Ohio's oldest ski area Snow Tails, which opened in 1961, continues making improvements after making several just a couple of years ago. Located in central Ohio about an hour north of the state's capital city Columbus it has served a large population of Heartland skiers for over 60 years.
In 2021 they added a beautiful 3,000-square-foot lodge at the base of Competition Slope adding much needed indoor additional seating and restrooms, accommodations for carry-in-food and more space for their popular racing program activities. It included heated outdoor patio seating. They added state-of-the-art lighting upgrades, which included LED tower lights for the Alpine lift and beginner's area, and the triple chairlift for the Competition and Mt. Mansfield slopes. In addition restrooms were redone, improvements were made to the Last Run Deli Kitchen, added new windows and radiant heaters added to the ski lodge deck.
The parking was also paved, which was a great improvement for late season conditions when the ground started to thaw. This past summer another expansion was made to the west end of the parking area adding a new concrete lot with marked parking spaces and additional handicapped spots for the Adaptive Snowsports Center. More LED lighting was installed in special areas of the slopes and parking lots for additional safety and efficiency, according to a Snow Trails news release.
Exciting news for skiers and snowboarders two new trails, Ridgeline and DC Drop were added off the double chairlift, which will add additional access to other trails expanding the unloading area on top. It will allow access to the right for the first time and connect two other trails. An expanded snowmaking system will help implement the additional terrain as well as the rest of the ski area.
Snow Trails, which will be enjoying its 63rd season, offers 19 trails, four terrain parks and lift served tubing runs. They have five chairlifts and two surface tows. Throughout the season they often offer live music on weekends. Their season normally runs from mid-December into early March. Their kick-off party with the Thirsty Travelers is happening December 16. They are hosting an Alpine Ski Racing Camp on December 27, which you need to sign up for.
The Michigan Snowsports Industries Association (MSIA) and Minnesota Ski Areas Association (MNSAA) 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. Now is the time to apply with the Heartland ski season fast approaching.
Michigan’s Cold is Cool Ski & Ride Passport program offers students’ two free lift tickets at 29 participating ski areas scattered throughout the state and additional discounts at participating ski shops. Families obtain a Passport App for their students that gives them up to two free lift tickets or trail passes at participating ski areas. MSIA charges $30 for the passport; $25 covers operating expenses and $5 goes to a new charitable organization Misnow that helps get underprivileged kids out on our slopes during the winter. A paying adult has to accompany the students for them to use the pass. The Passport is an app to download on your phone, making it contactless at the lift ticket window.
There are six ski areas participating in the Wolverine State's Upper Peninsula and 23 in the Lower Peninsula.
All 19 of Minnesota's ski areas are participating this season. The cost of the MNSAA Passport is $34.95, which includes tax, payment processing fee and administrative costs of program. Your fourth grader receives an e-pass which includes a minimum of two free lift tickets for the passport holder at each Minnesota ski area. Some offer more than the minimum of two passes. Additional information on program offerings by area and a link to more details at each member area is provided on the website.
I've always wondered why Wisconsin, which has 18 downhill ski areas, doesn't offer a similar program for the students in their state. It makes sense to promote the sport to future generations of skiers, and what better way than getting them started as grade school youngsters.
Trollhaugen, one of the Badger State's oldest ski areas is nearing completion on its latest improvements. It was the fourth ski area to open in Wisconsin in 1950. Only Granite Peak,1937, Wilmot Mountain 1938, and Mont Du Lac in 1948 opened earlier. Located just across the Wisconsin/Minnesota border the storied ski area has long been a favorite for Twin Cities skiers and riders, which is about 50 minutes northeast of downtown.
“The Summit Expansion is getting closer to the finish line! New chair, new trails, new snowmaking, new lights, new memories to be made. Bring on the cold. SKOL,” is a current post on the ski area's Facebook page.
Two summers ago they removed the old two-person single-speed chair 1 and installed a new variable speed four-person chairlift that greatly improved uphill capacity. They also began clearing three new trails on the east side of the summit area and added snowmaking. The following summer saw them finish that project with lighting added to the new runs. This past summer 2023 they started construction on another new, variable three-person chairlift on the southeast side of the summit area and added more new trails in that area.
Trollhaugen currently offers 30 runs, four quad chairs, four surface tows, three terrain parks, 10 snow tubing lanes, and a 2.5km cross country trail.. On Friday nights throughout the season, they remain open until 3 am. with live music in the lounge.
They were able to open a couple of runs for about three days earlier last weekend, one of the first to open in the Heartland. That drew some snowboarders from Chicago, over a five hour drive, to make the trip and kickoff the season. They are currently making snow when temperatures allow and anticipate reopening before Thanksgiving for the season. They are offering a Thanksgiving race camp November 24-26.
It's been called a time machine, hearkening back to the Heartland's older, smaller ski areas, and a true Midwest gem.
Once again Mount Bohemia, located in the uppermost portion of Michigan's UP, is in the running for USA Today's Best Ski Resort in the U.S. poll, which concludes on November 20. It's not unfamiliar territory for them since they have appeared in past polls.
New this year is that ABR Ski Trails, also located in the Wolverine State's UP, is in this year's running for Best Cross Country Ski Resort in the U.S. It's their first time to appear in the poll. A panel of experts selected the top 20 cross country ski resorts across the U.S. to appear in the poll, which is voted on by the public. It also concludes on November 20.
Bohemia is an anomaly for the Heartland. A big vertical drop for the Great Lakes Region, 900 feet with cliffs, chutes, trees, steep drops and all natural snow. They have no snowmaking, and don't do any grooming. Bohemia claims all expert terrain and, they aren't exaggerating. The terrain is typical of what you find out west in the backcountry. There is nothing else even remotely like it mid-continent. Find another line through the trees, boulders and cliff drops spread out over 600 acres. Beginners aren’t allowed and wouldn’t enjoy it anyway.
They offer one of the best early season pass sales in the Midwest. The $99 pass sale takes place for only a little over a week from Nov. 22 through December 2, and the only way you will be able to ski or ride Saturdays throughout the season is with a season pass. A daily lift ticket will be $92 this season.
USA Today said of ABR Ski Trails, “It is an 1,100-acre Nordic ski center, which boasts 100km of cross country trails in the beautiful Montreal River Valley. In addition to classic striding trails, combination skate and striding trails and an additional 13km of snowshoeing trails and trails for dog-pulled skijoring.” They even have cabins along the trail that you ski back into and spend the night.
Minnesota's Wild Mountain is always, if not the first, one of the first Heartland ski areas to open for the season. They opened Monday and already have top to bottom runs open as well as one of their chairlifts.
Andes Tower Hills, in northern Minnesota, was actually the first Heartland ski area to open this past weekend with limited terrain and just a surface tow. However they are currently closed, and on their website they list November 11 for their opening date. They are also routinely one of the earliest to open in the Midwest. When fully open they offer 15 slopes, three chairlifts, and three surface tows.
Wild is open top to bottom with Chair 1 and their Expressway Trail. Plus, they have the Front Stage rope tow and one of their terrain parks open with eight features. They point out it's still early season conditions and guests should expect some bare spots, rocks, thin coverage, man made obstructions and other spooky impediments. Tickets are $25 and season passes are valid (Night Passes start at 4 pm. as usual). They say on their Facebook page they plan to remain open daily 1-7pm as they keep expanding terrain or the snow melts.
They have had the distinction of being the first area in the Midwest to open for several years running, and a couple of times the first ski area in the nation to open in early October. They guarantee season pass holders at least 100 days of skiing and riding during the season. When fully open the ski area offers 26 trails, including the double-black Wall and an easy trail from top of the Mountain, four terrain parks, and eight lifts including four quads. It has a 300-foot vertical.
Other planned openings in November include Lutsen Mountains, which has a target date of opening the weekend of November 18-19. They will be open Thanksgiving weekend and the first weekend in December with December 8 as their target date for staying open on a daily basis.
Ski Brule, in Michigan's UP, has also kicked off their snowmaking with a target date of November 10 to open daily for the season.
For Heartland skiers and snowboarders that like visiting multiple resorts during the ski season the Indy Pass is your best choice. Many of the 26 Midwest ski areas and resorts included with this year's pass are located near each other, which presents an excellent opportunity for several multi-day road trips across the Heartland.
The Indy Pass went back on sale earlier this month. You have to sign up on a wait list to be contacted, but after signing up on the list it doesn't take long to be contacted to purchase a pass for the 2023/24 ski season.
Many buy a season pass for convenience at a ski area near them that they enjoy skiing or riding, which is fine. If you like to visit a variety of ski areas throughout the season rather than just staying with one you might consider purchasing the Indy Pass, which offers the most choices of any multiple ski area pass in the Midwest. It's good at 26 ski areas scattered across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, South Dakota, and one in Thunder Bay, Ontario just across the border.
The pass is currently on sale $399 for adults and $199 children (12 and under) for the regular Indy Pass that does have blackout dates at some of the areas. The Indy+ Pass is $499 adults and $249 children with no blackout dates. The pass is good for two free days of skiing or snowboarding at each ski area and 25% off the daily rate for a third day on the slopes. Passholders will be mailed an RFID-enabled Indy Pass with a photo for a $10 fee. It gives you direct-to-lift access at select Indy resorts, and expedited lift ticket pick-up at all Indy resorts.
Many ski areas are grouped within easy driving distance of each other, which means you can take road trips to visit two or three different resorts on one trip. There are trips like that in northwestern Lower Michigan, Upper Michigan, northern Wisconsin and Minnesota around the Great Lakes. The Indy Pass is good at two of the Heartland's largest ski resorts, Granite Peak, at 700 feet, in the Badger State, and Terry Peak, over a 1,000 feet, in South Dakota's Black Hills, and one of the most scenic Chestnut Mountain overlooking the Mississippi River in Illinois.
It's also good at around 70 other ski areas across the Lower 48, which means it’s easier than ever to road trip west or east as well.
The Gopher State's Buck Hill has been busy over the summer making a couple of upgrades for the coming season.
The biggest improvement is the addition of a new quad chairlift on the main slope replacing the ancient triple that was nearly a half-century old. It will improve uphill capacity greatly. It will also be able to take people back down the slope, which the old chairlift couldn't do. That will provide a big uplift to their off-season events, like weddings, that are held on top of the ski hill. The new chair is scheduled to be ready for the 2023/24 winter season. Another plus is that the support poles will take up less space than the old lift poles did, which will add additional terrain for skiing and snowboarding. They have also put a new ski patrol building on top of the hill, and it includes an area for visitors to overlook beautiful Crystal Lake.
They are in the process of auctioning off the old 52 triple chairs, which runs through Wednesday, October 25. The chairs are expected to be in high demand. They are part of the historic legacy of Buck Hill where World Cup ski racers Kristina Koznick and Lindsey Vonn learned to ski and race and spent a lot of time riding the old lift.
Buck Hill is known as the “Legendary Capital of American Ski Racing.” The ski hill with a 310-foot vertical, is well known throughout the Midwest. It offers 16 runs, three quad chairlifts counting the new lift, and seven surface lifts.
Skiers from Erich Sailer's legendary Buck Hill ski racing program, which he started in 1969, have won twelve World Cup Races, fifteen have made the U. S. Ski Team and four the U.S. Olympic Team. Today everyone knows of Buck Hills reputation and accomplishments. Sailer put the tiny ski area on the map.
The old Telemark Resort, near Cable, Wisconsin, hadn’t been open for winter activities for over 20 years, and the lodge since 2013. A couple of attempts to reopen the lodge and ski hill in recent years fell through, but the nonprofit American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation that puts on North America's largest Nordic ski race each February is in the process of successfully reopening it as Mt. Telemark Village.
It purchased the old ski area property, more than 500 acres a couple of years ago, tore down the old Telemark Lodge and has created a new village and added trails for hiking, skiing and mountain biking. When fully completed there will be over 17 miles of trails available. They have also added a five-kilometer paved trail. The purpose is to make it a year-round destination for silent sports. A 12,000-square-foot multipurpose building will anchor Mt. Telemark Village, which serves as a community center, shopping and rental area, coffee shop, and changing/shower area, is expected to open in the spring of next year. It will also include a Tony Wise Museum to honor the roots of the facility, according to an article in the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
An overnight lodging option, which is not owned by the Ski Foundation, is also located on the property. Called Home Base at Mt. Telemark Village it will offer 10 private rooms.
The Kawabaming Observation Tower at the top of Telemark Mountain was opened to the public in July and offers a panoramic view of the countryside around the mountain. It's especially vibrant with the fall colors.
Telemark began when Tony Wise and H.B. Hewitt opened it the winter of 1947. A chair lift was added in 1964 to supplement the rope tows and, over the years, more improvements came, such as townhouses and a network of cross-country ski trails. When the $6 million lodge opened in December 1972, it included fine dining, a nightclub, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and outdoor tennis courts. At the time it was considered a major player in the Midwest downhill ski scene. It was eclipsed by larger resorts with bigger verticals and more ski runs. Since the mid-1980s the resort has opened and closed and been sold several times. This was where the first American Birkebeiner was held in 1973
Today one of the largest cross country ski races in the world it attracts over 6,000 participants to the annual event in late February each year. This winter the Slumberland American Birkebeiner will be held Saturday, February 24, 2024— Skate 50K and Classic 53K. It now begins in Cable, Wisconsin, and ends in Hayward.
Late last month the U.S. Forest Service rejected the expansion plans for Lutsen Mountains, which were announced in 2014, to expand onto 495 acres of Superior National Forest so it could add more runs, lifts and other facilities, which would have nearly doubled its skiable terrain, according to a recent article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The article cited reasons that included potential environmental effects and treaty concerns that were raised by Native American tribes that live in the area. An 1854 treaty with the tribes gave them hunting, fishing and other rights for the land. Tribal leaders commended the Forest Service's decision.
“Lutsen Mountains is planning to revise its proposal and come back with a new plan that will account for the tribal and Forest Service concerns,” said Jim Vick, Lutsen's spokesperson and GM, in the article.
The permitting process, which started two years ago, must still go through an objection period, according to the Forest Service. But a change to the decision typically doesn't occur without substantial new information being brought forward they pointed out. A final decision is to be made in 90 days, which includes 45 days to submit objections and another 45 days for Superior National Forest to try and resolve them.
“Lutsen Mountains respects the Forest Service decision process,” said Charlotte Skinner, chief of staff for Midwest Ski Resorts, which owns the ski area, in a statement. “We are committed to being an active and constructive member of our community, and will work collaboratively with sovereign tribal nations, local elected leaders and others to improve our area.”
The decision doesn't “impact the resorts existing operations or ongoing improvements on Lutsen Mountains private land,” the release added.
The new terrain was expected to provide more novice and intermediate runs, reduce crowding on busy runs during weekends and holidays, and include new skier service buildings and more parking. Over the last few years Lutsen has had several days on busy winter weekends where they have sold out lift ticket sales. The ski area, which covers 1,000 acres, offers 95 runs, the longest two miles, that fall off four mountain tops. The ancient Sawtooth Mountain chain rises over 1,000 feet above Lake Superior, which is often in sight on many of the runs.
Three of the Heartlands largest ski resorts have added new high-speed lifts to improve uphill access and one also for comfort. The new lifts will be operational for the 2023/24 ski season.
Boyne Highlands is installing the Midwest's first six-person bubble chairlift. It's replaced three older, slower three-person lifts—Camelot, Valley and MacGully. It extends to the top of Upper Camelot slope, which will allow for quicker access to a variety of scenic, popular terrain. The Camelot slope is being extensively regraded to also allow progressing beginners to enjoy the benefits of the new lift. The new lift will be the ultimate in comfort ride. It will have heated, extra wide seats that are ergonomically designed, plus individual footrests. You'll be warm and protected from the elements with a quick three-minute ride to the top in what the Highlands is billing as the fastest ride in the Midwest.
Snowriver Mountain Resort is installing the first six-seat, high-speed lift in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. A much needed improvement it will be replacing three old double chairlifts that took about a 10-minute ride to climb the 630-foot Jackson Creek ski hill, largest in the UP. It's an upside down resort where you start from the top of the ski hill and take the chairlift back to the top where the day lodge and all the lodging is located. The new lift will make it a quick ride back up in about three-and-half minutes, which will mean more slope time.
Lutsen Mountains is installing a new high-speed, six-person chairlift called the Raptor Express on popular Eagle Mountain, which will be their second high-speed, six-seater. Their first was installed a few years ago on Moose Mountain. They also operate the only gondola in the Heartland that takes passengers from Eagle up to Moose, which rises over a 1,000 feet above Lake Superior. 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. Eagle Mountain offers some of the best bump skiing around the Great Lakes.
Longtime SnoCountry Midwest Editor Mike Terrell recently published a book titled “On The Trails Of Northern Michigan,” which is a collection of his outdoor columns published in the Traverse City Record Eagle. The book was submitted for the Michigan Outdoor Writer's Association annual awards contest this year, and was selected for an award for outdoor books announced at the Association's annual Conference in early May.
It covers a smorgasbord of trails in state parks, national forests, along Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and regional land conservancy holdings. There are 75 trails including waterway trails for kayaking and canoeing that cover all four seasons. They lead to some of the best wildflower displays, cool cathedrals of pine and old growth forests to hike under during summer's heat. Hike to windswept vistas of Lake Michigan, inland lakes, through forests and river valleys. Fall hikes lead to colorful panoramas, and winter trails take you on a hushed day trips through snow covered fields and forests. It's a guide for all seasons.
Terrell has spent over 40 years exploring nooks and crannies around northern Michigan, writing hundreds of columns and directing thousands of readers to trails throughout this scenic, glacier carved landscape. It's easily some of the most impressive scenery and trails you will find in the Midwest and around the Great Lakes. All of the pictures in the book were taken by the author.
The book was published June 2021 and has spent several months on Northern Michigan's Best Selling Book List published in the Record Eagle every Sunday. The list is compiled by Horizon Books, northern Michigan's largest independent book retailer and based on book sales throughout the region. The book is available at Amazon.com, and local book stores throughout northern Michigan.
Terrell has been the Midwest Editor for Snocountry.com since 2012 when it first started posting weekly news items for the Heartland's ski country, which includes Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri South and North Dakota. He has skied in all of these states over the years.
Boyne Mountain officially ended the Heartland's ski season last Saturday, April 16, as temperatures hit mid-80s with a handful of ski runs still open. By still remaining open last weekend they also clinched the 2023 Michigan Last Chair Challenge against Mount Bohemia. Last season they ended in a tie as the last two ski areas in the state still open, and closed at the same time. When the competition started a few years ago both skied into the first weekend of May. Mount Bohemia's last day, which has no snow making capabilities, was Saturday April 9.
A bet of $1,000 is involved. The loser pays it to the winner's chosen charity, which this year is Top of Michigan Trails supporting the leadership efforts they have taken with bike trail-making efforts. Last year when they tied both donated to their choice. Mount Bohemia's donation will help purchase safety, way-finding and trailhead signage to mark the way for the Boyne Valley Trailway between Charlevoix and Boyne City and Boyne Falls, according to social media post by Boyne.
Boyne's last Saturday was actually a multi-sport day with the Hemlock Open, which pairs two-person teams with ski racing in the morning and a golf scramble in the afternoon. It's a two-run giant slalom format in the morning race and a 9-hole golf scramble in the afternoon. This is an annual event the Mountain holds, and a couple of years it was held the first weekend of May. The last time was 2018.
Both are very busy in summer with many activities
Boyne Mountain summer activities include world class golf, both mountain biking and paved trail biking, zip-lining, scenic chairlift rides, and a nice beach on large Deer Lake.
Mount Bohemia summer activities include wellness retreats in the summer, kayaking, hiking and biking in the area on beautiful mountain roads often offering stunning views of Lake Superior.
The last post I put on SnoCountry about South Dakota's Deer Mountain was in October 2021 that it planned, with new owners, reopening for the winter 2022/23. It never happened.
Now a post I found on AZ Animals.com says that the owner, Keating Resources, which bought the closed ski area in 2017 as I reported in the above post It is still working on developing a 150-acre winter sports venue with a focus on snow tubing runs, not skiing. They also plan on putting in a massive Mountain Biking Park that will operate all year long. According to the report they hope to open it July 4 this coming summer, which is a tall order considering the time span.
They plan on using some of the old Deer Mountain ski lifts to get the mountain bikers up the mountain, and adding new trails and features to accommodate a variety of mountain bike skills. They can also use many of the old resort's 44 ski trails. It will have trails available for all skill levels from novice to expert.
Keating Resources, located in Atkinson, Nebraska, investing in real estate in Florida, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Nebraska, feels the new bike park will attract between 5,000 and 10,000 bikers per year to the Black Hills. They are also selling 200 improved, one to three acre mountainside home lots. No mention was made of reopening skiing, and if it were to reopen it most likely be for Deer Mountain Village residents.
Deer Mountain, which opened over 50 years ago became a popular ski area, along with its nearby neighbor Terry Peak that opened in 1936. The Mountain had an 850-foot vertical. There are over 400 miles of snowmobile and ATV trails, fly fishing in Spearfish Creek. The well known Deadwood, which offers gaming and entertainment, is nearby. The Black Hills offer the highest peaks, over 7,200 feet, between the Rockies and Alps in Europe.
Three of the Heartlands largest ski resorts are going to be busy this summer adding new high-speed lifts to improve uphill access and one also for comfort. The new lifts will all be operational for the 2023/24 ski season.
Boyne Highlands will be installing the Midwest's first six-person bubble chairlift. It's replacing three older, slower three-person lifts—Camelot, Valley and MacGully. It extends to the top of Upper Camelot slope, which will allow for quicker access to a variety of scenic, popular terrain. It will also serve as the primary lift for summer chairlift rides and expanding mountain bike trails. The Camelot slope is being extensively regraded to also allow progressing beginners to enjoy the benefits of the new lift. The new lift will be the ultimate in comfort ride. It will have heated, extra wide seats that are ergonomically designed, plus individual footrests. You'll be warm and protected from the elements with a quick three-minute ride to the top in what the Highlands is billing as the fastest ride in the Midwest.
Snowriver Mountain Resort is installing the first six-seat, high-speed lift in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. A much needed improvement it will be replacing three old double chairlifts that took about a 10-minute ride to climb the 630-foot ski hill, largest in the UP. It's an upside down resort where you start from the top of the ski hill and take the chairlift back to the top where the day lodge and all the lodging is located. The new lift will make it a quick ride back up in about three-and-half minutes, which will mean more slope time. Lutsen Mountains and Granite Peak owner Charles Skinner, Jr. purchased the old Indianhead/Black Jack ski hills last fall renaming it Snowriver Mountain Resort. Look for many improvements over the coming years.
Speaking of Lutsen they are installing a new high-speed, six-person chairlift on popular Eagle Mountain, which will be their second high-speed, six-seater. Their first was installed a few years ago on Moose Mountain. They also operate the only gondola in the Heartland that takes passengers from Eagle up to Moose, which rises over a 1,000 feet above Lake Superior. 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. Eagle Mountain offers some of the best spring bump runs around the Great Lakes.
Minnesota's Lutsen Mountains is holding their Meltdown April 14-16, which will feature seven bands over the weekend. You can save up to 40-percent off lift and lodging packages. Three of their four mountains will be open to offer 50-plus runs for your skiing pleasure. They will be open daily through April 9 and reopen for the Meltdown. They originally had planned to stay open weekends through the month as in past years, but due to the installation of their new six-seat Raptor Express Chairlift on Eagle Mountain they will close for the season after skiing on Sunday April 16. The slopes are in prime spring skiing condition having received over 12 feet of snow so far this season, and more is on the way. It's a party on the North Shore.
Ski Brule, located in Michigan’s UP, plans to stay open Saturday and Sundays through April 15. They just received 18-inches of snow on April 1, no fooling. They are fully open and trails are in great shape. Sunday, April 16, is Carload Day. Pack the car as full as you can and everyone in the car gets a free lift ticket for the day. That is supposed to be their last day of the season. With all the snow they have received and the possibility of more during the month they say, on their website, that the operational schedule is subject to change, which leaves the possibility of staying open weekends later in the month. They have skied weekends through April in past years.
Mount Bohemia, also located in the UP, plans on remaining open weekends through April. Their Nordic Spa will also remain open weekends through the month, which makes the perfect winter weekend getaway. Skiing and spa time afterwards a great combination. All the backcountry skiing is fully open and conditions are in excellent shape. Lift tickets are $87.
Boyne Mountain, in Michigan's Lower Peninsula, is staying open daily through April 9, and possibly longer on weekends as long as the snow holds out. A couple of past years they stayed open weekends into May and often the end of the month.
The ski season is winding down across Montana, but the major ski areas are staying open into April. There’s still time for Heartlanders to plan one more western trip to close out the season, and snow conditions are in excellent shape.
Big Sky Resort is extending the season through April 23 affording a little more time to enjoy some great spring conditions. Get your last laps and take advantage of spring and experience some of the best conditions all season. Stay slopeside with rates as low as $179/night between April 9 and closing day. She Jumps Wild Skills Junior Ski Patrol, which takes place April 8, is a one-day camp where girls learn mountain safety and first aid. Topics include first aid, avalanche control, snow science, weather stations, toboggans, avalanche rescue techniques, radio communication, avalanche dogs, and more. This event is for female and non-binary identifying skiers and riders ages 8-17. Intermediate to advanced ability is required.
Whitefish Mountain Resort conditions are prime spring skiing. Plans call for closing after skiing and riding Sunday, April 9. Lift tickets are currently $87 online through end of the season, and lodging packages for as little as $168 per night for two adults can be found on the resort's lodging page. Come out and witness one of the best end of season pond skims around. Ski or snowboard over a custom-built pond (costume mandatory) for a chance at a $1,200 cash purse. You must be 16 years old to participate. Online pre-registration is required.
Red Lodge Mountain is staying open through April 9, and it’s some of the best late season skiing and riding in recent years. A lodging package at the historic Pollard Hotel in the nearby town of Red Lodge starts from $140, two people per night. Among western notables that have stayed here are Buffalo Bill Cody and Calamity Jane. Lift tickets in April for the last week of the season are running around $78 per person.
Bridger Bowl with four large bowls within ski boundaries has lift and lodging deals in nearby Bozeman that start from $140 per night, double occupancy. Bridger is fully open and plans on closing April 9. Lift tickets are $70 daily in April.
April Fools Day may be on the horizon, but no fooling there is still some fun to look forward to on upper Midwest ski slopes. Don't put those skis and snowboards away just yet. Get out and enjoy some of the best slope time of the season with prime conditions and longer daylight hours.
Wisconsin's Granite Peak is hosting an April Fool's Festival, Saturday, April 1, which includes clowns, a circus atmosphere and a cardboard cup race on the slopes in view of the historic deck. Sleds can only be constructed of cardboard, zip ties, & duct tape. The Peak's Pond Skim event took place Saturday, March 25.. Competitors who made it across had a shot at a 23/24 Season Pass, based on judges choice. They remain open daily through April 8.
Mount Bohemia, in Michigan's UP, which remains open weekends through April, is hosting a Beach Party on Saturday April 1. It includes a pool party, and an egg hunt for prizes. Dress up in your best Fools Day costume to hit the slopes. The winner with the best costume will receive two seats for a day in the Voodoo Mountain snowcat next season. There's also a bikini race with the winner receiving a two year season pass. The winner is voted on for both form and the best bikini. An egg hunt also takes place with prizes involved.
Minnesota's Lutsen Mountains is hosting it's infamous and long running Sweetwater Shakedown March 31-April 2. Cool nights and warm spring sun push the North Star State maples into producing sweet maple syrup. It also produces some of the finest spring corn snow skiing around the Great Lakes. Hence the celebration of the sweet water run (maple syrup) with sweet skiing and sweet music with eight bands performing over the three days, day and night. It's one of the best spring skiing events in the Heartland. Lutsen remains open daily through April 19.
All are in good shape with most of their slopes and trails open heading towards April.
Five Heartland ski areas are celebrating significant milestones this season. All have been in business at least 65 years and a couple started in 85 and one 75 years ago, according to the National Ski Areas Association.
Pine Mountain, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and Wilmot Mountain, just north of Chicago along the Wisconsin border, opened in 1938, and celebrate 85 years this season. They opened just a couple of years after Sun Valley in the west and Bromley Mountain opened in the east, both credited with kicking off the North American ski resort industry. That first chairlift installed at Sun Valley 87 years ago was purchased by Everett Kircher in 1947, moved to Boyne Mountain and introduced the modern era of skiing to the Heartland. It's still in use hauling visitors to the top of Mountain to hike across the world's longest timber towered suspension bridge that was opened last fall. It's available to walk across year round.
Wilmot Mountain, located just north of Chicago along Wisconsin’s border, also turned 85 this season. Its unassuming vertical drop of 230 feet is offset by its stature with the million or so skiers that have skied here since it opened in 1938. It offers 25 trails, seven lifts and two surface tows to accommodate the large weekend crowds.
Pine Mountain is also home to the Kiwanis Ski Club jumping tournament that draws the best jumpers worldwide every year. Jump Weekend is where the US jumping record was set at 140 meters/459 feet and is still held here. The ski area offers a 500-foot vertical, 27 runs, three chairlifts and two surface tows.
Lutsen Mountains, 75 years old, opened in 1948. It's the largest ski resort around the Great Lakes with a nearly 900-foot vertical, the only gondola in the Heartland, and 95 runs scattered across four mountains. It lives up to its namesake “Mountains of the Midwest.” It's located in Minnesota's Arrowhead offering gorgeous views of Lake Superior from most of it's trails.
Minnesota's Wild Mountain, which came under new ownership two seasons ago, has announced plans for improvements again this summer to be done in time for the 2023/24 season.
This summer they are installing a new Skytrac four-person chairlift, which will replace the tired old Chairlift 3 as the main way up the slopes. It was Wild's very first lift installed in 1972. It has served the ski area well, and, in response to several inquiries, they plan on selling the individual chairs to the public. Details aren't available yet as to when and how that will take place. Keep checking the Wild Mountain Facebook page.
They also plan on updating the entrance in a big way. Plans are to modify the entrance into the base lodge with larger doors, windows and a new modern exterior. They also plan on adding landscaping and removing the old schoolhouse building creating a new guest drop-off zone and roundabout.
Last summer the added the new Corduroy Club Bar, a large sun deck and patio. They also proudly announced that they had become a carbon neutral company.
Wild offers 26 trails, including the double-black Wall and an easy trail from top of the Mountain, four terrain parks, and eight lifts including four quads. Season passes are currently on sale through April 3. An adult pass is $314, and will be going up $85 on April 4. For those that are currently not existing pass holders they can ski the remainder of this season for $59 with a new purchase. They make $1 donation for each season pass sold to help environmental causes in the area.
Presently they are 100-percent open and don't plan on closing until March 20. If conditions remain prime they may extend the season, which will be determined at a later date. They were one of the first ski areas to open in the Midwest this season, and normally are one of the last to close.
It's just been announced that the Indy Pass for 2023/24 is currently on sale through March 21, but only for current and former passholders. The adult base price is $279 and the Indy + Pass is $379 for zero blackout days, according to press release from Doug Fish.
I wrote in an October post, “The Indy Pass for Heartland skiers and riders, with the new ski areas that have joined, is a great choice. Many of the ski areas and resorts are located near each other, which presents an excellent opportunity for several multi-day road trips across the Heartland.”
If you didn't purchase a pass for this ski season the best you can hope for now is to be placed on a waitlist to reserve access to passes before the general public. The waitlist can be joined on the website, according to the press release. The waitlist member opportunity begins on March 24 and ends six days later on March 30. General public sales begin on April 1 if any passes are available at that time.
The popularity of the Indy Ski Pass, according to Fish, led to restrictions being placed on the number of passes to be sold for next season.
“Our passholders choose the pass because it offers access to a fantastic lineup of independent resorts with less crowded slopes. As we grow the last thing we want to do is overwhelm the resorts and ruin the experience for their guests.”
Many Midwesterners buy a season pass for convenience at a ski area near them that they enjoy skiing or riding. If you like to visit a variety of ski areas throughout the season rather than just staying with one you considered purchasing the Indy Pass, which offered the most choices of any multiple ski area pass in the Midwest. It's good at 30 ski areas scattered across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and South Dakota.
It's good at three of the Heartland's largest ski resorts, Lutsen Mountains, near a 900 foot vertical in the Gopher State, Granite Peak, at 700 feet, in the Badger State, and Terry Peak, over a 1,000 feet, in South Dakota's Black Hills.