In a state known more for basketball, corn fields and race cars, it’s a bit of a surprise to find a couple of ski areas in southern Indiana catering to not only Hoosier snow sports enthusiasts but Kentucky and Tennessee as well.
Perfect North Slopes is located in the southeastern corner of the state a little over a half-hour from the Queen City of Cincinnati, and Paoli Peaks is located in the hill country of south-central Indiana between Bloomington, home to Indiana University and Louisville. Between the two they will cater to over 350,000 skiers and riders in roughly about a 90-day season at best.
Their season runs from early December through early March, and both ski areas have complete snowmaking coverage.
“We pull skiers from the Dixie states on weekends and lots of day-trippers from both Cincinnati and Indianapolis,” Perfect North owner Chip Perfect told SnoCountry,com. “We make snow every chance we get. We have one of the largest snowmaking systems in the Midwest.”
Both areas are proven “breeders and feeders” for the ski and snowboard industry. Much of their business is newbies to the sport, averaging close to 30,000 lessons a season at each ski area. Close to 90 percent of Paoli Peak visitors are first timers, and, they work with a lot of school groups.
Judging from numbers, they’re doing a decent job of bringing skiers and riders back for repeat visits. At Perfect North, where they keep an inventory of about 5,000 pairs of skis and 600 snowboards in stock, over half of their clientele rents equipment. A free lesson is offered to everyone four and older, with the purchase of a lift ticket.
Perfect North, which spreads along a ridge overlooking an ancient glacial river valley, opened in 1980 with four rope tows and handful of runs on the Perfect family farm. Today they offer 23 tree-lined trails and two terrain parks serviced by 11 lifts with a 400-foot vertical drop, which is big for the lower Midwest. They also offer one of the Heartland’s largest tubing operations with 23 lanes and two carpet lifts.
The ski area partners with nearby lodging properties in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky for weekend lift and lodging packages that offer easy access to the slopes, and many include breakfast. Package rates start from around $140 per night for two adults. Most are within 20 to 30 miles of the ski area.
Paoli Peaks, which opened in 1978, is upside-down with the day lodge and parking lot located on top of the ski hill. It’s kind of like a white Wally World. You get out of the car and there’s normally not any snow around. They average less than two feet a year. Walk through the day lodge, which you have to do to get to the slopes, and exit into a world of white and snow on the other side.
Paoli has 15 trails, two terrain parks, five chairlifts, two carpet tows in the beginner area and 300-foot vertical. There’s also a nine-lane tubing area. Beginners have their own chairlift on top of the ski hill.
Paoli partners with the historic French Lick Resort and Big Splash Adventure with an indoor water park in nearby French Lick for lift and lodging packages. Both of these areas provide a much needed snowsports infusion for ski-starved Hoosiers and those who live below the Mason-Dixon Line.
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Photo: Perfect North Slopes