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Crystal Mountain Resort: Skiing for Grownups

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In my 20's, I skied to push envelopes, to lap up adrenaline, to meet cute dudes. The odds, back in those days, were in my favor. Let's just say I met more men than moguls.

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Now that I'm, well, not in my 20's, I ski for different reasons. I still love being outside, challenging myself to ever more difficult terrain, but my desire only lasts so long. I look as much for promising après ski as for threats to my comfort level.

Crystal Mountain Resort and Spa in Thompsonville, Michigan is a not-20something's ski dream come true. Admittedly, it's not the most challenging mountain in the world. Its black diamonds should probably be labeled blue. But it offers just enough moguls and just enough runs to get in a good heart-pounding.

And when you're finished, completely satisfied that you've earned a decent day of skiing, you can drop off your skis and walk three minutes to the 18,5000-square-foot LEED-certified spa or to a Scottish-inspired lodge with five-star dining or to the giant stone fireplace in your luxury home away from home. It's just so easy, so well, adult.

Let's start with the spa. Open for less than two years, Crystal Spa has already raked in some pretty impressive "best of" rankings from SpaFinder, Spa magazine and its devoted fans that can't get enough of its indoor and outdoor hot tubs, meditation gardens, Vichy showers and impressive fitness center. It's one of only eight LEED-certified spas in the nation and its 12 treatment rooms soothe both bruised muscles and egos.

In the old days, ski food meant chili, Snickers bars and whatever I could scrounge with my leftover cash which, after paying for lift tickets, wasn't much. Not only does a Crystal Mountain lift ticket cost half of its Aspen counterpart, but the food is just as innovative.

Crystal Mountain's Thistle Pub & Grille, located in Kinlochen, a Scottish-inspired lodge near the Clipper quad lift, might sound rather bar-like and it does have a wide selection of Scottish ales, Michigan wines, designer martinis and single malt whiskeys, but it's helmed by CIA-trained executive chef Darren Hawley who regularly whips up such exquisitely delicious delights as smoked pheasant and morel galantine with pickled beet and goat cheese gateau.

My favorite of his regular dishes is the Betsie River Rock Appetizer. A large stone from nearby Betsie River is heated to 500-degrees, placed on rosemary and brought sizzling to the table with thinly-sliced raw tuna and steak. Forty-five seconds on both sides quickly prepared this fun and creative DIY dish.

But perhaps the most appealing feature of Crystal Mountain is what it stands for. It's local, family run (most ski resorts are beads in a giant corporate necklace) and it's green. The Crystal Clipper chairlift is powered with wind credits and the MacInnes family is scheming to power the entire resort with 100 percent renewable energy.

And while they don't make any guarantees, one of Crystal Mountain's regulars is 100-year-old Lou Batori who still skis three days a week.

Click here for more on a ski resort you can feel good about.