Michigan Skier Mike King Gets His Mojo Back in New Documentary Film

By Joseph Beyer

January 19, 2023

Adventure athlete Mike King is taking his new ski documentary Lake Effect across the state in a series of special pop-up screenings and events. The project was shot entirely in Michigan—and it’s 30 minutes of ‘pure fun’ in the Water-Winter Wonderland. 

MICHIGAN—Professional skier Mike King had a sort of storybook Up North upbringing. 

He grew up on a cherry orchard in Central Lake along the 45th Parallel, the youngest of a large, outdoorsy, Michigan family. As a kid, he quickly fell in love with the slopes, cutting his sticks at Schuss Mountain in Shanty Creek—often staying after dark until his parents would come to find him.

Those childhood passions quickly turned to state ski competitions and championships. And after high school, King decided to make a lasting career out of professional skiing in the more adventurous mountains, steeper inclines and challenging terrain of the Pacific Northwest.

(Courtesy/Mike King via Facebook)

There were big peaks and big stakes—and a pandemic that would soon get in the way.

In early 2020, King took a trip back home to Central Lake to clear his head and prepare for the next season. It was supposed to be a vacation. Soon, it turned into a quarantine, and King’s winter sports career—and much of the world—was put on pause. He was stuck in Michigan.

“I never expected to be spending that COVID winter in Michigan. But then I was here. And I just realized: ‘Hey, this is incredible.’ You know? We have so much here to explore, and the quality of life is all about time,” King told The ‘Gander

But the unexpected time away from the professional winter sports world also led to opportunity for King—and it served as the inspiration for his latest documentary film, “Lake Effect.”

Using farm equipment, he and his powder-posse of friends and family started small by building improvised snow jumps and runs in the family orchard. Later, King returned to his favorite childhood ski spots like Mt. Holiday in Traverse City and other scenic destinations like Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. They even took on the icy waters of Frankfort for some winter surfing, and filmed in the rugged Keweenaw outpost of Mount Bohemia in the Upper Peninsula.

(Courtesy/Mike King via Facebook)

Along the way, King said he got his mojo back for his favorite sport, as well as love for his home state.

“In Bohemia there’s just this feeling of remoteness and you’re on an adventure just to get there. And when you do, it’s huge—and you get this rugged mountain and you’re just like:  ‘Oh my gosh! This is epic.’ But what’s most special are the people,” King said. “Everyone has put in the effort to be there. They’re so hyped, geeked, sleeping in vehicles in the parking lot.”

(Courtesy/Mount Bohemia via Facebook)

The end-result is a touching, 30-minute chronicle of King’s adventures in Michigan, detailing his rediscovery of the pure love and kinetic-addiction of winter sports in the Mitten. It took about two years for the documentary to come together—but now it’s ready for the big screen. 

Lake Effect had its world premiere in October at the Fresh Coast Film Festival in Marquette,  where it won the Best Feature award. The film has since had sold-out screenings at the City Opera House in Traverse City, Boyne Country Sports in Petoskey and Grand Rapids and the Great Lakes Center for the Arts in Bay Harbor. Other surprises are also still in the works—like a future pop-up roadshow somewhere in the Detroit area, King told The ‘Gander.

What can viewers expect?

“There’s almost like these two different plots developed,” King told The ‘Gander. “You have a 30 year old who dedicated his life and his bank account to skiing out west, coming home, and realizing what’s important—but then there’s also this story about connecting, and staying connected with each other, all of us who love these wild spaces and winter sports.”

As the director and star of the film shared early cuts of the project with close friends and collaborators, many of them had encouraged King to lean into these personal moments. 

He added: “Out west, I’m one in a million competing with everyone, but I came here and I could feel the impact I’m making with random people on the chairlift. And I thought ‘Lake Effect’ could also be my opportunity to help, and advocate, that Michigan skiing is for anyone. …It’s really more about getting the community of like-minded people together, and sharing ideas while having a good time. That is way more meaningful than getting a bunch of random views online.”

Follow Mike King on Facebook and Instagram and click here to watch a trailer and find upcoming dates. For those intrigued with Mount Bohemia, the short documentary “Counter Methods,” which premiered at the Fresh Coast Film Festival, is also worth a free watch. King even makes a brief, cameo appearance.

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