Skiing Along The Big Muddy And Its Tributaries

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When those outside the Midwest think of the mighty Mississippi River they think riverboats, gambling and long barges hauling grain. Heartlanders know there's also a few ski areas, Chestnut Mountain, Sundown Mountain, Mt. La Crosse, Coffee Mill, Welch Village and Afton Alps located along the northern reaches of the river and its tributaries in Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Perched along craggy bluffs and ridges overlooking the wide Mississippi River valley and its tributaries these ski areas provide some of the most interesting terrain in the Midwest from long blue cruisers to surprising steeps.

Chestnut Mountain is the only full service resort and sits right above the river offering stunning views, a hotel, restaurants and lounges. Located above historic Galena, Illinois it offers a 475-foot vertical, 19 trails cut through rocky bluffs and the seven-acre Far Side Terrain Park.

Sundown Mountain is perched on a river escarpment above Dubuque, Iowa, from which you can see three states, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. A couple of day lodges sit atop the upside down ski area with a 475-foot vertical overlooking a scenic valley once a tributary of the Mississippi. The majority of its 21 trails and slopes are rambling cruisers with a few quick, steep shots. There are also two terrain parks.

 Mt. La Crosse, located just south of La Crosse, Wisconsin, is a delightful sprawl of knolls, chutes and headwalls with a 512-foot vertical. It's home to some of the steepest runs in the Midwest and some are nearly a mile long. With its quaint day lodge, the ski area feels much like a New England mini-Stowe.

Coffee Mill, located about a half-hour south of Red Wing, Minnesota, is a small community run area with a 425-foot vertical offering some great skiing with long runs. It sits back in a horseshoe shaped canyon with nice views of the river valley. Some of the best advanced ski runs in the Heartland, long and western like.

Welch Village, located just 10 minutes north of Red Wing overlooking the Cannon River valley, skis much bigger than its 360-foot vertical. They ski off off two peaks with a nice variety of 50 runs and eight chairlifts. It even has a back bowl.

Afton Alps, located just minutes north of Welch near Hastings, Minnesota, is another sprawling Midwest ski area offering 48 runs, 18 chairlifts and a 360-foot vertical. It's only about 20 miles south of St. Paul. It overlooks the scenic St. Croix River valley. Nicely spread out it absorbs crowds easily.

Like the “Old Man River that just keeps rolling along,” these ski areas have been catering to Heartland skiers for over 60 years. The deep river valleys gouged out by retreating glacial waters centuries ago provide some of the best skiing in the hinterland.

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Female Snowsports Clinics Being Held Across Midwest

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Over the next few weeks, seven Midwest ski areas are hosting women’s ski and snowboard clinics. Three ski areas are located in Minnesota, two in Ohio, and one each in Missouri and South Dakota. A chance to learn a new winter sport or brush up on your technique before a western spring trip, or just enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded women each week during ski season.

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Vail's Midwest Ski Areas Lower Season Pass Rates

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Vail Resorts has announced a 20% decrease in their Epic season passes for the 2021-22 ski season, and that also includes their Epic local passes at all their Midwest ski areas. A little bit of good news for those skiers that like to mainly ski local.

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Minnesota Has Most Midwest Ski Areas Open

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If you want to go skiing in early December in the Midwest, think Minnesota. The Gopher State has the most ski areas open around the Great Lakes, nine open to the public and one currently season pass holders only.

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Require Reservations For Vail Resort's Midwest Ski Areas

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Most Heartland ski areas and resorts are not planning on requiring reservations for daily access to the slopes, but are saying if you wait you may run into sold-out periods. Season pass holders will have priority access through reservations.

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Several Heartland Female Ski Clinics Through February

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Over the next few weeks six Midwest ski areas are hosting women’s ski and snowboard clinics. It's a great chance to brush up before heading west on your spring trip.

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SnoCountry SnoCast: Best Snowstorm In A While For Many

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Following milder weather that has brought mixed precipitation storms, a solid snow is on the way for many. This is the best-looking system in a little while!

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Two Midwest States Offer Grade School Passports

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The Michigan Snowsports Industries Association (MSIA) and Minnesota Ski Areas Association offer passport programs that allow elementary-age kids to give skiing and snowboarding a try for free. In Michigan, it covers both fourth and fifth graders. Minnesota’s program covers just fourth graders. Surprisingly Wisconsin, the Heartland state just behind Michigan for a number of ski areas doesn't offer such a program.

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New Season Pass Options For Heartlanders

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For Midwestern skiers that like to get in a lot of slope time around the country outside the Heartland, a few new options are available for this season.

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Midwest Passes That Offer Multiple Ski Areas

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It’s the time of year when many consider ski pass purchases for next season. If you are happy skiing your favorite area only and not interested in passes offering multiple options, read no further. There are a few a few options for Heartland skiers that like to ski many areas over the winter, and three of the alternatives offer options for those that like to take a winter trip or three to the mountains.

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Female Ski Clinics Taking Place Across Heartland

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Several ski areas located near Midwest major cities are hosting female ski clinics over the next month. Enjoy that slope time even more with improved form and confidence.

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Michigan And Minnesota Ski Areas Offer Grade School Passports

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The Michigan Snowsports Industries Association (MSIA) and Minnesota Ski Areas Association 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.

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Ski Season Kicks Off Early Across Midwest

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Winter has arrived across the upper Midwest. Many ski areas and resorts are opening this weekend, and Thanksgiving Weekend also looks good if you want to get away for that first ski trip of the new season.

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SnoCountry SnoCast: Winter Returns to the West

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Snow has been below average for parts of the West but this week features a big change. (Brighton Resort/Facebook)

A much colder and snowier weather pattern returns to the West with feet of snow while the East warms up with more mixed precipitation.

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Several Heartland Female Ski Clinics Taking Place

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Ski Girl's Rock on Afton Alps' slopes. (Afton Alps/Facebook)

Over the next few weeks seven Midwest ski areas are hosting women’s ski and snowboard clinics. Two ski areas are located in Indiana, and one each in Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin.

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Many Ski Resorts Across Upper Midwest Opening

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Boyne Highlands freshly groomed. (Boyne)

Winter has arrived across the upper Midwest and is even allowing some ski areas in the lower Heartland to fire up and test the snowguns. It’s some of the earliest openings in 20 years.

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Stay In Winter Mode With Resort Ice Skating

Stay In Winter Mode With Resort Ice Skating

Skate with the stars at Sun Valley (Sun Valley/Facebook)

Downhill skiing and ice skating have been linked closely during the cold winter months, and a number of winter resorts around the country link with outdoor ice rinks.


Most stay open into the evenings, and typically charge a fee for a couple of hours of skating, offer skate rentals that are sometime free if you’re staying at the resort, and have food and drink nearby.

SnoCountry.com took a look around the country, and came up with some ice rinks of note for some skating enjoyment:

Squaw Valley ice skating

Squaw Valley. You have to take an 8-minute cable car ride to 8,200-foot High Camp to reach a 100x200 foot rink, with Olympic Museum and mind-blowing views of the Sierra and Lake Tahoe. Cost includes tram ride.

Sun Valley. Outdoor rink next to Sun Valley Lodge in main village, the 77-year-old sheet hosts popular Sun Valley Ice Shows. Individual or group lessons available, and world-class skaters often stop by for practice and autographs.

Keystone ice skating

Keystone. Colorado resort has two skating venues: A five-acre lake in the heart of the resort’s village with Zambonis putting down new surface; and, the more traditional Dercum Square Ice Rink near the base of the ski and snowboard mountain.

Guidant John Rose Oval

Guidant John Rose Oval. While not at a resort, this 110,000 square-foot sheet in Roseville, Minn., is close enough for skiers and snowboarders from nearby Afton Alps, Hyland Hills and Buck Hill to stop by apres-ski. Rink has hosted U.S. and international speedskating competitions.

Liberty Mountain. The Pennsylvania resort opened a new skating pond this season, located in the newly renovated pedestrian core of the base area and open daily till 10 p.m. Courtyard Pond has seating for viewers.

Whiteface skating

Whiteface. Take a turn on the same ice as Olympic champ Sonja Henie, and where annual Stars on Ice Tour features top skaters. The Speed Skating Oval has skate rentals and a fir pit in the middle. Or glide onto Mirror Lake for some old-fashioned pond hockey.


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Women Take Center Stage Across Heartland Ski Country

Women Take Center Stage Across Heartland Ski Country

Join pro skier Lisa Densmore at Boyne Highlands. (Boyne Highlands)

Over the next few weeks eight Midwest ski areas are hosting women’s ski and snowboard clinics. Two ski areas are located in Michigan, two in Indiana, and one each in Ohio, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin.

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Ski And Ride With Lift Tickets Under $60

Ski And Ride With Lift Tickets Under $60

Stunning views at Pebble Creek. (Pebble Creek/Facebook)

Savvy skiers and riders know there are great deals to be found out there to get you on the snow. Buying online ahead of time is often the easiest way to cut costs, but even if you wait until you arrive at the mountain to get your tickets, there are still affordable options at resorts across the country.

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Major Projects Taking Place At Several Midwest Ski Resorts

Major Projects Taking Place At Several Midwest Ski Resorts

Crystal Mountain Inn at the Mountain expansion taking place. (Crystal Mountain)

Despite the warm winter across the Midwest last season that negatively impacted the ski season a half-dozen ski resorts are completing major projects for the 2016/17 winter season. Four are located in Michigan and one each in Ohio and Wisconsin.

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