Midwest's Big Powderhorn, Welch Village Turn 50 This Winter
A couple of Midwest old time ski areas that have aged well turn 50 this season. Big Powderhorn, Michigan’s UP, and Welch Village, located in the deep river valleys southeast of the Twin Cities celebrate the Big 5-0.
Powderhorn, located on the UP’s western fringe in Big Snow Country, is one of the peninsula’s oldest ski areas. It offers 33 ski trails, two terrain parks, nine lifts and an impressive 622-foot vertical drop. It has a “big” mountain feel. The base area isn’t visible from many of the runs, and it’s one of the few Midwest areas where a trail map really comes in handy. From the top of the mountain, high peaks stretch across the valley providing an alpine view unequalled in the Heartland. Beginners have their own novice area complete with a chairlift. Runs stretch up to a mile in length.
The resort village, offering a variety of lodging choices, feels like a Western-style community spread out around the base of the mountain with a complimentary shuttle service. A beautiful new day-lodge was erected a couple of seasons ago. Check out the slopeside Alpen Inn or the Caribou Lodge, also slopeside, for lunch. Dinners, too.
Welch was founded by the Nelson brothers, Clemens and Leigh in the mid-1960s. The initial facilities included five slopes serviced by a T-bar and a rope tow, a home-designed snowmaking system, small day-lodge with food service and ski rentals. Leigh bought out his brother years ago and remains the owner.
Today, the popular ski area offers 60 trails, a 360-foot vertical, nine chairlifts and a carpet tow in the beginner area for lessons. Two chalets are available for tickets, food service, lockers, gear and equipment, and the popular MADD JAXX Bar and Grill is located in the East Chalet. There’s a variety of runs available for all levels, terrain parks and some of the best advanced runs found near the Twin Cities, even a few double-black diamonds. Welch even has a backside, almost unheard of in the Midwest, and it offers a formidable collection of single black and double black runs with its own chairlift.
It’s a skier’s mountain with a soft side for beginners, but the blue and black runs will keep your attention. Many Red Wing lodging accommodations offer ski packages that include lift tickets.
Stay tuned for anniversary celebration news throughout the winter for both resorts.
Top Photo: Big Powderhorn at night (Big Powderhorn); Bottom: Welch Village (Welch Village/Facebook)