The Midwest has 116 ski areas scattered across the Heartland and just under half of them offer snow tubing, especially across the lower Midwest. It’s relatively safe, and something easy to do. Just sit and let gravity do the work.
The 2018-19 winter is off to a great start all across the Midwest. Most ski areas across the upper tier of the Heartland and around the Great Lakes opened in November, and the rest across the Lower Midwest, Ohio, Indiana and Missouri, opened this past weekend or scheduled to open next weekend.
The Michigan Snowsports Industries Association (MSIA) and Minnesota Ski Areas Association offer passport programs allowing elementary age kids the chance to try skiing and snowboarding for free. In Michigan it covers both fourth and fifth graders, and Minnesota’s program covers fourth graders.
Winter has arrived across the upper Midwest. Many ski areas and resorts are opening this weekend, and Thanksgiving Weekend also looks good if you want to get away for that first ski trip of the new season.
Lutsen Mountains is now part of the M.A.X. Pass. (Lutsen/Facebook)
The new M.A.X. Pass, with the addition of six new resorts including two from the Heartland, now offers access to 44 ski areas scattered across North America. It is now available through May 1 at its lowest price, $629 for adults, $429 teens, and $329 youth (6-12). After that prices will increase.
What’s nice for Heartlanders is that the new pass now includes: Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands, Michigan; Granite Peak, Wisconsin; and Buck Hill and Lutsen Mountains, Minnesota. The pass provides you five days at each of the ski areas listed with no blackout dates.
Depending on how many days per season you ski or ride you can bounce back and forth to the Midwest areas that are close to each other and take ski trips west or east. If you live in Michigan the two Boyne resorts are close by. Wisconsin and Minnesota snowsports enthusiasts have three areas they can visit. Both Granite Peak and Lutsen make wonderful Heartland locations for a multi-day ski vacation.
If you like to ski several days per week at your local hill you can buy a season pass for any of the five Midwest areas and upgrade to a M.A.X. Pass for an additional cost that will allow you access to the 43 other ski resorts for five days throughout the 2017/18 season. The additional cost is $329, $279 and $229 respectively and most likely can be included in the cost of your local ski area pass.
What I like about it, especially for the hardcore skier or rider, it provides you with the flexibility for lots of great choices from day trips and ski weekends around the Midwest to mountain vacations.
Skate with the stars at Sun Valley (Sun Valley/Facebook)
Downhill skiing and ice skating have been linked closely during the cold winter months, and a number of winter resorts around the country link with outdoor ice rinks.
Most stay open into the evenings, and typically charge a fee for a couple of hours of skating, offer skate rentals that are sometime free if you’re staying at the resort, and have food and drink nearby.
SnoCountry.com took a look around the country, and came up with some ice rinks of note for some skating enjoyment:
Squaw Valley. You have to take an 8-minute cable car ride to 8,200-foot High Camp to reach a 100x200 foot rink, with Olympic Museum and mind-blowing views of the Sierra and Lake Tahoe. Cost includes tram ride.
Sun Valley. Outdoor rink next to Sun Valley Lodge in main village, the 77-year-old sheet hosts popular Sun Valley Ice Shows. Individual or group lessons available, and world-class skaters often stop by for practice and autographs.
Keystone. Colorado resort has two skating venues: A five-acre lake in the heart of the resort’s village with Zambonis putting down new surface; and, the more traditional Dercum Square Ice Rink near the base of the ski and snowboard mountain.
Guidant John Rose Oval. While not at a resort, this 110,000 square-foot sheet in Roseville, Minn., is close enough for skiers and snowboarders from nearby Afton Alps, Hyland Hills and Buck Hill to stop by apres-ski. Rink has hosted U.S. and international speedskating competitions.
Liberty Mountain. The Pennsylvania resort opened a new skating pond this season, located in the newly renovated pedestrian core of the base area and open daily till 10 p.m. Courtyard Pond has seating for viewers.
Whiteface. Take a turn on the same ice as Olympic champ Sonja Henie, and where annual Stars on Ice Tour features top skaters. The Speed Skating Oval has skate rentals and a fir pit in the middle. Or glide onto Mirror Lake for some old-fashioned pond hockey.
North America's largest resort Whistler Blackcomb is now owned by Vail. (Whistler Blackcomb/Facebook)
Consolidation of ownership, ticketing and even between mountains highlighted the winter resort news of 2016 – all giving skiers and riders more bang for their buck.
An artificial rendering of the new Neveplast slopes on Buck Hill. (Buck Hill)
Minnesota’s Buck Hill has long been known for its ski racing club, which, under the tutelage of head coach Eric Sailer, has produced countless ski racers for the U.S. Ski Team. Olympians Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancuso, and Kristina Koznick grew up racing here. The iconic ski hill with its modest 310-foot vertical has been called the “Legendary Capitol of American ski racing.”
It’s also now known for having the largest artificial ski slope in North America, according to the ski area. Skiing and snowboarding are year-round sports at Buck. The new Neveplast slopes, which extend the full length of the ski hill, offer expert to beginner runs and even a terrain park. The synthetic surface is purported to have the same gliding surface as snow without using water. The artificial slopes remain in place year-round and work in the winter covered with snow.
“We opened the slopes late last month and the acceptance has been good with skiers and snowboarders wanting to try them out,” said Buck’s Tom Schulz. “It’s going to attract new people to snowsports we believe, and it opens up year-round training for ski racers.”
Local snowsports reporter Greg Snow described the experience on Facebook, “Just like corn snow. It’s like spring skiing, but in September, amazing.”
An adult summer and fall slopes pass is $225 and children, 12 and under, is $175. Daily weekday lift tickets are respectively $26 and $16. Weekends are $32 and $20. You can use your own equipment, or rental is available. It’s recommended that you wear long pants and long sleeves.
This will work well with the ski area’s annual Shred ‘til You’re Dead Rail Jam October 29. In the past it was limited with ice scrapings. This year full on.
Buck has 16 runs and eight lifts. The ski area sits just a stone's throw from I-35 and its bright lights on winter nights light up the southern gateway into the Twin Cities. A new Black Diamond Restaurant is now open daily.
The tenth annual So-Gnar Snowboard Camp Tour hits six Midwest ski areas over the next few weeks. It’s an opportunity for Midwest shredders to up their game and improve those skills.
Minnesota’s ski season is underway with several ski areas already open. The Gopher State has fared better in the weather pool than other Great Lakes state, especially those on the east side of Lake Michigan. Here’s a rundown on what’s new at ski resorts that have made improvements.
From a stroll in the haunted forest to great pumpkin races, shred ‘til you’re dead jam and a Halloween party in a wilderness cabin, a handful of Heartland ski resorts have some haunting good fun planned this Halloween. Some of it even starts earlier. Get your ghoul on.
A series of beginner and advance lessons take place at Welch Village, and snowboard camps are scheduled at Buck Hill, Afton Alps and Wild Mountain throughout the month of February. It’s a great chance for Twin City skiers and snowboarders to sharpen their skills.
Good news for budding Midwest Olympians looking to perfect aerial landings in snowboarding and skiing events. There are at least six ski areas scattered around the Great Lakes that now offer airbag jumps on a regular basis.
Midwest snowboarders, get your shred on. The eighth annual So-Gnar Snowboard Camp Tour is hitting seven Heartland ski areas over the next few weeks. Five of the stops are scheduled over the holidays. The popular camps frequently fill up, don’t delay signing up.
The Twin Cities Independent Ski Areas Association and MnSNO recently combined to form the Minnesota Ski Areas Association. This new group will champion Minnesota’s spread out ski areas that account for 24 percent of the winter tourism economy.
It’s been one of the best finishes to the ski season in decades across the Heartland, and it’s not done yet. A number of ski resorts across the upper Great Lakes remain plan to be open into mid-April.
Conditions are some of the best the Heartland has seen in the last few years, and Minnesota ski areas are enticing skiers and riders with some sweet lift ticket deals to get out and enjoy the great snow.