Well, it's been awhile since I've written a blog post! The holiday season was really busy for my business and I'm not complaining about that at all. Now that the crush of the season is over, I can get back to writing a few more fun blogs.
Since most things are still closed due to COVID, people are getting outside more than ever. Talk to any ski or bike store and they will attest to that. They can't keep the inventory in stock and I'm really glad for this phenomenon. Getting outside truly has a medicinal effect for me. I breathe deeper, feel calmer and lose the tension that I was holding.
One of my favorite winter activities is downhill skiing. I great up skiing almost as soon as I could walk. We spent many family vacations in the UP and in Colorado on the slopes. My entire extended family would go on these road trips that were the best fun. We all had these CB radios and we would talk on them as we traveled to our ski destination. As the youngest cousin, it was my job to be the slow poke and the one who always made us stop for potty breaks. They even made up a song for me about the tiny bladder I had. Being the youngest had its advantages though. I learned to get down the slopes quickly and to not complain to my older cousins who I idolized. My kids grew up skiing as well. They don't always love to go on ski vacations, but with the age of COVID, it has been a blessing to still be able to ski. Here's a list of the ones I've explored and the pros/cons of them.
Their website claims they have the largest winter resort in Wisconsin with 68 trails and 200+ acres of terrain and the fastest lifts in the midwest. I've been there many times and I do like this resort a lot. They do have the nicest lifts and new technology for the ski passes that involves skiing through a sensor instead of someone scanning your pass manually. The last few times I've been there in seasons past, not all the runs and lifts have been open. Not sure if it was a lack of snow or staff shortages, but it's a bummer because some of the best stuff has been closed. This also means larger crowds on the runs that are open.
Their Historic Chalet is really pretty and they usually have a roaring fire and a live singer to make it a really fun place to hang out and have a beer or a hot cocoa. This year it looks like this is a hosted restaurant for indoor dining. You may need a reservation for this. The main lodge that skiers will use is the Sundance Chalet, which is larger and allows for a better flow. They've invested in tons of heaters and put up tents to offer distancing options, including a Historic Chalet Deck which offers faster food that you can eat outside. Their website says that they are operating at 50% capacity in their lodges and you can only spend 30 minutes inside on weekends and holidays. As with all of the resorts, you must wear a mask in line for the lifts and inside. You aren't required to ride up with anyone outside of your family.
All in all, Granite Peak is a really nice ski resort that is worth visiting this winter. Their capitol investment is evident and as long as everything is open, there is plenty to ski.
Big Powderhorn Mountain Resort
This 250 acre ski resort is in the UP near Ironwood. The summit is at 1640 ft and has a 400 ft. vertical drop. This is the place we went to most when I was a kid so I was really excited to go back for the first time recently as an adult. Unfortunately, I was really disappointed with the experience. They only had two lifts open the day we visited (December 27, 2020) so there were only a few runs we could even ski. One of them was a really slow green run, so we got bored pretty fast. When I asked a lift operator why the lifts were closed, he said that they couldn't find employees to work.
The main lodge was the only one open and there is no inside dining allowed because of COVID. (it's Michigan so rules are different than Wisconsin) Their menu was really limited and the food was below average. The lodge was newer, so maybe when things are back to normal, their regular menu will return and you will be able to warm up inside again. As it is, there are no outdoor heaters, which makes this challenging when the temperatures are low as they were when we visited. So not sure if we'll visit there again anytime soon, but if I do, I will make sure that all their lifts are open before buying a ticket.
Blackjack Mountain - Big Snow Resort
Blackjack and Indianhead Mountain are owned by the same people, so one ticket allows you to ski at either resort.There is a free shuttle that will take you between the two hills. Blackjack has over 490 ft. of vertical drop, 170 skiable acres and a top elevation of 1675 feet with 26 runs. There are 4 double chairs and 2 tow ropes. They have two terrain parks, but neither of them were open when we visited. Most of this resort was open when we visited and there was tons of varied terrain for all levels of skiers. The lodges aren't super updated, but it doesn't really matter. The food was great at Blackjack, but because of COVID, we had to eat outside. When it's 9 degrees and no heaters to speak of, it's not ideal. Might be a better idea to bring lunch and eat in your car.
Only about 5 minutes away from Blackjack, this mountain has 638 ft of vertical drop, 230 skiable acres and a top elevation of 1935 feet. They had 30 trails open, 9 lifts running in eluding a magic carpet lift and one terrain park. There is a good variety of terrain here as well. One different thing about Indianhead is that the main lodge is at the top of the mountain. This makes it difficult to watch your skiers if you're not skiing, but otherwise it won't affect you much. The lodges aren't updated (think 1970s vibe), but they have a ton of charm and delicious food. This mountain definitely had more variety for the more advanced skier and the runs were longer. There were tons of condos you could rent out for these resorts and some of them were ski in/ski out. Could be a really fun place to take a ski vacation this winter. We're planning one for next year for sure.
Their website says they have 400 acres of skiable area with 200 inches of snow every season. They claim it's the most drivers terrain in the Midwest, although I'm not sure how that is really measured. They have 43 trails and 5 lifts. When we went at the beginning of 2020, not everything was open, so we really only skied two of the mountains. There was lots of great terrain, with tons of green runs for the beginners. There is a hotel on the mountain that is currently getting it's own restaurant, but until it's done, there are sandwiches for sale. There is also a Wine Hut that is really popular. You ski right up to it and can enjoy a few simple lunch choices there, along with a beverage. It's pretty small and it is accessible by snow cat if you don't ski, but is definitely worth visiting for the experience. When we visited, we heard a story about their brand new lodge that had recently burned down right before opening. Sounds like they are trying to get the place back up and running. I found the lifts to be really old and rickety. The kind where you are afraid that it won't hold you when you sit down. I think that with some updates, this could be a really fun place to visit.
Mt. LaCrosse Ski Resort
This hill has 19 trails, a vertical rise of 516 ft. and a base elevation of 594 ft. We had a great time skiing here earlier in 2020. The hill is in its 60 season, which is amazing. They have the midwest's steepest run, called Damnation, which is a pretty great thrill. There are lots of varied terrain options though. Their website was down, so I couldn't see how many lifts they had. They have some really great outdoor patio spaces with bonfires and outdoor bars made of snow. The lodge is old school and is awesome. Not updated inside, but again it doesn't really matter. Good food and a really fun bar to hang out in.
This hill is the closest to my house and I've been there quite a bit. It has 200 vertical feet of skiing and top elevation of 1,269 ft. Founded in 1941, this hill is now owned by a local Cedarburg family that I know personally. They also own The Rock in Franklin, WI. At Little Switz they have 18 runs with 4 lifts. There is a good variety for all levels of skier. The lodge has a sit down restaurant on the top level with a great fireplace. The lower level is more casual food you buy cafeteria style. My son has a season pass there and we all spend a good amount of time here and are grateful to have a place to ski so close by. Switz is always updating, so that is a plus.
So this is my little recap of Midwest skiing options. There are likely lots more options, so I guess we'll just have to plan another trip soon! Hope you can get out on the slopes this winter. It's a great way to get outside and get some exercise!