A Story Of David & Goliath – Madison WI Skiing

Tyrol Basin Indy Pass Photo by: Ian Mullarney

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In the driveway is a green Chrysler minivan. From the tailpipe, a cloud of vapor spews out surrounding the vehicle. It’s packed full with rambunctious teenagers. The door swings open and music can be heard blaring from the car. “Let’s go bro! First chair is calling.” All summer, our crew had been waiting for deep winter days. The back of the vehicle is stacked with boards and boots stinking from a half-season full of riding. Hopping into the back, we pull out and head up north for some Madison WI skiing. On the way, we talk about the new video that just came out and the tricks being pulled. The stoke was high!

Stepping out the door, it’s pitch-black and so cold it could shatter glass.

Snowboarding doing a method at Tyrol Basin Madison WI Skiing
Photo: Courtesy Ian Mullarney – Showtime Booter

Darkness slowly loses its hold and light begins to creep over the horizon. We realize then that it’s going to be bluebird!!!! Continuing to trudge northward, we exit the expressway and head into the hills with the road becoming windier and more remote. A few cows wearing deep shaggy coats and hot breath bellowing from their mouths meant we are close. After the final turn, the van cruises into a tiny parking lot. Eagerly we jump out of the ride. The tailgate swings open and the boards crash out onto the ground. Quickly we strap up our gear, grab our decks and head to the ticket office.

There it is… Tyrol Basin

Photo Courtesy - Terri Wilhelm
Photo Courtesy – Terri Wilhelm

Passing through a quaint set of wooden buildings, we finally arrive at the main office. Standing on the deck we overlook the scene. There it is…Tyrol Basin THE sport for Madison WI skiing. The “Park-Mecca” of the Midwest. The famous Show-Time booter stands perfectly groomed with not a single track on it. Our eyes slowly scan the rest of the landscape. We drool over the insane amount of jumps, rails, and kickers until we see the largest obstacle at Tyrol… the half-pipe.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized how big of an effect this tiny little resort with only 300 vertical feet had on the snowboard world. How perfect their obstacles truly were. Like dynamite that comes in small packages, Tyrol Basin exploded onto the freestyle scene in the late 80’s.

Before the Dragon or Scorpion, there was hand dug…

Photo Courtesy - Colin Droster / Drawstring Productions
Photo Courtesy – Colin Droster / Drawstring Productions

In the late 80’s and early 90’s before “Dragon” or “Scorpion” groomers, half-pipes were hand dug and crafted to perfection. During this era, Tyrol Basin’s name was seen in Transworld Snowboarding listed alongside the behemoths of Breckenridge and Stratton as having one of the best pipes in the nation. Every single square inch of this homey ski area was filled with bumps, rollers, hips, rails, boxes, and even a massive quarter pipe in the spring. They pushed the envelope on what was considered a great park. It makes sense that so many professionals got their start in these humbled quarters. From Tom Gilles to Nate Cole to the Leines brothers, all of the top riders from the Midwest had ridden this resort.

Snow in June in the Midwest?!?!

This hill has always tried to do things a bit different than the rest of the country. For example, they put on a June Summer Snowfest. At the end of a particularly cold and brutal winter, Tyrol decided to purchase a Milwaukee Brewers tarp. Why you ask? Instead of closing up for the season permanently, they decided to harvest all the snow on the mountain and cover it under a tarp. Months later in the beginning of June, they uncovered the snow and built one of their legendary half-pipes. The neon green trees, temps in the 80’s and pros from all over the country showed up to session this once in a lifetime experience.

Photo Courtesy – Terri Wilhelm

You Can’t Live In The Past… But Live In The Present

The half-pipe is no more, but the artistry of making a good park has not disappeared. Opening up in early November (sometimes as early as October) before most resorts are even thinking about snow, Tyrol is always focused on making the conditions the best they can be. Attention to detail can be seen in all features. Another cool thing that sets them apart is $12 Tuesdays! Yup! For only $12, you can rip it up. This deal is all year long, even in the middle of winter.

Snowboarder on the show time booter at Tyrol Basin the premier ski area for Madison WI skiing
Photo Courtesy – Ian Mullarney

Cuisine In The Center Of Wisconsin?

Tyrol Basin is just down the road from Madison, Wisconsin and is THE spot for Madison WI skiing. This city isn’t your normal college town either. Instead of just bar food as you would expect, Madison is filled with amazing cuisine. One thing you have to try is a pasty at Teddy Wedgers. Get your head out of the gutter but keep your dollars out! A few bucks will get you one of these traditional baked pastries filled with meat or veggies. It was introduced to the upper Midwest by Cornish mine workers. The pasty was a convenient way to bring food down mine shafts when working in the numerous gold, silver, and copper mines in the area.

Another original is the Garibaldi™ at Paisans. This sub sandwich was introduced in 1957 and is still going strong. Not too hungry but thirsty? Even though Miller is based in Wisconsin, the state has always been known for their deep selection of micro-breweries. From the Great Dane serving killer food to the Capital Brewery just outside of town, you can always find quality suds.

Tyrol may not be the largest or newest ski area, but there is something special about it. Take it from us at Local Freshies®…this is a place that everyone should visit at least once.

4 thoughts on “A Story Of David & Goliath – Madison WI Skiing

  1. Thanks for this Aliuk! I think you need to write a more personal article about our experiences at Tyrol! I will always associate Fazolis to Tyrol, weird but we someone always stopped there on the way back. This is where I learned to do a 360. Not to brag but I was the guy on skis going over a jump that most couldn’t clear and pulling a 360 over it. I still know the feeling of, and miss the feeling of, going as fast as I could, thinking fuck it this could hurt, to clear it and then having the balls to twist. Long-time ago but it feels good to talk about.

    1. Don & Sue were amazing! On one of our many, many trips from Chicago to Tyrol Basin my ’85 Suburban snapped a tie rod causing us to crash into a ditch. They were nice enough to give us free snacks, some coffee, and made sure we were good until we could help.

      1. Hmmmm. I remember that night with the snapped tie rod. It was an interesting trek through the dark roads and the darker hours to try to find the magical Tyrol Basin so we could bring the snowboarders back to civilization in suburban Chicago. It was an adventure and a pleasure to meet Don and Sue.

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