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Thu, Jul

Upper Midwest Ski Season Still Going Strong

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Nubs spring runs are silky smooth. (Nubs Nob/Facebook)

With snow in the forecast this week across the upper Midwest and plenty of snow still on the slopes the snowsports season is extending into April, and a couple may stay open into May.

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Many Midwest Mountain Resorts In Good Shape For March

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Spring skiing at Lutsen Mountains overlooking Lake Superior. (Facebook)

Although it's been an up and down weather pattern across the Heartland and Great Lakes, across the northern tier they are in good shape heading into March.

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Let’s Do Lunch On The Mountain

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Lunch at Summit Chalet includes view of Minnesota's Lake Superior. (Lutsen Mountains)

Refueling at lunchtime is a long-standing tradition among skiers and riders. And doing so on the mountain – rather than in a crowded base lodge – suits those who don’t want to lose their edge while they pause to eat.

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Many Ski Resorts Across Upper Midwest Opening

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Boyne Highlands freshly groomed. (Boyne)

Winter has arrived across the upper Midwest and is even allowing some ski areas in the lower Heartland to fire up and test the snowguns. It’s some of the earliest openings in 20 years.

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New MAX Pass Now Includes Five Midwest Areas

New MAX Pass Now Includes Five Midwest Areas

Lutsen Mountains is now part of the M.A.X. Pass. (Lutsen/Facebook)

The new M.A.X. Pass, with the addition of six new resorts including two from the Heartland, now offers access to 44 ski areas scattered across North America. It is now available through May 1 at its lowest price, $629 for adults, $429 teens, and $329 youth (6-12). After that prices will increase.


What’s nice for Heartlanders is that the new pass now includes: Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands, Michigan; Granite Peak, Wisconsin; and Buck Hill and Lutsen Mountains, Minnesota. The pass provides you five days at each of the ski areas listed with no blackout dates.

Depending on how many days per season you ski or ride you can bounce back and forth to the Midwest areas that are close to each other and take ski trips west or east. If you live in Michigan the two Boyne resorts are close by. Wisconsin and Minnesota snowsports enthusiasts have three areas they can visit. Both Granite Peak and Lutsen make wonderful Heartland locations for a multi-day ski vacation.

Buck Hill sunset.

If you like to ski several days per week at your local hill you can buy a season pass for any of the five Midwest areas and upgrade to a M.A.X. Pass for an additional cost that will allow you access to the 43 other ski resorts for five days throughout the 2017/18 season. The additional cost is $329, $279 and $229 respectively and most likely can be included in the cost of your local ski area pass.

What I like about it, especially for the hardcore skier or rider, it provides you with the flexibility for lots of great choices from day trips and ski weekends around the Midwest to mountain vacations.    



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Kick Back On Outdoor Decks Across The Country

Kick Back On Outdoor Decks Across The Country

Catchin' some rays at Crested Butte (Crested Butte/Facebook)

One of the perks that comes with sticking out the ski and snowboard season to the end is a great sun tan – and lots of party time in the sunshine.


Most mountain resorts make space for sun-worshippers to engage in their favorite apres-ski activities, and SnoCountry took a look around to find some of the best.

Purgatory. Look out, or you might ski right into Purgy's at the base of the southern Colorado resort. Hit up the outdoor bar for craft beers, order an appetizer, and lounge in the deck chairs for some of the best people-watching locales around.

Park City. Mid-Mountain Lodge once served more than 1,000 miners a day. Now, it's the 10th Mountain outdoor grill at the base of the Pioneer and McConkey's Express lifts. Lodge has two-tiered decks and hosts weddings during summer.

Luxury on the mountain at Squaw Valley

Squaw Valley. Take the tramway to High Camp halfway up the mountain. Even if the pools are empty, there's tons of deck chairs and plenty of choices for a nosh – and the views of the Sierra and Lake Tahoe will amaze.

Lutsen Mountains. Summit Chalet at the top of Moose Mountain lays out food, drink and spectacular views to the North Shore of Lake Superior. Menu offers wraps, soups, burgers and pizza -- including local fave walleye sandwich.

Camp III at Loon

Loon. Camp III, a log cabin in the former logging area on New Hampshire mountain, sits at the base of North Peak Express Quad. It's famous for its venison stew, bison burgers and daily specials – but if the sun's out, hit the expansive deck with a beverage and sun screen.

Foggy Goggle go-to at Sunday River.

Sunday River. Foggy Goggle, at the base of the Maine resort, is reputed to have the longest après ski party in the East. Also venue for Bud Light Music Series, with massive deck and tons apres-ski eats on the menu.

Crested Butte. The new Umbrella Bar atop the Prospect Lift gives novices and intermediates a place to catch some rays – if the weather's right. Retractable windows create open-air atmosphere for munchies and local craft beer – and eye-popping views of southern Colorado Rockies.



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Best Bets For Great Lakes Late Season Skiing

Best Bets For Great Lakes Late Season Skiing

Families enjoy Giants Ridge and the giant views. (Jim Balfour)

Spring has come early to the Heartland this winter and most of the ski areas across the lower Midwest have closed. The best bets for some late season spring skiing into April are all centered across the northern Great Lakes, and the longer, warmer, sun filled days provide some of the best conditions of the winter.

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Save Travel Time And Enjoy Spring Break In Heartland Mountains

Save Travel Time And Enjoy Spring Break In Heartland Mountains

A skier enjoys a run down Rib Mountain at Granite Peak. (Granite Peak/Facebook)

Heartland skiers and riders on the western side of the Great Lakes have a couple of good choices for spring break on slopes close to home. Two ski resorts with mountain terrain and plenty of snow, one in Wisconsin and one in Minnesota, are just a drive away.


Lutsen Mountains, with currently over four feet of snow covering most slopes, is hosting Family Festival Weekend March 24-25. Starting from $129 per person the package includes two nights lodging, lift tickets and free ski rental for the entire family. There’s also a family fun night at the Summit Chalet topped off with a fireworks display over the mountains. Ski and stay four or more days and children (6-12) ski, stay, eat free and also get free equipment rental.

Lutsen Mountain makes great family photos.

“With a deep midwinter snowpack, the thaw has had minimal effect on our slope conditions,” Jim Vick, Lutsen spokesperson, told SnoCountry.  “Average base on the mountain is still four plus feet and long range forecasts show March temperatures skewing below average, giving every indication that we are good for skiing daily through April 9th and weekends until May.”

Mid-America's only gondola.

Travel Blue Book calls Lutsen Mountains one of the “Top Five Ski Resorts You May Not Have Heard Of.” It offers 1,000 skiable acres, an 860-foot skiable drop and 95 runs off four mountain peaks, each offering breathtaking views of Lake Superior. Add in, a new six-seat, high-speed lift, and mid-America’s only gondola and you have some of the best skiing and riding around the Great Lakes, according to the book.

Granite Peak slope conditions are in excellent shape.

Wisconsin’s Granite Peak just announced Spring Break Discounts through April 9. If you purchase a two-day lift ticket you get free rental equipment for both days, and you also get lift tickets for the third day, and every other day thereafter, for $30 adult and $20 for children (ages 6-12). There are also weekend and midweek lodging packages available.  

The Peak offers 75 trails, a 700-foot vertical drop and three high-speed lifts making it one of the largest ski areas in the Heartland. 



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Midwest Ski Areas Continue To Struggle With Roller Coaster Winter

Midwest Ski Areas Continue To Struggle With Roller Coaster Winter

Boyne Highlands slopes are ready for skiers and riders. (Boyne Highlands)

An up and down weather pattern that has persisted most of the winter across the Heartland and Great Lakes has now caused some ski areas across the lower Midwest to cease operations this week through Thursday. Most are hoping to re-open on Friday.

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Glade And Backcountry Skiing In The Midwest?

Glade And Backcountry Skiing In The Midwest?

Crystal Mountain skiers slicing through the trees. (Crystal Mountain)

Glade skiing and the backcountry, popular out West and in the East, doesn’t take a backseat in the Heartland. Ski areas located across the upper tier of the Midwest offer some fine tree runs, even a few cliff jumps.


Backcountry slopes on Voodoo Mountains cat skiing overlook Lake Superior.

When you think backcountry skiing, Upper Michigan’s Mt. Bohemia is legendary. All backcountry, it offers the only cat skiing east of the Rockies. In Powder Magazine's annual reader poll of the best backcountry powder in North America, Bohemia routinely comes out on top in the East and finished in the top four overall one year. There’s a 900-foot vertical drop spread out over 600 acres with cliffs, chutes, trees, steep drops, all natural snow and nothing groomed. The cat skiing is off 700-foot Voodoo Mountain where runs tumble down towards Lake Superior. Annual average lake effect snow is 270-inches. It’s the only Heartland area that is truly “backcountry.”

In addition there are six other ski resorts in Lower Michigan, two in Wisconsin, and one each in Minnesota and South Dakota that offer glade skiing. There’s no backcountry but alluring glades off to the side of groomed runs and some nice swaths in between runs.

A skier enjoys a run through Boyne Highlands glades.

In northern Michigan all three Boyne Country ski resorts—Boyne Mountain, Boyne Highlands and Nubs Nob—have gladed areas marked on trail maps.

Nubs Nob glades.

The Mountain has three advanced glades and the Highlands four scattered across the ridge. Nubs has seven glades that stretch across the front side, south side and Pintail Peak. One of their upper glade slopes can be accessed only by hiking up; just like out West.

Crystal Mountain has five glade skiing areas around the ski hill requiring varied skill levels. Shanty Creek has two advanced glade areas marked on their Schuss Mountain trail map off the red lift. 

Caberfae Peaks has a 25-acre area off the backside of North Peak marked as backcountry terrain. It’s been gladed and is nice and wide offering plenty of lines. 

Lutsen Mountains cliff jump in glades.

Wisconsin’s Granite Peak offers several acres of glades in between widely spaced runs scattered across the mountain. Minnesota’s Lutsen Mountains has glade runs scattered across three of their mountains, many well away from the groomed runs offering seclusion like you would find out West. 

It can be an exhilarating experience. Just be careful, always looking ahead, bring friend and helmets required.

 

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