An October start to the Midwest ski season. (Wild Mountain/Facebook)
It’s a Midwest ski season. Minnesota’s Wild Mountain, located in a river valley east of the Twin Cities, plans to open Sunday, Oct. 29, for the season, according Wild’s president Amy Frischmon.
A jumper soars off the Pine Mountain Ski Jump. (Pine Mountain Ski Jump/Facebook)
Ski jumping was huge around the turn of the last century across the upper Midwest. Thousands of spectators would gather at jumping competitions across Michigan’s UP and around Red Wing, Minnesota. The sport dwindled and only one site remains still holding annual jumping competitions. Two new sites, one located in the western UP and another near Red Wing, are coming onboard and hopes to be hosting competitions by 2018.
A skier enjoys a run down Rib Mountain at Granite Peak. (Granite Peak/Facebook)
Heartland skiers and riders on the western side of the Great Lakes have a couple of good choices for spring break on slopes close to home. Two ski resorts with mountain terrain and plenty of snow, one in Wisconsin and one in Minnesota, are just a drive away.
Lutsen Mountains, with currently over four feet of snow covering most slopes, is hosting Family Festival Weekend March 24-25. Starting from $129 per person the package includes two nights lodging, lift tickets and free ski rental for the entire family. There’s also a family fun night at the Summit Chalet topped off with a fireworks display over the mountains. Ski and stay four or more days and children (6-12) ski, stay, eat free and also get free equipment rental.
“With a deep midwinter snowpack, the thaw has had minimal effect on our slope conditions,” Jim Vick, Lutsen spokesperson, told SnoCountry. “Average base on the mountain is still four plus feet and long range forecasts show March temperatures skewing below average, giving every indication that we are good for skiing daily through April 9th and weekends until May.”
Travel Blue Book calls Lutsen Mountains one of the “Top Five Ski Resorts You May Not Have Heard Of.” It offers 1,000 skiable acres, an 860-foot skiable drop and 95 runs off four mountain peaks, each offering breathtaking views of Lake Superior. Add in, a new six-seat, high-speed lift, and mid-America’s only gondola and you have some of the best skiing and riding around the Great Lakes, according to the book.
Wisconsin’s Granite Peak just announced Spring Break Discounts through April 9. If you purchase a two-day lift ticket you get free rental equipment for both days, and you also get lift tickets for the third day, and every other day thereafter, for $30 adult and $20 for children (ages 6-12). There are also weekend and midweek lodging packages available.
The Peak offers 75 trails, a 700-foot vertical drop and three high-speed lifts making it one of the largest ski areas in the 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Play. In addition to skiing and boarding over 60-kilometers of Olympic quality cross-country trails, fat tire biking and snow tubing are available.
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.
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.
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.
Longtime Midwest Ski Areas Association (MSAA) Executive Director Chris Stoddard has stepped down after 25 years, and Amy Augustine Reents, who has been active in the Midwest ski industry for the past 25 years, has been named the new President/Executive Director.
Minnesota’s Lutsen Mountains will be the last Midwest ski area standing (ok, skiing) with its present plans to ski the remaining three weekends of April, which ends on May 1.
Vail Resorts, which purchased Wilmot Mountain, located between Chicago and Milwaukee, in January, has announced that they will spend $13 million to completely transform the guest experience at one of the nation’s oldest ski areas. The ski area first opened in 1938.
Female skiers and snowboarders will soon take center stage at three Minnesota resorts. The clinics will get you on course for the rest of the season, and one clinic will host a wine and cheese afterwards.
Fat tire snow biking, popular at western and eastern ski resorts, has been gaining traction in the Midwest recently. Several ski resorts in Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula and northern Minnesota are now offering rentals and trails to ride.
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner and coming on a weekend, here are some of my favorite Heartland spots to combine snow sports and romance. Enjoy.
Several Midwest ski resorts are adding a little zip to their attractions, literally. Zip Lines have become a big addition at ski resorts across the country, especially in the western mountains and New England.
El Nino continues to play the same tune across North America with abundant snow in the west and spring-like temperatures throughout the lower midwest and Northeast, and the forecast shows little signs of change.
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.
Once again Minnesota’s Wild Mountain, east of the Twin Cities along the Wisconsin border, is the first to open for skiing and snowboarding in the Midwest. A major winter storm is sweeping across the region, leaving 3-20 inches in Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.