The American Birkebeiner North America's Largest Nordic Event Will Take Place


North America's largest cross country ski race, the American Birkebeiner, is able to take place this coming weekend February 24-25 in Hayward, Wisconsin, but will be a shortened version of the 50-kilometer point-to-point race. It will be shortened to a 10K loop of man-made snow, and split the skate-style and classic races over two days.

The event, held in northern Wisconsin, routinely attracts participants from all 50 states and up to 26 countries from around the globe. Thirty five people skied in the first event held in 1973. Today it is one of the largest Nordic races in the world. Each year more than 10,000 skiers participate in the Birkie's week long series of events, according to Wikipedia, which increases the number of people in the small town by tenfold. Hayward's population is listed at around 2,500.

A very mild Midwest winter has played havoc with a number of Nordic events. The North American VASA Race in Traverse City, Michigan, which is held the second weekend of February was canceled this winter, as was a large event scheduled to take place in Marquette earlier this month. Shorter competitions at the Birkebeiner geared towards children, teens, and less-accomplished skiers normally held throughout the week before the big race will be missing this winter.

This first American Birkebeiner was held in 1973 at nearby Telemark Resort, a downhill ski resort Tony Wise and H.B. Hewitt opened the winter of 1947. The ski area is now gone, but a new lodge and era has begun. 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., which will be dedicated to year-round outdoor activities, and host a museum with information and memorabilia about the Birkebeiner.

When fully completed there will be over 17 miles of woodland trails available and  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 will serve as a community center, shopping and rental area, coffee shop, and changing/shower area, is expected to open this spring.




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Tubing Is Popular In The Midwest


The Midwest has around 120 ski areas scattered across the Heartland several offer snow tubing, especially across the lower Midwest. It’s relatively safe, something easy to do yet can be a bit of a thrill ride depending on downhill tilt of the slope.

There are over 40 ski areas offering lift served tubing parks. Minnesota and Wisconsin lead the way with nine each, and all the ski areas in Ohio and Indiana offer tubing. It’s become very popular drawing thousands of tubers on busy weekends.

Here’s a quick tour around the Midwest highlighting some of the top ski area tubing parks.

Ohio’s Boston Mills/Brandywine, located just south of Cleveland, and has the Polar Blast Tubing park, largest in the Buckeye State. It offers, when fully open, 20 tubing lanes with two conveyor belts for easy access back to the top. The tubing park has its own lodge for easy warm up, snacks and drinks. They limit sales, buy your tickets online.

Indiana’s Perfect North Slopes, just a stone throw away from Cincinnati and not far from Indianapolis, offers one of the largest tubing parks in the Heartland. There are 23 lanes, even a couple of super lanes to accommodate families, which plunge 1200 feet down the slope and a couple of conveyor lifts for the trip back up. Weekends can be busy, but it doesn’t deter fun-loving crowds.

Hidden Valley, near St. Louis, has the only tubing park in the Show Me State. The popular Polar Plunge Tubing Park offers 16 lanes with two conveyor lifts back up.

Wilmot Mountain, just a few miles north of Chicago along the Wisconsin border, keeps Windy City tubers busy with the tubing park’s 22 lanes and two conveyor lifts. A lodge is available for snacks, drinks and warm up.

Sunburst Winter Sports Park, between Milwaukee and Sheboygan, has one of the top 10 tubing parks in the country, according to an article in USA Today. They offer 50 lanes and two conveyor lifts to keep the fun moving. A tubing café is available for snacks and drinks.

Near the Twin Cities Buck Hill offers a dozen chutes for tubing with a conveyor lift back up. Wild Mountain, about an hour east, has Wild Chutes, which offers several lanes of sledding fun and a conveyor lift. An extra-wide lane is dedicated to double-wide chains. It’s popular on weekends, but handles crowds well.

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Combine Midwest Ski Trip And Romance For Valentine's Day


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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Heartland Ski Resorts Celebrating Significant Milestones


No less than seven Heartland ski areas are celebrating significant milestones this season. All have been in business at least 65 years and a couple started 85 years ago, according to the International Skiing History Association.

Pine Mountain in Michigan's UP and Wisconsin’s Wilmot Mountain, near Chicago, both opened in 1938. Wilmot has arguably produced more Midwest skiers than any other ski hill in the Heartland. Terry Peak in the Black Hills of South Dakota was the first ski resort to open in the Midwest. It opened two years earlier in 1936 followed closely by Granite Peak in the Badger State and the Wolverine State's Caberfae in 1937.

A decade later Wisconsin’s Mont Du Lac, Lutsen Mountains in Minnesota and Boyne Mountain in Michigan all opened in 1948. The Mountain also brought the first chairlift to the Midwest. Both are celebrating 75 years of hosting heartland skiers.

In 1958 Wisconsin’s Tyrol Basin and Michigan's Nubs Nob opened and are celebrating 65 years this season.

Midwest skiing has a long proud history. It’s developed at a pace with the rest of the country. Heartland ski areas have attitude and terrain to match, and these eight ski areas and resorts are great examples of the regions diversity. You don’t have to go far to find skiing and riding across this broad region. It’s been around for a few decades. An added bonus for Heartland skiers is that many of the ski areas also offer night skiing, which you don't find at many western ski resorts.

There are over 120 ski areas scattered across the Heartlands with the most grouped around the Great Lakes states. Michigan has the most ski areas with a little over 40 followed by 30 in Wisconsin and 19 in Minnesota. Michigan's Mount Bohemia in Michigan's UP was recently voted as the top ski resort in the United States by USA Today readers in it's annual poll.

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Midwest Ski Area Holiday Celebrations


Despite the uneven start of winter across the Heartland you can count on holiday celebrations and skiing these ski resorts around the upper Great Lakes.

Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands will be celebrating the sights and sounds of the holidays through January 1 with lots of planned activities, and New Year’s Eve dinners, live bands and celebrations capped with fireworks over the ski slopes. Holiday week takes place on the Mountain December 20 through January 1, and at the Highlands December 15 through December 31st. The Midwest's first eight seat, high-speed lift will be operating on the Mountain's Disciples Ridge, and the first modern bubble liftin the Heartland, which offers a very comfortable ride, will be heading up the slopes at the Highlands.

Crystal Mountain will be hosting holiday celebrations December 22 through January 6. On the 24th ski with Santa. Planned activities will be taking place every day—fat bike tours, snowshoe tours, outdoor lasar tag horse drawn surrey rides—with dinners, live entertainment and New Year’s Eve celebrations. For families planning a visit kids 17 and under sleep free any time and kids from 7-17 ski free Sunday through Thursday. Six and under kids sleep, ski and eat breakfast free any time.

Shanty Creek’s 12 days of holiday events include story time with Santa on Friday December 15 and breakfast with the jolly old elf Saturday, December 16 and a visit with Santa at Schuss Mountain that evening and stay for the Torchlight Parade at 7:15 (weather permitting) and fireworks over Schuss Mountain. On Christmas Day ski and ride free with Santa on the Schuss Mountain slopes. Just bring a non-perishable food item or clothing to donate.

Ski Brule will be hosting a New Year's Eve celebration with skiing, tubing, a dinner, torchlight parade down the ski hill and fireworks over the ski hill followed by music and dancing through midnight. They currently have $58 advanced lift tickets on sale through December 24, which are valid anytime during the 2023/24 season. It's a savings of $15 per lift ticket.

Granite Peak is hosting their first ever Holiday Themed Family Festival, December 15-17, Santa and Buddy Elf will be there on Saturday, a special fireworks show that evening. There will be groomer rides with Santa an additional $20 per person, free s'mores lots of holiday lights and cheer. Family Festival weekend packages are priced and designed for families of three or more. Packages include discounted lift tickets with a two-night stay as well as free rentals for kids 12 & under.

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Trollhaugen Nears Completion On New Chairlift


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.

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Indy Pass Best Midwest Ski Pass For Multiple Resorts


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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Wisconsin's Mt. Telemark Village Becoming A Reality


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.


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New Lifts Scheduled For Some Big Midwest Resorts


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.

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Upcoming Fun Events Around Upper Midwest Ski Areas


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.

Also open daily into April are Michigan's Boyne Mountain open through April 19, Crystal Mountain and Snowriver Mountain Resort through April 2.

All are in good shape with most of their slopes and trails open heading towards April.

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Handful Of Midwest Ski Areas Celebrating Milestones This Season


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.

Michigan's Nubs Nob and Wisconsin’s Tyrol BasinPine both opened in 1958 and celebrated 65 years in business this season.

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Midwest Indy Pass Holders Have Until March 21 To Purchase 23/24 Pass On Sale


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.

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SnoCast: Seeking Out Fresh Flakes


If you're a weekly reader of SnoCast, this week's outlook sounds and looks a lot like the last.

A storm system treks across the lower Great Lakes Thursday delivering a wintry "mixed bag" to Midwest ski areas and parts of the Northeast. Out West, we'll see a brief lull before the next system digs in next week with healthy snow expected.

Continue reading
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Indy Ski Pass Road Trip To Michigan's Western Upper Peninsula


In the 1980s and early 1990s one of my favorite Michigan road trips from the Lower Peninsula was to the western side of the Upper Peninsula. You had four nice Midwest ski resorts to visit. Spending at least four days skiing all of them was a treat, and at that time they cooperated so that staying at one allowed you to ski all the others. Sometime in the 1990s they ceased to cooperate. You could ski all four, but it was all individually and no more cross ticketing.

The resorts are still there, although with Lutsen purchasing two of them, Indianhead and Blackjack, and re-branding them as one under Snowriver Mountain Resort you now ski them as one resort. Big Powderhorn and Whitecap Mountains are still independently operated. With the Indy Ski Pass, which all are part of, you can again enjoy skiing all four with one road trip. That means at least six days of interrupted skiing bliss. 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.

Nearby Ironwood, Michigan, which is in the middle of the resorts, offers several lodging choices, or you could stay at one of the resorts. They all offer lodging and restaurants. The driving distance between all three is less then a half-hour.

Snowriver Mountain offers two ski areas, Black River Basin and Jackson Creek Summit, that operate as one resort. They offer over 400-acres of terrain, a 670 vertical drop, 15 lifts, 55 trails, and multiple terrain parks between them.

Big Powderhorn offers a 600-foot vertical, 45 trails, terrain parks, and nine lifts. They ski and ride off two mountain peaks.

Whitecap Mountains is located just across the border on the other side of infamous Hurley, Wisconsin, which was known for its rowdier days during prohibition as a popular getaway for Chicago gangsters. The town still has a party atmosphere. Whitecap offers a 400-foot vertical, 43 trails, five lifts, and skis off three Penokee Mountain tops. It's got some of the most western-like terrain in the Heartland.

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Skiing Along The Big Muddy And Its Tributaries


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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SnoCast: Storms in the East; West (Finally) Settles


The West finally settles down after an extremely active stretch, while the East prepares for three storms this upcoming week. Here's the forecast scoop in this week's SnoCast. 


On Thursday, a storm continues to lift northeastward through the Great Lakes, delivering blustery winds and a healthy 6-12" of snow for parts of northern Michigan and Wisconsin. Great news for Midwest ski areas around Granite Peak, WhitecapShanty Creek, and Big Powderhorn

This same system shifts to the Northeast later Thursday-Friday, delivering much-need 5-10"+ of snow for northern New England ski areas, with highest amounts in northern Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Look to Jay Peak, Burke Mountain, Loon, Sunday River and others nearby.

Unfortunately, warmer air sneaks in from the south generating a wintry mix parts of the Catskills, Poconos, and Berkshires with slick travel expected. 

Colder air returns for all through Friday with light upslope snow lingering across the northern Appalachians, which will be followed up by a beautiful weekend for skiing and riding. Get out and love it! 

A second system will track up the Appalachians to interior New England Sunday through Monday (1/22-23). This time, the rain/snow line threatens to bisect New England from southwest to northeast, so most likely areas to see snow remain across northern Pennsylvania , New York, Vermont and perhaps northern New Hampshire. Keep monitoring as the rain/snow line will shift based on the exact storm track. 

A brief lull Tuesday, before yet another storm targets the Northeast by mid-next week with another good chance of snow for the north. A bit too far out to talk amounts, but at this point, any snow is good snow.



After an unbelievably active stretch, the West finally appears to have a break in view. With nearly a dozen separate storms since late December, California and Utah have had huge totals, now topping some 300-400" on the season (in some cases more, including Alta at 426" and Brighton at 412"!). Excellent news for the snowpack and water resupply out West.

On Thursday, a cold front continues to sag across southern California toward the Southwest U.S. with snow drifting over the four-corners states by Friday. Expect a general 2-6" of snow for the Arizona, southern Colorado, and New Mexico mountains to round out the week. 

Most of Saturday looks pleasant to hit the slopes, albeit breezy over the Rockies.

 A system drops in from western Canada and the northern U.S. Rockies by Saturday night-Sunday with potential for 5-10" in the Washington Cascades, and a fresh 2-6" for Oregon and Idaho before slowly drifting down the northern Rockies by Monday.

This will open to the door and allow much colder air to spill in for much of the West next week.

Check in again each Thursday for a new SnoCast. Until then, happy skiing and riding!

- Meteorologist Kerrin Jeromin


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Celebrating New Years Eve In Midwest Ski Country


Winter has returned across the upper Midwest measured in feet of snow and several resorts have plans to celebrate the season. A welcome return in lieu of the last couple of year's subdued celebrations.

Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands will be celebrating the sights and sounds of the holidays through January 7 with lots of planned activities, and New Year’s Eve dinners, live bands and celebrations capped with fireworks over the ski slopes. The Midwest's first eight seat, high-speed lift opened December 23 on the Mountain's Disciples Ridge.

Crystal Mountain will be hosting holiday celebrations through January 7. On the 24th ski with Santa. Planned activities will be taking place every day—fat bike tours, snowshoe tours, horse drawn surrey rides—with dinners, live entertainment and New Year’s Eve celebrations. Winter Trails Day is January 7 and a great time to try free cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

Treetops is hosting both family and adult-only New Years Eve parties that includes a lobster and filet dinner. Fireworks over the slopes takes place at midnight. An unusual activity that the family can partake in are dog sledding rides. It's the only Michigan snowsports resort that offers an opportunity to try dog sledding.

Ski Brule you can ride with Olympic gold medalist on December 29 and 31 and plan on staying over for the music and dancing 8 p.m.-midnight, a torchlight parade and fireworks at 9 and New Year's Eve dinner. You can also enjoy the Homestead BBQ, a bonfire, music, tubing and sleigh ride on December 30.

Granite Peak is hosting a New Year’s Eve party with a torchlight parade and fireworks over the mountain at 7 p.m. The historic Sundance Chalet will have live music, a special menu, a champagne toast and balloon drop at midnight. The party is free, no cover charge, and kids are welcome at parent’s discretion.

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Rib Mountain State Park And Granite Peak Expansion Proposal Still Ongoing


Over 400 people weighed in on proposed Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources plans for changes to Wisconsin's Rib Mountain State Park and expansion of Granite Peak downhill skiing area during public comment periods in October and November, according to a recent article in the Wausau Daily News. The next step will be for them to forward a draft of their plan to the state's Natural Resources Board for consideration.

Some of the changes include allowing Granite Peak to expand downhill skiing. In 2015 the ski area made application with Wisconsin DNR to access an additional 150 aces of the state park in a long-term lease, which they currently have in place for the 415 acres already leased. Other changes potentially include developing mountain bike trails and adding a trail corridor linking the park with nearby Nine Mile County Recreation Forest.

“The first phase would be adding an additional 12 runs on the west side of the existing ski area and two on the east side. Two chairlifts, including Granite Peak’s fourth high-speed lift, will also be included with the dozen new runs,” owner Charles Skinner, Jr., told SnoCountry at the time. “We really need the additional runs. On busy days the existing runs, especially the most popular, are pretty crowded. Our annual skier visits are around 110,000, and the expansion spreads the crowd out making it more enjoyable for all skiers and snowboarders.”

The expansion will open up mostly new terrain for lower intermediates and beginner, which will allow them access to the top of the mountain and an easier run down, according to Skinner. “The new runs will be much more comfortable for them and get them to the top of the mountain for the thrill of that view,” he said.

The newspaper reported that many members of the business community and civic leaders applauded the plan, which they concluded could help transform the area into an viable outdoor recreation area in the Midwest. The area already has a strong tourism industry. Most of the criticism of the proposal from those who spoke at the hearings were around the proposal to expand downhill skiing saying that it would diminish the natural area and possibly create water runoff problems with melting snow.

Planners could modify the document before submitting it based on public input. No time table was given for approval of the plan by the Natural Resources Board, which has been in the works now for nearly seven year

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Skiing Will Be Available In Upper Midwest For Thanksgiving Holidays


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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New Multi Resort Pass For Great Lakes Skiers And Riders


Michigan based Wisconsin Resorts that owns six Heartland ski areas scattered around the Great Lakes is offering a new season pass good at all six ski areas. It owns Pine Knob, Mt. Holly, Alpine Valley Ski Area and Bittersweet, all in southern Michigan, Alpine Valley Resort in southern Wisconsin, and Searchmont, just across the border in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

If you like to experience different ski areas throughout the season, which many skiers and riders enjoy, it's a nice deal. You only have to visit one of the ski area websites to purchase a season pass, and you are good at all six Wisconsin Resorts' locations.

The cost for an adult pass is $761 through the end of November. A daily lift ticket at any of the ski areas will be $80 this season. A kid's pass is $595 and a senior pass (65+) is $693. Kids and seniors daily lift tickets are also $80 this season. Do the math. If you were to ski just 10 times during the season at just one of the areas you will spend more than the cost of a season pass. The choice to be able to visit all six ski areas, including Searchmont, one of the largest ski resorts around the Great Lakes that's just five hours north of Detroit, is a pretty sweet deal. It offers you lots of choices.

Alpine Valley, Michigan, close to the Knob and Holly, offers a fine trio of ski areas in the Detroit burbs for Michigan skiers and Bittersweet is not far away. It's also enticing for snowsports enthusiasts in the southern part of the Badger State, Chicagoland, and northern Indiana for weekend road trips during the season. Remember the offer is only good through the end of the month and prices will be going up in December.

Located in the rugged, rocky Canadian Shield, Searchmont, with a 750-foot vertical, 21 trails and terrain parks offers a true mountain feel. It's popular with many Michigan and Wisconsin skiers and riders for weekend trips to experience the Shield's mountainous terrain.

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