the Mountains

I have often heard them referred to as “Mt Trashmore”. This implies they were built on garbage landfills. It is certainly possible especially when you look at Mt Holly which has nothing as high as it in the surrounding area at all. As a result, it has all the look and feel of a man made mountain. I read once that it and Pine Knob were built from the excavation remains from the construction of I-75 and the interstate system. The only hill I can find a reference to that was actually built on a garbage landfill was Riverside Highlands which no longer exists as a ski hill.

Doug Ryan Portrait Skiing 200x200

Ryan Craig
Co-Founder & Chief Editor

I am a total gear nerd and love learning how things work and thinking about how they could be improved. Nothing excites me more than trying out new gear. I’d rather spend 3 hours taking my bike apart and learning how to change something than go to a bike shop. These days, I reside in Michigan by the Great Lakes and go skiing, biking, and boating as much as possible. Visit our About Us page and learn more.


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