Big News In “Big Snow” Country – 1st High-Speed Lift Is Coming

skier with mustache carving in powdery snow at Snowriver Mountain Resort Photo by: Gregory Fisher - Image appears courtesy: Midwest Family Ski Resorts

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The “UP” has been near and dear to my heart. It’s where I learned what powder was. A magical place that gets consistent snowfall regardless of storms. This is all thanks in part to the big body of water known as Lake Superior and its lake effect goodness. The big news this summer was Granite Peak’s owners purchasing Big Snow. We knew it was going to be big for the region… we just didn’t know HOW BIG. And the initial big investment is a doozy – the first ever high-speed chairlift is coming to the region.

Name Changes Galore

aerial shot of Black River Basin
Black River Basin part of Snowriver Mountain Resort – Photo by: Gregory Fisher – Image appears courtesy: Indy Ski Pass

When we were skiing Upper Peninsula ski resorts, the two areas were separate – Indianhead Mountain and Blackjack. Back in 2014, Blackjack acquired Indianhead and together they became Big Snow because of its consistent 200-plus inches of snow per year. Like with any acquisition, the new owners want to change the name. There were two motivating factors. First, to eliminate the confusion with another operation with the same name. And secondly, like Palisades Tahoe, sensitivity to the Native American culture. And so, in 2022 it’s becoming Snowriver Mountain Resort. The Indianhead area will be called Jackson Creek Summit, and Blackjack will be Black River Basin.

Our Family’s Last-Minute Powder Mecca

lone skier during heavy snowfall looking at the snow coming
Photo by: Gregory Fisher – Image appears courtesy: Midwest Family Ski Resorts

Growing up in Chicagoland, the closest ski resort with consistent snowfall was the Upper Peninsula specifically Indianhead. Sure, you could fly out West in shorter time but a family of four from the Midwest couldn’t afford a last-minute powder trip. What the UP provided was some of the biggest vertical in the region. Consistent fall-line skiing and most of all lots of REAL snow. The star had begun to fade a bit over the years due to Mt. Bohemia opening to the north and Granite Peak’s massive terrain expansion and high-speed lift upgrades to the south.

A Return To Its Former Glory?

heavy snow falling on the double chairlift at Jackson Creek Summit Snowriver Mountain Resort
Snowy day at Jackson Creek Summit – Photo by: Gregory Fisher – Image appears courtesy: Midwest Family Ski Resorts

These ski resorts haven’t changed much since the 60s. The chairlifts on the property were installed in the 60s, and at more than a mile long, it took over eleven minutes to get to the top. To hear that they’re going to be putting in a high-speed six-pack in this powder filled mecca is exciting. And from a maintenance perspective that they can replace THREE lifts (Chippewa Double, the Leelinaw Triple and the Voyager Quad) with one is a game changer.

Why Did It Take So Long?

two skiers on chairlift at Jackson Creek Summit with Black River Basin in the distance
Black River Basin in the distance – Photo by: Gregory Fisher – Image appears courtesy: Indy Ski Pass

For those who’ve visited the Upper Peninsula or UP, the region is far from any big metropolitan area. The Twin cities are the closest and are more than 200 miles away. Chicago is over 400 miles away. Even the biggest city in the UP is Marquette and it’s just shy over 20,000 people. And yet the peninsula takes up 29% of land in Michigan but contains only 3% of the population. While in the lower peninsula they have 97% of the population, it’s no wonder that ski resorts like Boyne Mountain and Crystal Mountain have installed high-speed lifts.

Now Is The Time

Since the pandemic, downhill skiing has exploded with record numbers during the 2021-22 season including the Midwest. With consistent powder days and some of the biggest vertical, as well as length in trails for the region accompanied with a dash of investment, this could be the dawn of the next golden era for Snowriver Mountain Resort. We certainly hope so.

2 thoughts on “Big News In “Big Snow” Country – 1st High-Speed Lift Is Coming

  1. Worked Indianhead ski patrol 5 years back in the 70’s, helped build Doppelmayr lifts at Beaver Creek, Breckinridge and Winter Park. They are excellent chairlifts but any maintenance issue will cause a wee bit of a base area congestion problem. Also crowd control will be very important, high speed idiots coming into the loading areas could be disastrous. You are replacing 9 seats with 6, hopefully the high speed will compensate.

    1. Hey John,

      Based on the skiers / hour it should compensate but as you point out crowd-control suddenly becomes a bigger issue. Based on how well they’ve managed the high-speed lifts at Granite Peak & Lutsen I have hope that they will… but I’m an eternal optimist. 🙂



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