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.
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.
Thanksgiving is typically when many Midwest ski resorts hope to open for the season, and a number of destination resorts are right on schedule. If you’re ready to kick-start the season with a ski trip, check them out. Most are offering early season discounted lift tickets and lodging rates, plus turkey dinners.
Mountaintop dining is popular at ski resorts out west. While there aren't a lot of opportunities in the Midwest, there are a handful of ski resorts scattered around the Heartland that offer mountain top diners both great food and great views.
The long-range forecast looks good for a snowy Christmas across the Heartland, and that good news couldn’t come at a better time as Midwest ski resorts get ready to celebrate the holiday season.
Thanksgiving is typically when many Midwest ski resorts hope to open for the season. A few have already opened, and several are offering discounted overnight packages for early season snowsports enthusiasts ready to kick-start the season.
Ohio’s Mad River Mountain, home hill to Olympian Louie Vito, will be hosting the Heartland’s first rail jam Nov. 4. Last year’s event was a huge hit, and over 400 people have already confirmed on MRM’s Facebook page they will be there for the “throw down.” The ski area’s annual Ski Patrol Ski Swap will be taking place inside the lodge.