Recent snow and cold weather are providing an early start to the Heartlands ski season, which is a nice departure from last year when ski areas mostly remained closed over Thanksgiving weekend and had a rough start even in December making enough snow to be fully open over the Christmas holidays.
An early arrival of winter and temperatures cold enough for snowmaking across the upper Midwest are going to allow some ski areas to be open for the Thanksgiving holidays. Minnesota will be offering the most openings with a few in northern Wisconsin and a couple in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The Lower Peninsula ski areas at this point have not announced opening dates, but some have already fired up the snowmaking and hopefully that will come soon.
A couple of ski areas, Wild Mountain in Minnesota and nearby Trollhaugen across the border in Wisconsin have already opened for the season. Afton Alps, Powder Ridge, Andes Towers Hills and Lutsen Mountains are planning on being open this weekend Nov. 18 and 19. Buck Hill is opening on Nov. 22, with Spirit Mountain and Giants Ridge scheduled Nov. 25.
Huff Hills Ski Area, located near Bismarck in North Dakota, is opening for the season on Nov. 20, which will mark their earliest opening ever in the 30 years it has been a ski area. Illinois' Chestnut Mountain plans to open Nov. 26, also one of their earliest openings.
In early season it's always a good idea to check the ski area for conditions before making a long drive. Weather can change in just a few days. You can also log onto Snoountry Snow Reports for an up to date review of what's open and conditions.
Three ski areas in the Midwest, Wild Mountain and Andes Tower Hills, Minnesota, and Trollhaugen in western Wisconsin, were able to open limited terrain last week. Four other ski resorts, one each in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and two in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (UP) have planned openings in the next three weeks. The Heartland ski season is underway.
Ski Brule in the UP has the planned earliest season opener slated for November 11. They are routinely one of the earliest opening ski resorts in the Heartland. Lift tickets are free on opening day. They have a Thanksgiving special offering half-off on Wednesday night lodging if you plan on staying through the holiday weekend for four nights. Their highly regarded Thanksgiving Race Camp is taking place over the four days.
Lutsen Mountains in Minnesota and Snowriver Mountain Resort, also in the UP have planned season openers slated for November 19. Lutsen plans on having 10 runs open on Eagle Mountain and early season lift tickets are $79 through December 16. Ski in/ski out lodging specials at Lutsen are available from $109 per night. Snowriver lift tickets will be the same as Lutsen, $69 through December 16, and you can purchase two day lift tickets for $10 off online. No lodging specials were listed on their website. Both resorts will be limiting lift ticket sales on weekends and holidays, which means buy ahead online.
Wisconsin's Granite Peak has an opening slated during the week before Thanksgiving. No lodging specials were listed on their website, but affordable lodging is within minutes of the ski area. Lift tickets are $79 from opening day through December 16. Purchase before November 15 and save 20% off the posted rates. They will also be limiting lift ticket sales on holidays and weekends, which means purchase online ahead of time.
If you want to go skiing in early December in the Midwest, think Minnesota. The Gopher State has the most ski areas open around the Great Lakes, nine open to the public and one currently season pass holders only.