Friday, September 05, 2008

Wilderness Elegance

Nearly 40 years ago, Roy Deskin had a dream. Turn a remote, naturally wooded setting, framed by some of the world’s most beautiful lakes and ski country, into a golf and ski resort.

In that four-decade span, the dream has had a few more “architects” and “caretakers” and became one of the Midwest’s most awarded resorts. Located just off M88 in Bellaire, east of Grand Traverse Bay, Shanty Creek Resorts is completing a $10 million renovation project courtesy of its new owners, Trinidad Resort & Club, and its staff of “turn-around” experts.

“The resort was tired,” said Jon Stultz, vice president sales and marketing. “It needed to be revived. The first phase of the renovation was the lodge — now the South Wing — and the second was the center — now the North Wing.”

Formerly known as the Summit Village Hotel, the newly christened Lakeview Hotel & Conference Center was remade with an upscale “lake house” design.

With the natural mountaintop setting, the designers were inspired to bring the magnificent view of Lake Bellaire, and the hillsides beyond, into the lobby and restaurant with expansive glass walls and tall hardwood ceilings.

The complete redesign features rich wood tones, warm reds and chocolates as well as green fabrics, giving an inviting and sophisticated feeling. Open, airy, relaxing and simply beautiful — the perfect combination for a Northern Michigan resort.

“We are blessed with a company owner (Trinidad) that had the foresight to provide the dollars to do the renovation,” Stultz said. “But now our concentrated efforts are to provide the best guest services to our clients to ensure a return on that investment.”

The renovation covered an entirely redesigned lobby, restaurant, lounge, guestrooms, meeting and banquets facilities — including the 9,600-squarefoot grand ballroom.

Renovate, they will come

Through the years, Shanty Creek was able to slide by on its glimmery reputation alone. After the last few years, though, even that wasn’t enough. But with Trinidad pouring in the right combination of staff and money, architects and caregivers have revived the dream resort.

“We are looking at our service levels, training levels and moving to the next step,” Stultz said. “We’ve been doing that all along, but now it’s a more concentrated effort. Everything’s been put into place and now we just have to utilize it.”

The metro Detroit area has provided nearly 40 percent of Shanty Creek’s business, which continues to offer special golf and other overnight stay packages. The resort also offers packages for meetings and events such as weddings and family reunions.

“We are 25 percent ahead of our pace from last year,” Stultz said. “It’s amazing. With this economy we’ve been having, we are benefiting.”

Pricing for the resort has been aggressive with rates aimed at average income persons across Michigan.

“We’ve been wildly successful,” Stultz said. “An article just ran stating that Crystal Mountain’s golf rounds were down 8 percent. Boyne Mountain down 12 percent. We’re up 19 percent. That’s not us taking their market share. That’s us encouraging people to come up north to Shanty Creek Resorts. We are growing the business for everybody.”

Newly appointed Chief Operating Officer Bill Paterson noted that gas prices and the hassle of air travel have helped.

“People don’t want to fly anymore,” Paterson said. “It’s too expensive to go out of state. So they want to enjoy a resort closer to home.”

It’s a beautiful day

Located only four hours north of metro Detroit, the 4,500-acre resort is actually composed of three properties: Shanty Creek, Cedar River and Schuss Mountain. The $10 million physical renovation, concentrated on Shanty Creek, has helped create more opportunities for guests. Renowned for its golf courses that include The Legend, an Arnold Palmer-designed course, and The Summit, the original resort course, golf packages and renewed interest in the courses have help drive reservations.

“The quality of golf in Northern Michigan is unlimited,” said Brian Kautz, director of golf. “This place has been a secret, but now we are trying to open people’s eyes and let them know.”

Unlimited golf packages as well as under-$100 packages have given the courses more play.

But for nongolfers there is plenty more to do at Shanty. A specialized silent sports curriculum has been created involving such diverse activities as kayaking, disc golf, bike riding, geocaching, bird-watching and even horse and pony rides. Many of these activities are set up through thirdparty providers, and they are happy for the business.

Bill Tuttle, owner of Coyote Bill’s Ranch, said the partnership with Shanty Creek has increased his business.

“We get around four to six more customers each week,” the former Detroit area resident said.

Georg Schluender, director of silent sports, has been working on the diverse program for guests for the past three years.

“Where else can you experience a resort with such a natural setting?” he said. “It’s wilderness elegance.”

And more.

Guests can experience first-class dining including an award-winning Sunday brunch that won’t dent your wallet. There is also plenty of water fun at their Beach Club on Lake Bellaire. A concierge can assist you to make provisions for a day on local area lakes for swimming, fishing and skiing. With Shanty Creek’s new mantra, “Now more than ever,” the resort combines first-class service with first-class amenities.

If you go

Shanty Creek Resorts, a destination four-season resort, offers three hotels and villages with 36,000 square feet of state-of the-art conference and banquet venues, four golf courses with 72 holes of championship play, downhill skiing, 21K of Nordic ski trails, 7 miles of maintained mountain bike and nature trails, snowboarding and tubing park. Located on 4,500 acres 30 miles northeast of Traverse City, Shanty Creek Resorts pampers guests with award-winning dining, live entertainment and a full-service spa. For more information, visit or call (800) 678-4111.