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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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Insiders Guide To Granite Peak

Insiders Guide To Granite Peak

Granite Peak offers three high-speed lifts. (Granite Peak/Facebook)

Reminiscent of Western resort towns, at night Granite Peak’s lit trails shimmer above Wausau, Wisconsin. Ribbons of light cascade down Rib Mountain towards the edge of the city. The ski area illuminates the mountain rising above the town, not commonplace in the Midwest.  


A full moon rises over Granite Peak and the city of Wausau.

Terrain/lifts. Offering 75 trails, four terrain parks, three high-speed lifts and a 700-foot vertical drop, it’s one of the largest ski areas in the Heartland. Terrain ranges from beginner areas with Magic Carpet lifts to advanced rocky chutes and mogul runs on the upper mountain. Glade skiing is available in abundance, and long blue cruisers are over a mile in length. Terrain parks have been rated among the best in the Midwest by Transworld Snowboarding. They typically stay open into the second week of April.

Enjoying the patio and outdoor grille on sunny day.

Eat/Drink. Base facilities include the historic Tenth Mountain Chalet, the 10,000-square-foot Sundance Chalet and a new outside patio area with overhead heaters, an outdoor grill and seating for 400. Wisconsin, known for Supper Clubs, has a couple of the best in Wausau; Michael’s Supper Club and Pine Woods Supper Club. Both offer themed décors and superb menus. Check out the Great Dane for fine handcrafted beers.

Granite Peak boasts a 700-foot vertical.

Stay. Granite Peak does not have lodging, but works with a variety of motels, hotels and quaint B&Bs that package with the ski area, some within a mile. Stay and ski packages can be made through the ski area online.

Play. Nearby Sylvan Hill Winter Recreation Area offers the longest, steepest tubing runs in the state, and Nine Mile Forest offers 33 kilometers of double-tracked and skate-lane trails for all levels of cross country skiers.

Granite Peak caters to kids and families.

Deals Spring vacation special, March 6-April 9, free rental equipment (ski or snowboard) with any two or more days of lift tickets. Online Spring Stock Up ticket sale through February, tickets for use March 6-April 9; save $90 on two day tickets and $130 on three day adult tickets, child (6-12) save $60 and $90 respectively.

Insider’s Tip: If you like steep and chutes the Blitzen Lift has two loading areas. Stay on the advanced trails by loading mid-station.



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Heartland Ski Resort Dining With A View

Heartland Ski Resort Dining With A View

Sunset views from Shanty Creek Lakeview Restaurant and Lounge. (Shanty Creek)

Mountain top dining is a popular evening activity at ski resorts out west. We may not have a lot of opportunity in the Midwest, but there are a handful of ski resorts scattered around the Heartland that offer dinning with a view.


At Shanty Creek, also in Lower Michigan,you have the Lakeview Restaurant and Lounge located on top of the Summit Slopes. It offers incredible sunset views over Lake Bellaire and at night skiers and riders romp on the slopes below. They serve innovative regional fare, Michigan’s finest craft beers and award-winning homemade desserts. Dinner is served nightly. The sunset is free.

Aonach Mor Moonlight Dinner at Boyne Highlands.

You can see the lights of the Mackinac Bridge 30 miles away on a clear night at the Aonach Mor Moonlight Dinner on top of Boyne Highland’s North Peak. The mountain top lodge is set aglow by candlelight. Wall-to-wall windows, high pine ceilings, white linen covered tables and a crackling fire greet diners.  Dinners are available February 11, 14, 18 and 25 for $72 per person, plus tax and gratuity. Included is a 15-minute sleigh ride up to the lodge and back.

Sunset views at Sky Bar & Grille and Lodge Restaurant

Heading on around the Great Lakes, Indianhead Mountain, part of Big Snow Resort is upside-down with its village and lodging on top of the mountain. It offers the newly renovated Sky Bar & Grille and Lodge Restaurant. Sunset views stretch as far as the eye can see over an endless forest all the way to Lake Superior, a glint on the horizon. The Lodge is located in an authentic swayback barn that was part of the original homestead dating back to the 1930s. Check out their Friday night fish fry with locally caught perch and bluegill.

Along Minnesota’s North Shore is Lutsen Mountains and Papa Charlie’s Nightclub, which overlooks Moose Mountain, the Poplar River valley, Eagle Mountain and Lake Superior. It’s located in the mountain village on Eagle Mountain. A laid back atmosphere, it’s considered one of the top music venues north of the Twin Cities and also one of the top restaurants along the North Shore. Before the music heats up enjoy dinner as the sun sets behind the surrounding mountain tops.

Chestnut Mountain Sunset Grille

Overlooking another body of water is Chestnut Mountain and its Sunset Grille where the dining experience and the view are equally spectacular. Perched high on a bluff above North America’s largest river, the mighty Mississippi, the view stretches across three states, Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Ski slopes look like they might run into the river, and sunsets are spectacular. They even put the daily sunset time on the web page.


 

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Perfect Time To Combine Romantic Getaway And Ski Trip

Perfect Time To Combine Romantic Getaway And Ski Trip

A scenic view of Nubs Nob slopes overlooking Little Traverse Bay valley. (Nubs Nob)

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. It’s the perfect time to consider a romantic getaway with a little skiing and riding. It falls midweek this year, which means lower package prices. Here are some of the best choices around the Great Lakes.


Lutsen

Twin City residents have Lutsen Resort, one of the “grand old resorts” along Lake Superior’s North Shore, and it’s located just across the road from Lutsen Mountains, the Heartland’s largest snowsports resort. Minnesota Monthly Magazine calls it “most romantic resort in the state.” They offer a Romance Package, two nights lodging, breakfast daily, one dinner and champagne in your room, from $386 midweek. They offer guests roundtrip free shuttle service to the ski hill, just minutes away. Buy your Lutsen Mountains lift tickets online and save $20 per adult on two-day lift tickets.

Granite Peak

Wisconsin’s Granite Peak and Wausau make a nice romantic combo for Milwaukee and Chicago couples. The city is draped around the base of Rib Mountain. At night the ski area illuminates the mountain rising above the city. The Jefferson Street Inn, located on the town square, offers a Romantic Getaway that includes a two-night stay in a two-room suite with in-room whirlpool and fireplace, lift tickets for two days and a couple’s message. The package starts from around $700.

Detroit couples look northward for a couple of romantic getaways. Many Chicagoland skiers also head to northern Michigan for getaways.

Stafford's Bay View Inn dressed for the winter season.

Stafford’s Bay View Inn, located in Petoskey often called the “Nantucket of the Midwest,” offers a Hit The Slopes package that starts from $299 midweek, two guests per room. It includes two nights lodging, a country breakfast each morning, and two vouchers for a day’s lift ticket at either Boyne Highlands or Nubs Nub, both nearby. Superb dining, charm and hospitality make this a memorable Valentine’s stay.

Homestead Resort skiing

The Homestead Resort, nestled in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore overlooking Lake Michigan, offers a Winter Stay & Dine package that includes two night’s lodging, hot breakfast each morning and dinner at Nonna’s their signature restaurant one evening. Rates start from $89 per person, per night, and all day lift tickets can be added for around $30 per person, per day. It’s only open weekends for skiing and riding.

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All Aboard: Heartlanders Take The Ski Train To Whitefish Montana

All Aboard: Heartlanders Take The Ski Train To Whitefish Montana

Amtrak's Empire Builder takes you on an exciting adventure through majestic wilderness. (Amtrak/Facebook)

Midwesterners can climb aboard Amtrak’s Empire Builder to Whitefish Mountain Resort and save 20 percent on your train travel. It leaves Chicago’s Union Station with stops in Milwaukee, the Twin Cities and several other boarding locations across North Dakota and eastern Montana.   

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Big Sky Adds Lifts; Big Sky Big Grass Returns

Big Sky Adds Lifts; Big Sky Big Grass Returns

Snow conditions at Big Sky are excellent this season. (Big Sky)

Big Sky Resort, part of Boyne Resorts headquartered in Michigan, is planning on spending over $150 million on resort improvements over the next eight years. The improvements will include the most advanced chairlift network in North America, elevated lodging, dining and shopping, and more on-mountain activities, according to Stephen Kircher, president of Boyne’s eastern operations and Big Sky.


The aim is to establish Big Sky Resort, with its iconic Lone Peak, and surrounding area as the American Alps.

“For more than 67 years, my family and our organization has remained committed to creating a memorable experiences at unique destinations, often inspired by sense of place and attention to detail,” said Kircher in a prepared statement. “Big Sky will become the best representation of that ideal with our 2025 efforts.”

Big Sky Powder Seeker lift

This past summer as part of the program the resort installed a couple of new state-of-the-art lifts replacing older, slower and less comfortable lifts. A six-seat, high-speed detachable accessing Lone Peak’s bowl replaces the old triple chair, and it’s a Big Sky blue bubble chair with heated seats. Talk about comfort. The other chair, a new fast, fixed-grip triple, will serve the long, steep runs in the Challenger area; reserved for expert-level skiers and riders. It replaces an old, slow double and is more wind resistant. 

The poplular Big Sky Big Grass concert returning for its 11th year

Big Sky Big Grass returns to the resort for the 11th year in a row, Thursday -Sunday, Feb. 9-12.

Live Music Featuring: Sam Bush Band, Del McCoury Band, Billy Strings, Drew Emmitt Band, Jeff Austin Band, The Travelin' McCourys, 2016 Grammy Nominated artist Sierra Hull, Darol Anger and the Furies, and The Good Time Travelers.

West Yellowstone and Yellowstone National Park, just 45 minutes away, makes a great day trip. National Park snowcoach tours will take you to Old Faithful, bison viewing and more.

 Iconic Lone Peak stands guard over the Big Sky resort village.

Big Sky offers several lodging packages throughout the winter; 30-percent off the nightly rate in the Huntley Lodge on select dates, and a fourth night free at several of the village lodges and hotels. Some blackout dates may apply.

With all the snow the resort has received so far this winter conditions are excellent. They set visitation records over the holidays.



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Women Take Center Stage Across Heartland Ski Country

Women Take Center Stage Across Heartland Ski Country

Join pro skier Lisa Densmore at Boyne Highlands. (Boyne Highlands)

Over the next few weeks eight Midwest ski areas are hosting women’s ski and snowboard clinics. Two ski areas are located in Michigan, two in Indiana, and one each in Ohio, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin.

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Insider's Guide To Shanty Creek

Insider's Guide To Shanty Creek

Families feel at home on the Summit's slopes. (Shanty Creek)

Michigan's Shanty Creek offers a little taste of Europe, where they are used to skiing from village to village. Spanning 4,500 acres and offering three distinct villages--The Summit, Cedar Creek and Schuss Mountain— you can cross country ski between and all offer access to the slopes.

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Michigan Ski Areas Offering Affordable Ski Lessons During January

Michigan Ski Areas Offering Affordable Ski Lessons During January

Join Boyne Highlands for a beginner lesson and some smiles. (Boyne Mountain)

If you’ve wanted to give winter sports a try there’s no better time if you’re a Michigan resident or living just across the border in Indiana or Wisconsin.


Michigan Snowsports Industries Association (MSIA) and McDonald’s Restaurants have teamed up to offer an affordable lesson program for both adults and children. It covers downhill skiing, snowboarding and cross country skiing.

The Discover Michigan Ski program includes a beginner lesson, ski or snowboard rental, and a beginner area lift pass or cross country trail pass at 27 of the state’s top ski areas. The program is available throughout the month of January. The cost for the program, which is open to everyone from 7 on up, is $20 for a cross country skiing lesson and $35 for a downhill skiing or snowboarding lesson.

Treetops kids in a lesson riding the lift with an instructor

Signing up is easy. The Discover Michigan Ski vouchers are available at participating Michigan McDonald Restaurants and selected ski shops while quantities last. A printable version is also available by visiting the MSIA website. The voucher lists participating ski areas. You must pre-register with the area.

Apple Mountain ski lesson

“It’s been very popular program in past years,” Mickey McWilliams, longtime MSIA executive director, told SnoCountry. “It offers an affordable way to give snow sports a try, and many keep up with it after that initial lesson. We’ve been offering this program in January for several years now, and in that time a few thousand people, both young and old, have come out to give winter sports a try.”

A sampling of participating areas includes some of the larger resorts in the state; Boyne MountainBoyne Highlands, Nubs Nob, Shanty Creek, Treetops in northern Lower Michigan, and Bittersweet, Timber Ridge and Apple Mountain in the southern part of the Lower Peninsula. Big Powderhorn, Ski Brule and Marquette Mountain in the UP are just a few of the participating ski areas.

Getting ready for a lesson at Bittersweet Ski Area

 



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Major Projects Taking Place At Several Midwest Ski Resorts

Major Projects Taking Place At Several Midwest Ski Resorts

Crystal Mountain Inn at the Mountain expansion taking place. (Crystal Mountain)

Despite the warm winter across the Midwest last season that negatively impacted the ski season a half-dozen ski resorts are completing major projects for the 2016/17 winter season. Four are located in Michigan and one each in Ohio and Wisconsin.

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Fire Significantly Damages Boyne Highlands Hotel

Fire Significantly Damages Boyne Highlands Hotel

The iconic vine covered Boyne Highlands hotel with the ski hill rising behind it. (Boyne Highlands)

A fire significantly damaged the Boyne Highlands hotel early Sunday morning, Dec. 11, with at least 12 people being transported to area hospitals, according to a story published by the Petoskey News Review.

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Insiders Guide To Boyne Highlands Resort

Insiders Guide To Boyne Highlands Resort

A family is ready to hit the slopes for a day. (Boyne Highlands)

Pull up to the main lodge at Boyne Highlands and the classic three-story hotel with its vine-covered alpine motif and ski hill rising behind the roofline is arguably one of the most iconic views among Heartland ski resorts. Rising over 550 feet, the largest vertical in Lower Michigan, the ski hill offers 55 runs up to a mile long and eight lifts, including a high-speed quad. There are four terrain parks, a 13-foot halfpipe, and numerous glades scattered across the ridge.   

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Northwest Michigan Resorts Ready To Celebrate The Season

Northwest Michigan Resorts Ready To Celebrate The Season

Santa enjoys a run down the Shanty's Schuss Mountain slopes. (Shanty Creek)

With a forecast for cold weather and lake effect snow returning to northwest Lower Michigan later this week ski resorts are getting ready to celebrate the holiday season. Let’s hope Santa brings the snow.


Shanty Creek has several holiday events scheduled including the Sardine Special on Friday, Dec. 16, when you pack the car with as many people as possible and you all ski for the price of one, and breakfast and story time with Santa on Saturday, Dec. 17 and 23. On Christmas Day ski and ride free with Santa on the Schuss Mountain slopes. Just bring a non-perishable food item or clothing to donate. Holiday Ski Packages start from $184 per person, per night and includes lodging, lift ticket, breakfast and a group ski lesson.

Boyne Mountain

Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands will be celebrating the sights and sounds of the holidays with lots of planned activities, dinners, holiday rail jams, and New Year’s Eve dinners, live bands and celebrations capped with fireworks over the ski slopes. For a complete event schedule you can click on either the Mountainor Highlands. Boyne’s 6-for-1 Day, six people can ski or ride at either resort for the price of one. It takes place Friday, Dec. 16, and celebrates North America’s first six-seat, high speed lift installed at Boyne Mountain in 1991.

Crystal Mountain Santa and friends

Crystal Mountain will be celebrating holiday week Dec. 16 through Jan. 7, 2017. In honor of the resort’s 60th anniversary on Friday, Dec. 16 its 6-for $60 when six people can ski or ride for $60. Planned activities will be taking place every day—fat bike tours, snowshoe tours, horse drawn surrey rides—with dinners, live entertainment and New Year’s Eve celebrations. On Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, ski with Santa that afternoon.

Treetops Resort has family activities slated all day for Dec. 30, and three different New Year’s Eve dinners and celebrations; a family party, dance party and kid’s party. Overnight rates, including lodging, lift and breakfast voucher, start from $64 midweek and $80 on weekends in limited quantity.


 

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Early Women’s Ski Clinics Scheduled Across Heartland

Early Women’s Ski Clinics Scheduled Across Heartland

Boyne Mountain girlfriends are ready for Time Out. (Boyne Mountain)

Women take center stage at several ski areas around the Heartland as five Midwest resorts schedule women’s clinics early January.


Minnesota's Wild Mountain is hosting a women’s snowsports Academy, ages 18 and up, in early January. Snowboarding only, Jan. 3, 6-8 p.m.; skiing only Jan. 6, 7-9 p.m.; both skiing and snowboarding, Jan. 6, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. The cost is $99 for each session. Female instructors are ready to work with beginners to experienced skiers and riders on their goals.   

Ohio’s Boston Mills has Women’s Snow Discovery, six lessons spaced over six weeks. Participants enjoy extra slope time after the lesson, and after the lessons are over can ski on the lesson day the rest of the season for free. The lessons, for those aged 21 and up, take place on Tuesday and Wednesday and start in January. Signup deadline is Dec. 15. Cost is $199 for lessons, $299, lessons and lift, and $389, lessons.

Mad River Mountains

Mad River Mountain hosts the Snow Angles Program, an all women ski and ride instructional program for all ability levels every Sunday from noon-3 p.m. Cost is $20 per session including three hours of instruction and afternoon snack. Lift and rental not included.

Boyne Mountain hosts Time Out for women ages 15 and up. Taught by women the program offers individual instruction in a group setting. It takes place Sunday mornings, 10 weeks beginning in January from 10 a.m.-noon. The cost is $236, which does not include lift or equipment.    

Paoli Peaks

Indiana’s Paoli Peaks is hosting a two-day Women’s Clinic, Jan. 7-8, for women ages 18 and up who want to improve ski and snowboard skills with plenty of on-slope time. Cost is $89 for pass holders and $139 for non-holders. Registration deadline is Jan. 2, 2017.



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Lift Ticket Deals Still Available At Montana Ski Resorts

Lift Ticket Deals Still Available At Montana Ski Resorts

Whitefish Mountain powder day. (Whitefish)

It’s not too late to find lift ticket deals at several Montana ski resorts. Frequent skier cards, packs and punch cards can substantially lower your daily lift ticket cost. Check it out.

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First Midwest Ski Area Open; Thanksgiving Race Camps Scheduled

First Midwest Ski Area Open; Thanksgiving Race Camps Scheduled

Afton Alps will host a Thanksgiving race camp. (Scott Melander)

The first Heartland ski area opened this past weekend, and just in time if you are looking for a Thanksgiving race camp in the Midwest. Four are scheduled across the upper Heartland; two in Minnesota, one each in upper Michigan and Wisconsin.


 

Wild Mountain

Minnesota’s Wild Mountain opened for the season this past weekend, and is hosting a Thanksgiving Race Camp Nov. 25-27, daily 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. The cost for the three-day camp is $150. The racing program is an alliance between Three Rivers Racing - TR2 and Wild to cultivate, promote and develop world class alpine ski racers from the surrounding area. This coming weekend is demo days. Wild has been the first Midwest ski area to open in the Heartland over the last decade.

Nearby Afton Alps is also hosting its race training camp Nov. 25-27, daily 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Cost is $85 three days and $40 for a single day. The camp, open to ages 7-21, includes slalom and giant slalom training with free ski skill development under the guidance of experienced coaches. Registration deadline is Friday Nov. 18.

Ski Brule, located in Michigan’s UP, plans to open for the season Nov. 18. They are hosting their 26th Thanksgiving Race Camp Nov. 24-27.  Fees are $60 per day or $220 all four days. Regarded as one of the top camps in the Heartland, they have always been able to provide lift served trails for training. It’s geared towards age and ability and provides small group training. Thanksgiving dinner will be available in the lodge. Lodging packages are available over the holidays. Stay four nights and Wednesday night is half-off. In all those years Brule has never had to call off a Thanksgiving camp.

Trollhaugen

Wisconsin’s Trollhaugen is hosting a Thanksgiving Race Camp Nov. 25-27, running daily 8:45 a.m.-4 p.m. Training includes small groups, slalom and giant slalom skiing and racing techniques and video. Cost for 13 years and older is $110 one day, $145 two days, and $170 all three days. For those 12 and younger the respective cost $105, $135 and $160. Fees include lift tickets, lunch, a camp T-shirt, five hours daily training, and swag.

The Wisconsin and Minnesota areas are within an hour’s drive of the Twin Cities. 

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Lutsen Mountains Tentatively Plans To Open November 18

Lutsen Mountains Tentatively Plans To Open November 18

Lake Superior is visible from all four mountain peaks at Lutsen. (Lutsen)

November temperatures are starting out mild across the Great Lakes, but Lutsen Mountains is looking at a promising long range outlook outlining a cooling trend that shows promise for a November 18 opening day and potential for 10 to 15 runs and more than one mountain open for Thanksgiving weekend, according to a report issued this past week.


The Heartlands largest winter resort plans to open, weather permitting, on Nov. 18 for skiing and snowboarding. They will remain open on weekends, including Thanksgiving, through the second weekend in December and open for the season on Dec. 16.

Lutsen gondola

Lutsen is offering some attractive early bird ski and stay packages. Opening weekend, two nights and two days of lifts from $89 per person, must be booked by Nov. 15. They are offering free skiing and riding on Black Friday in support of OptOutside and Minnesota State Parks. The Half Price Holiday Package, two nights lodging, two day lift tickets, from $126 per person is available Thanksgiving weekend. Combine it with the free ski, ride offer and get three days on the slopes.  

Lutsen terrain park

The resort offers 95 runs off four interconnected mountains, 1,080 feet of vertical and jaw-dropping views of Lake Superior from all four mountains. The longest run is two miles with many over a mile. There’s over 60-acres of glade runs, and, arguably, the steepest run in the Midwest, The Plunge off the backside of Moose Mountain. There are eight lifts including mid-America’s only gondola. Papa Charlie’s Restaurant and Night Club is one of the best music scenes north of the Twin Cities. They hold concerts all season long with some of the top musical acts in the Heartland.

Lutsen cliff jump

The New Standards Holiday Show, now in its 10th year, is slated for Friday, Nov. 25 at Papa Charlie’s. Tickets are $18 in advance and $24 at the door.

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Insider's Guide To Giants Ridge

Insider's Guide To Giants Ridge

Giants Ridge slopes look out over endless forests and lakes. (Jim Balfour)

Minnesota’s Iron Range is home to Giants Ridge, one of the Gopher State’s largest snowsports resorts. Winter enthusiasts love its craggy peaks, endless forests and abundant snowfall. The resurgent resort is once again on the Heartland’s radar with a new 33,900-square-foot chalet housing skier services and new restaurant, renovation of the old South Chalet that houses the Nordic center, and two new quad-chairlifts, one a high-speed, scheduled to be added next spring. Dress warmly. Hardy locals take pride in the region’s reputation as “America’s Icebox.”


Trails. The 35 trails that soar off the rocky crest are some of the most exhilarating cruisers around the Great Lakes; varied in pitch, a headwall here, a small bowl there. Melbourne, Easy Way and Placid, sequestered among aspen and birch, offer gentle runs off the top of the ski hill. The North Face runs offer short, steep chutes that appeal to advanced skiers and boarders. Four terrain parks feature more than 3,000 feet of boxes, rails and jumps with a skate-park flow, catch big air on 30-foot jumps. Two are learning parks. 

Giants Ridge ski lesson

Eats. Don’t miss the Burnt Onion Soup, a rich stock of caramelized onions in the new chalet’s Burnt Onion restaurant. For breakfast the Mesabi Scramble at the Sleeping Giant restaurant in the Lodge, a combination of meats, onions, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and eggs kick starts your day. For dinner the wild rice meatloaf is made with a Minnesota staple, locally gathered wild rice. A trip to nearby Gilbert to sample the eclectic Whistling Bird authentic Jamaican jerk food is a must. It’s been drawing patrons from all over the state for over 20 years.

Giants Ridge fat biking

Play. In addition to skiing and boarding over 60-kilometers of Olympic quality cross-country trails, fat tire biking and snow tubing are available.

Giants Ridge chalet

Stay: The Lodge at Giants Ridge offers attractive ski-in/ski-out one to four bedroom accommodations close to everything. The nearby Villas offer multi-bedroom condominiums within easy walking distance, perfect for families that like to eat in. 

Giants Ridge Nordic

Deals. Midweek ski two days and spend a night for under $100 dollars. Friday nights, $16 lift tickets and $16 ski rentals were available last season.

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Michigan’s Sugar Loaf Resort May Finally Have A Buyer

Michigan’s Sugar Loaf Resort May Finally Have A Buyer

Sugar Loaf overlooks Leelanau County. (Facebook)

Michigan’s Sugar Loaf Resort has once again generated a new potential buyer. Jeff Katofsky, a California attorney and real estate developer, is reportedly buying the long shuttered resort and hopes to reopen it as a four-season, high-end resort, according to articles in both the Traverse City Record Eagle and the Detroit Free Press.


The plans for refurbishing the tired, old resort that has been shuttered since 2000 are somewhat vague.

“We’re buying it, and plan to redevelop it as a year-round resort,” he told both newspapers. Katofsky declined to disclose the purchase price or give specifics on how much he planned to invest in the resort. Initially he told them that he hopes to have the resort reopened in three to four years, but added, “It’s going to take some time, a lot of time.”

When pressed further on his plans for the once thriving ski resort he replied, “I’m going to keep that to myself for now.”

Winter travel in Michigan — with 2 million to 2.4 million ski visits annually — is a $4.9-billion business, according to the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association. It's a vibrant part of the state's economy — Michigan has the nation's second most ski resorts, second only to New York.

Sugar Loaf Michigan

There are a number of areas of code violation, according to Leelanau County, to bring the shuttered property into compliance. The lengthy list included both outside and inside damage that needs to be corrected; roofs, decks, structural damage to buildings, chair lifts and pools were among areas mentioned.

Other buyers have looked at the resort, but no legitimate offers have come forth in the 16 years since it closed. The reported asking price is $8.7 million.

“The location is great and it’s beautiful overlooking Lake Michigan and the Manitou Islands,” says Mickey MacWilliams, executive director of the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association. “We’d all love to see Sugar Loaf come back because it was a really special place.”

In the 1980s and early 1990s it was considered one of Michigan’s top ski areas.

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