Combine Midwest Ski Trip And Romance For Valentine's Day

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With Valentine's Day approaching why not combine a Heartland ski trip with a romantic location and enjoy the best of both. Here are some great choices to consider around the Great Lakes for both great skiing and romantic nights.

Lutsen Resort, nestled along Lake Superior’s north shore, sits literally just across the road from Lutsen Mountains that rises almost 1,000 feet above the lake. The ski area offers 95 runs that tumble down four interconnected mountains. Minnesota Monthly Magazine calls the 140-year-old resort that sits right on Superior's shoreline “the most romantic resort in the state.” They offer a Ski and Stay package available throughout the winter. Combine your lodging with your ski tickets and save on both. Guests are offered round trip free shuttle service to the ski hill, just minutes away.

Wisconsin’s Granite Peak and the city of Wausau make a nice romantic combo. At night the ski area illuminates the mountain rising above the city. The Jefferson Street Inn, located on the town square, offers a romantic getaway. It's just minutes from the ski area, and after a busy day on the slopes enjoy a soak in their hot tub and a dip in the indoor pool. The Inn's Char Grillhouse is perfect for a romantic dinner. Room rates over Valentine's Day start from around $140 per night. Purchase your lift tickets online from the ski area, and the earlier you reserve the more you save.

Chestnut Mountain, near Galena, Illinois, is perched high atop a ridge overlooking the Mississippi River, and offers some of the best skiing in the Tri-State Region, Trails cut through rock bound cliffs look like they take you right to riverbanks. It's a romantic setting with rooms overlooking the ski slopes and river. The hotel's restaurant the Summit Food & Spirits also offers river views and fine dinning. Room rates midweek at that time are around $120 per night. Purchase your lift tickets ahead of time online from the ski area, and save.

The Inn at Bay Harbor, located in Petoskey between Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain, offers twenty-percent off lift tickets at either ski area with their Romance Package. They provide flowers, wine and much more in a romantic setting. All you have to do is cozy in, and celebrate your love. Between the two ski areas, about a half-hour apart, they offer over 100 ski trails, multiple lifts including high-speed, and numerous terrain parks. The Inn is one of the more romantic locations in Petoskey, often called the “Nantucket of the Midwest.”

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Colder Temperatures Helping Midwest Ski Areas

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The colder winter like temperatures that spilled across the upper Midwest at the beginning of the new year came with an almost audible-like sigh that might have been the sound of snowguns once again firing up at ski areas. Or, it could have been a collective sigh of relief from ski area operators finally seeing the unusually slow start to winter hopefully coming to an end.

Most ski areas have opened in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. In Ohio Boston Mills Brandywine, Mad River Mountain, and Snow Trails are open. Indiana's Perfect North Slopes, the Heartland's southernmost ski area has been open since the holidays, which is a testament to their snowmaking operation. The Hoosier State's other ski area, Paoli Peaks is not open. Illinois has four ski areas, but only Chestnut Mountain is open and operating daily. All three of Iowa's ski areas are open, Both of Missouri's ski areas remained closed at this time, and offer no expected opening date on their web pages. On their Facebook pages they say they are making snow. 

Wisconsin Ski Areas Association has a unique program that 15 of the Badger State's ski areas are participating in, which is called First Tracks Fridays. Experience the joy of hitting pristine slopes early, benefiting from the meticulous grooming and excellent snow conditions at the participating ski areas across the Dairy State. Ski areas participating in First Tracks Friday are also offering unique discounts, exciting prizes, and more for visitors. It's a unique experience, which many western resorts offer, but kind of unheard of in the Midwest.

Chestnut Mountain, Chicago's closest large ski resort with overnight lodging, is offering a Winter Lodging Special$50 off on select weekends in January and February. You almost feel like you can ski right to the edge of the Mississippi River as you fly down the rock bound runs. You start at the top of the ridge where the hotel sits overlooking the river. It's one of the most scenic ski resorts in the Heartland.

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Indy Pass Best Midwest Ski Pass For Multiple Resorts

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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.

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Indy Ski Pass Road Trip To Chestnut and Sundown

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An Indy Ski Pass road trip to the Mississippi River that flows through northern Illinois and Iowa will net you four days of skiing at two of the Heartland's premier ski areas, Chestnut Mountain in the Prairie State and Sundown Mountain in the Hawkeye State. They sit just a few miles apart located in rocky bluffs and wooded hills above the Mississippi and the historic town of Galena, Illinois, and the port city of Dubuque, Iowa. It's part of what is known as the Driftless Area, a portion of North America that escaped all three phases of the Wisconsin Glaciation.

With the Indy Ski Pass you can enjoy skiing both with one road trip. That means at least four days of interrupted skiing bliss. The pass is good for two free days of skiing or snowboarding at each ski area and 25-percent off a third day pass if you want to stay over. It's only a little over a two-hour drive for Chicagoland snowsports enthusiasts, and the two cities are located right across the river from one another.

Chestnut is perched on a rocky bluff overlooking the Mississippi River above Galena. It offers the biggest vertical drop and most variety within a two-and-a-half-hour radius of the Windy City. It's got a 475-foot vertical drop, 19 runs cut through rock outcroppings, some of the best steep in the Tri-State Region, great beginner terrain, a seven-acre terrain park with its own triple chair, and one of the best rail gardens in the Heartland.

You can stay right at Chestnut's hotel, located on top of the bluff, or nearby Galena offers motel options and several historic B&B's.

Sundown is located a few miles up into the tall hills west of the city. It sits above an ancient river valley that once drained into the Mississippi. You can see three states from on top of the upside down resort, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. You drive up to the day lodges that are located on top where you start. You ski long meandering cedar lined trails into the valley. They have some nice steep on the upper portion of the ski hill. They also have a 475-foot vertical, 21 trails, four lifts, and terrain parks.

They have no lodging at the ski area, but it's a short drive from many Dubuque lodging establishments, and the city also offers a couple of casinos.

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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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Skiing Will Be Available In Upper Midwest For Thanksgiving Holidays

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Recent snow and cold weather are providing an early start to the Heartlands ski season, which is a nice departure from last year when ski areas mostly remained closed over Thanksgiving weekend and had a rough start even in December making enough snow to be fully open over the Christmas holidays.

An early arrival of winter and temperatures cold enough for snowmaking across the upper Midwest are going to allow some ski areas to be open for the Thanksgiving holidays. Minnesota will be offering the most openings with a few in northern Wisconsin and a couple in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The Lower Peninsula ski areas at this point have not announced opening dates, but some have already fired up the snowmaking and hopefully that will come soon.

A couple of ski areas, Wild Mountain in Minnesota and nearby Trollhaugen across the border in Wisconsin have already opened for the season. Afton Alps, Powder Ridge, Andes Towers Hills and Lutsen Mountains are planning on being open this weekend Nov. 18 and 19. Buck Hill is opening on Nov. 22, with Spirit Mountain and Giants Ridge scheduled Nov. 25.

A couple of other Wisconsin ski areas, Cascade Mountain and Christie Mountain are planning on opening over Thanksgiving weekend.

 n the Wolverine State's UP both Snowriver Mountain Resort and Ski Brule are planning to open this coming weekend, Nov. 19, for the season.

Huff Hills Ski Area, located near Bismarck in North Dakota, is opening for the season on Nov. 20, which will mark their earliest opening ever in the 30 years it has been a ski area. Illinois' Chestnut Mountain plans to open Nov. 26, also one of their earliest openings.

In early season it's always a good idea to check the ski area for conditions before making a long drive. Weather can change in just a few days. You can also log onto Snoountry Snow Reports for an up to date review of what's open and conditions.

 

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From The City To The Slopes

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Here are five Midwest cities with day trip worthy ski areas, all within three hours or less. Arriving mid-week you avoid large weekend crowds. Get an early start and enjoy some uncrowded slope time.

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Winter Ziplining At Midwest Ski Areas

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A few Michigan ski resorts have added a little zip to their attractions, literally.

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Five Of The Top Family Ski Resorts In Midwest

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Family-friendly terrain, ski and snowboard teaching programs, and a good variety of advanced and expert terrain. Here are five top ski resorts in the Midwest that can keep families of differing abilities happy.

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Some Of The Midwest Best For Spring Break Family Getaways

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Family-friendly terrain, teaching programs, and a good variety of advanced and expert terrain. Here's a half-dozen of the top family resorts in the Heartland that will keep a family of differing abilities happy for a spring break getaway.

 

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Three Midwest Ski Areas Hit Milestones This Season

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Three old-time Midwest ski areas that have aged well join the “baby boomer” generation. Turning 55 this season are Big Powderhorn, Michigan’s UP, and Welch Village, located in the deep river valleys southeast of the Twin Cities. Chestnut Mountain, the senior member of the group, turns 60 this season.

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Top Halloween Events Around Midwest Ski Resorts

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From a stroll in a haunted forest to great pumpkin races, and a zipline of terror a trio of Heartland ski resorts have some haunting good fun planned leading up to this Halloween. It’s also prime fall color for chairlift rides to the top of the ski hills for some brilliant vistas.

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6,200 Beginners Took Lessons On National Learn to Ski Or Snowboard Day

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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. 

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Top Five Midwest Day Trip Ski Resorts

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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.

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Top Five Family Resorts In Midwest

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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.

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Best Zip Lining At Midwest Ski Areas

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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.

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Many Midwest Mountain Resorts In Good Shape For March

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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.

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Midwest Ski Areas Continue To Struggle With Roller Coaster Winter

Midwest Ski Areas Continue To Struggle With Roller Coaster Winter

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.

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Heartland Ski Resort Dining With A View

Heartland Ski Resort Dining With A View

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.

Aonach Mor Moonlight Dinner at Boyne Highlands.

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.

Sunset views at Sky Bar & Grille and Lodge Restaurant

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.

Chestnut Mountain Sunset Grille

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.


 

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SnoCountry's Best Mountain Top Dining Atop The Midwest

Aonach Mor at Boyne HighlandsMountain 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.

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