Let’s first clear the elephant out of the room. Yes, the West gets all the hype and deservedly so. The East is filled with amazing history and features star-studded behemoths as well like Killington and Stowe. But, the Midwest is also home to A LOT of ski resorts. In fact, both Michigan (49) AND Wisconsin (34) have the 2nd and 3rd most resorts in the country after New York and even Minnesota(18) cracks the top 10. What these places lack in vertical they more than make up in passion and experience. In addition, it’s where I learned how to slide down a snowy slope and fell in love with the sport of snowboarding. This isn’t just a Midwest Ski Resort Guide. It also pays homage to a place I still hold very near and dear to my heart.
Terrain & Snow
Bohemia is like a unicorn. A place with steep trees, endless snowfall, and ungroomed terrain. Words cannot fully describe the uniqueness of this place. As soon as you get off the main trails and dive into the oaks, maples, and towering virgin white pine forest, you’ll get it. Zig zagging through the woods, you’ll be blown away by the quantity and quality of snow alongside terrain that you’d find at the top 1,000 vertical feet at a place like Winter Park’s Mary Jane. If you’re fortunate enough to visit on a blue-sky day (snowing 30 days in a row is a normal occurrence), the views of Lac La Belle are jaw-dropping. Oh… and they also have cat skiing!
Indianhead / Blackjack
Great Family Vacation With Awesome Snow
Before Mt Bohemia opened in 2000, the Upper Peninsula O.G. was the duo of ski areas 2 ½ hours west. Within the western Lake Superior snowbelt, these two resorts merged into one, called Big Snow Resort. Named, of course, after the region’s legendary ample high-quality snow that falls here due to lake effect. It’s nearly double or triple most other resorts in the Midwest (210” vs. 60-70”!) Indianhead’s lodging/parking is also unique in that it sits at the top, overlooking the Ottawa National Forest and you ski down. The soft snow plus wide-open terrain is perfect for families. Blackjack’s vertical and acreage might be a bit smaller than Indianhead’s, but it does provide an assortment of tightly treed glades and groomers not to be missed. If you do visit this area, be sure to set aside time to see the Western Hemisphere’s largest active ski jump – Copper Peak. On a clear day, you can see this monster right from the slopes.
It’s All About The Park
What do you do to keep yourself entertained on shorter slopes? Park! And when it comes to kickers, booters, rails, and all sorts of other obstacles, Trollhaugen is annually ranked as one of the best in the Midwest. Continually refreshing the options within each of their three, sometimes four parks, you won’t get bored. Alongside their rope tow access, you can literally make hundreds of laps in their parks without stopping. And on Fridays, you can ski/ride until 3 AM!!! Besides a sick park, it also has a comfy ski bar that allows you a view of almost every run on the hill while sipping on a brew.
Jaw-Dropping Views With A Dash Of History
Conditions and terrain are of course a top priority, but when you actually get away, why not combine it with a full experience. That’s what Chestnut and the historic town of Galena provide. Established in 1826, nearly 85 percent of the “city that time forgot” is on the national register of historic places. Alongside the historic charm, head eight miles southeast to Chestnut Mountain Resort. Perched high above the mighty Mississippi River, the views provided are one-of-a kind. If skiing all day isn’t enough, they also offer up schussing under the lights. It’s the perfect option for a romantic getaway or family vacation.
Best Service & Amenities
When you think of full amenity resorts in the Midwest, Crystal Mountain should be pretty high up on the list. While not the biggest or snowiest resort, Crystal is all about going the extra mile on what it has. From providing the highest quality conditions possible on the slopes to a pedestrian friendly village and a focus on customer service, this all encompassing resort is a great option for those that just need to pamper themselves but still get a bunch of laps in. We’re guessing the word is out since they were the highest ranked ski resort in the Condé Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Award… and not just in the winter, but all four seasons for the Best Resort in the Midwest.
By far the biggest resort in the Midwest is Lutsen Mountains. Sitting on the ancient Sawtooth Mountains, these peaks rise over a thousand vertical feet above the monstrous Lake Superior. Offering four interconnected peaks with 95 trails spread over 1,000 acres, there’s enough variety to keep you occupied for days. Due to its northerly location (nearly 250 miles further north than Minneapolis), the ski season runs WAY longer than the rest of the region too, usually into May. From the summit of Eagle, Ullr, Moose and Mystery, skiers and snowboarders can gaze across the vastness of Lake Superior that looks less like a lake and more like an inland ocean.
For me personally growing up in Chicagoland, my friends and I enjoyed winters just as much or more than our summers. While many of us now live out West chasing powder, it was these Midwest ski resorts that made us fall in love with the sport.