2003 Number 6 Resort in the Midwest: Shanty Creek, Mich.

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When you enter Shanty Creek, it's like entering a mini city. The lower Michigan resort encompasses 90 skiable acres, three villages, lodging of every type, conference facilities, dining, spas, a transit system, and two ski mountains with 46 runs and 11 lifts. In other words, Shanty supports the notion that a ski vacation involves much more than just the hours on the slopes. To that end, its restaurants are superb, earning the No. 1 spot for Dining the second year in a row. Amenities aside, Shanty Creek took a steady climb in two key ski-related categories: It finished No. 8 in Terrain and No. 9 in Challenge-the first time the resort has broken into the top 10 in either one. "They've done a lot to improve the slopes; a very positive experience," observes one reader. Indeed, two mountains with distinct faces of trails give Shanty a wonderful variety. The gentle slopes below the Summit Village seem to spill into Lake Bellaire-perfect for families. Adjacent to Cedar River Village, the trails are tree-lined blues that really catch powder. And above Schuss Village, nine black-diamonds provide thigh-burning excitement for even the most demanding expert. Shanty rings high on the Terrain and Challenge scale, but with its "mini city," it's a destination resort, for sure.

WHAT'S NEW LaVigna Italian bistro in Cedar River Village. Try the veal picatta or spinach agnolotti.

A GOOD DEAL Value Season, from opening to Dec. 25 and March 16 to closing, $52 per person includes one night's lodging and a lift ticket (or dinner). Children 17 and younger sleep/ski free when sharing lodging with parents (up to four children).

HIGH/LOW MW RANK Dining (1), On-Mountain Food (4), Lodging (4); Access (13), Grooming (15), Terrain Parks (17).

DON'T MISS Cross-country skiing from village to village on the Mountain Creek Trail.

READER REMARKS (+) "Very good value; uncrowded."
(-) "Too spread out; unreliable snow; not easy to get to."