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.
Here are five Midwest cities with day trip worthy ski areas, all within three hours or less. Arriving mid-week you avoid large weekend crowds. Get an early start and enjoy some uncrowded slope time.
Family-friendly terrain, ski and snowboard teaching programs, and a good variety of advanced and expert terrain. Here are five top ski resorts in the Midwest that can keep families of differing abilities happy.
Family-friendly terrain, teaching programs, and a good variety of advanced and expert terrain. Here's a half-dozen of the top family resorts in the Heartland that will keep a family of differing abilities happy for a spring break getaway.
Three old-time Midwest ski areas that have aged well join the “baby boomer” generation. Turning 55 this season are Big Powderhorn, Michigan’s UP, and Welch Village, located in the deep river valleys southeast of the Twin Cities. Chestnut Mountain, the senior member of the group, turns 60 this season.
From a stroll in a haunted forest to great pumpkin races, and a zipline of terror a trio of Heartland ski resorts have some haunting good fun planned leading up to this Halloween. It’s also prime fall color for chairlift rides to the top of the ski hills for some brilliant vistas.
Friday January 11, 2019 was the snow sports industry’s first National Learn to Ski or Snowboard Day at resorts throughout the U.S. Many resorts offered special deals for newcomers to take beginner lessons from professional instructors as a way to celebrate the sports.
Heartland big-city skiers and riders sometimes have to drive a little further to find a ski hill worthy for playing midweek hooky. But, hooky-worthy ski areas are around, and arriving mid-week you avoid the large weekend crowds.
Family friendly terrain, ski and snowboard teaching programs, and a good variety of advanced and expert terrain. Here are my top five recommendations for ski resorts in the Midwest to keep a family of differing abilities happy.
Zipline tours are popular pursuits at ski resorts throughout the nation. You don’t need a mountain to offer some excitement. Ski resorts in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois offer you the rush of zipping through treetops, over gorges and some fantastic views along the ride of Great Lakes and great rivers. It's great summer fun.
Spring skiing at Lutsen Mountains overlooking Lake Superior. (Facebook)
Although it's been an up and down weather pattern across the Heartland and Great Lakes, across the northern tier they are in good shape heading into March.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mountain top dining is popular at ski resorts in the west. But, there are a handful of resorts scattered around the Heartland that offer distinctive mountain top dining experiences as well.
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.
Ski swaps offer a convenient and inexpensive way to fill in your current ski and snowboarding equipment or accessories. It's also a great place to try to sell some items you no longer need or want.
Working towards the goal of making Cannonsburg Ski Area a year-round recreation area. the resort has opened a multi station zipline tour, and Chestnut Mountain opened a Soaring Eagle Zip Line adding to their summer activities.
Midwest snowboarders -- get your shred on. The ninth annual So-Gnar Snowboard Camp Tour hits seven Heartland ski areas over the next few weeks.