One of the new lift towers is being lowered into place at Cascade Mountain. (Cascade/Facebook)
Wisconsin’s Cascade Mountain is completing phase one of a three-phase expansion in time for the 2016/17 season. The initial phase, pegged at $9 million, calls for two new chairlifts, seven new trails, expanded snowmaking, expanding the main lodge, paved parking and an additional groomer.
One of the new lifts, according to Cascade’s Randy Axelson, is a high-speed detachable quad replacing the old Cindy Pop Express, which will exit further up the hill accessing more terrain. The second new lift, a fixed-grip quad, will access the new trails on the east side of the ski hill. That will bring total trail count to 43. Six of the new trails are intermediate level and the other is a beginner trail that will tie into Far Out giving novice skiers and riders easy access back to the lodge.
The ski area, once known for its tough skiing reputation, has over the years added easier terrain and more friendly runs to become a complete family area. The new runs and expansion of the east side of the ski hill have long been talked about.
“My dad, who started Cascade years ago, had always envisioned expanding the far east side of the ski hill and started cutting trails many years ago,” said Rob Walz, who along with his wife Vicki now owns the ski area. “It was time to take Cascade to the next level. I think our customers will really appreciate the new, long intermediate runs cascading down the east side of the Mountain.”
Phase two includes another chairlift on the far east side, six more new trails, more parking and a new lodge of the far east side of the ski hill. Phase three calls for another new chairlift and six more trails. Upon completion Cascade will have 11 chairlifts, three surface tows, 55 trails and a snow tubing park. A time table for the next couple of phases has not been announced.
It’s one of the top day-trip areas in the Midwest. Only a snowball throw away from busy I-90/I-94, which the ski area overlooks, Chicago is three hours away, Milwaukee less than two, and Madison just a scant 30 minutes. Weekend crowds can be big, but the ski area is equipped to handle them.
Using an outdoor ramp, the Rockstar Energy Drink Pro-Am Rail Jam uses real snow allowing skiers and riders to throw down their best tricks. (Toronto Snow Show/Facebook)
Ski shows are always a signal that winter and snowsports season can’t be far behind. Even in this electronic age of instant communication people still love to come to the shows. You can often find some great ticket or vacation deals through the attending resorts.
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.
Midwest ski areas are getting an early jump on the spring carnival season with family events, cardboard sled races, pond skims, family events and live music. It’s never too early to have some fun on the slopes.
Terry Peak, South Dakota, opened in 1936, and celebrates 80 years this year. It opened the same year as Sun Valley in the west and Bromley Mountain in the east, both credited with kicking off the North American ski resort industry. Terry Peak, with a 1,100-foot vertical drop, largest in the Heartland, offers true mountain skiing. Located in the Black Hills, it tops out near 7,000 feet.
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.
Vail Resorts has added Wilmot Mountain, along the Wisconsin border between Chicago and Milwaukee, to its stable of recent Midwest urban ski area acquisitions; Afton Alps, near the Twin Cities, and Mt. Brighton, near Detroit.
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.
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.
Wisconsin ski areas were busy this past summer enhancing the experience for guests this coming season. Snowmaking upgrades topped the improvement lists, but there were also terrain park expansions, new runs, new lifts and improved beginner areas.
Little Switzerland has added a new high-speed rope tow in their terrain parks and expanded both their large and small parks. They also cleared a new trail called Easy Cheesey, which will be the easiest way down the hill. Snowmaking capacity was increased with the addition new fan guns.
Nordic Mountain, always one of the first to be fully open in the Badger State, once again added more snowmaking firepower and cleared a new winding, intermediate run called MeNords. They feel it will become one of their most popular once discovered.
Camp 10 increase both the capacity and efficiency of their snowmaking system, which they feel will allow them to open earlier in the season.
Alpine Valley, in the southern part of the state, tripled the size of the beginner area complete with four magic carpet lifts and added a new chairlift on their First Adventure beginner run.
Wilmot Valley, added over 5,000 feet of new high-pressure pipe and two new snow blowers between chairlifts 3 and 8 to increase and improve snowmaking efforts. They also added new LED lighting on five of their runs, overhauled chairlifts, and spruced up the day lodge.
Tyrol Basin improved their beginner terrain and added a new magic carpet lift for the upcoming season.
Sunburst’s Tubing Park was named as one of the Top 10 Tubing destinations in the nation recently by USA Today. They offer 42 lanes, two magic carpet lifts and speeds up to 42 mph cruising down the hill. Hold your breath.
Photos: Top -- Tyrol Basin made summer improvements (Tyrol Basin/Facebook); Right -- Alpine Valley triples beginner area (Alpine Valley/Facebook); Below -- Little Switzerland adds fan guns, new trail (Little Switzerland/Facebook).
The popular Skiing Wisconsin coupon book is still available in limited numbers and can be ordered online for $125. There are only about 280 left at press time, and the ski season isn’t far away. It’s perfect for the skier or rider that likes to visit numerous areas.
Wisconsin’s Door County has long been on my radar. Anyplace that’s hailed as “The Cape Cod of the Midwest,” has got a lot to live up to. I wasn’t disappointed when I recently visited. Much of the Door Peninsula is rural with agriculture – farms, orchards, and wineries – and numerous little villages tucked into bays along the coastline.
The mountains and high alpine lakes of the West, and New England’s rolling mountains lush with green forests create some of the nation’s more memorable national parks. But don’t overlook the Heartland’s beautiful lakeshores, prairies, rivers and thick forests of the upper Midwest.
Zipline tours are popular pursuits at ski resorts along the east coast and out west. They are just starting to catch on in the Heartland. Ski resorts in Michigan and Wisconsin are now offering multiple station zipline tours.
The Fox Cities are the cities, towns, and villages along the Fox River Valley, which flows from Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin's largest inland lake, down to Lake Michigan’s Green Bay. It offers historic charm, natural beauty, and lots of outdoor activities.
Two upper Great Lakes ski resorts plan on stretching the season out a little longer, an encore from last season. It’s some of the best skiing and riding of the season; warming days, long runs and corn snow.
Chicago and Milwaukee families looking for places to enjoy a weekend winter getaway should check out Granite Peak and Cascade Mountain, both easily accessed by major interstate highways for an easy drive. Both are very family friendly.
Owners of Minnesota's Lutsen Mountains have announced a plan to add a new gondola, replacing the 45-year-old existing four-seat gondola with a $7 million dollar, eight passenger unit that will be ready for the 2015/16 ski season. They’re also asking the National Forest Service for permission to expand onto 400 acres of the adjacent Superior National Forest.
Granite Peak, Wisc. is poised to become one of the Heartland’s largest ski resorts with the addition of ski-in, ski-out slopeside lodging, but first comes additional runs and lifts.