Granite-Peak-Mike-Terrell-picture Granite Peak offers huge for the Midwest 700 feet of vertical.

Wisconsin's Granite Peak, one of the oldest ski areas in the nation, is celebrating families and Mardi Gras the weekend of March 4-6 with its final family festival of the ski season. Having opened for skiing in the winter of 1937, it turned 85 this season.

Located in Rib Mountain State Park, the Rib Mountain ski area was built by locals and first operated by state and local authorities and then private operators. Improvements were slow to come and expansion was rare. Rib languished as a small ski area with 15-20 runs and a few old outdated chairs until 1998 when Charles Skinner Jr., owner of Lutsen Mountains, obtained a multi-year lease with the state to operate and expand what became Granite Peak at Rib Mountain SP.

Today it offers over 70 trails, a 700-foot vertical drop, three high-speed chairlifts, and a variety of other lifts. The base facilities include the historic Tenth Mountain Chalet, the 10,000-square-foot Sundance Chalet, and an outside patio area that features textured color-concrete, overhead heaters, an outdoor grill, and seating for 400. It’s one of the Heartland’s largest ski areas.

Over 20,000 beads will be handed out in lift lines, on the slopes, and throughout the base area. Just look for the skiing jesters. A sculpture artist is creating a huge Mardi Gras snow statue, which will be great for family pictures. On the mountain look for purple Mardi Gras eggs containing prizes, more beads, and candy. Check the Peak's Instagram and Facebook pages for clues that will be offered every hour they are open.

Groomer rides will be offered from noon-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and there are free s'mores for kids with a huge fireworks show starting at 7 p.m. Food and drink specials will be available throughout the weekend.

The family festival package includes two to four nights of lodging at nearby hotels, and two to four-day combo lift tickets for adults and children and free rental equipment.