Hitting the powder, Midwest ready for winter

By JeffGraveline

The Midwest isn’t known for its mountains, but that doesn’t stop people across the central U.S. from enjoying the skiing and snowboarding possibilities the area has to offer.

Just a few hours away from Chicago are several ski and snowboard spots that offer a wide range of activities. From skiing to tubing, each resort in the Midwest has its own unique way to

attract guests.

While the weather might not have dropped the perfect blanket of powder on the ground, resorts in the Midwest have found ways around the issue.

Almost all of the ski and snowboard resorts in the Midwest employ a man-made, snow-making procedure to maintain a solid snow base throughout the winter season.

“We’re a 100 percent snow-making facility,” said Jim Wiseman, spokesman for Swiss Valley Ski and Snowboard Area in Jones, Mich. “If we get cold weather, we can usually come from green grass to fully open in about 30 to 35 hours.”

Most of the Midwestern ski and snowboard areas lack the height of the ski and snowboard resorts found in the eastern and western parts of the country, but that doesn’t prevent them from offering much of the same opportunities that larger and higher resorts offer.

“Our hills are short, but so are our lifts,” said Ed Meyer, general manager of Ski Snowstar Winter Sports Park in Andalusia, Ill. “We have four lifts that cover 28 acres. We have a lot of terrain and when you’re going up on the lifts you go over our rails, fun-boxes, rainbows, all the extreme stuff the kids like.”

Aside from the specific types of terrain that the resorts in the Midwest offer, each has its own ski and snowboard rental shops. All the equipment one would need to enjoy the hill and the snow can be had for a fee.

“We have over 12,000 skis and 400 snowboards to rent [at Ski Snowstar],” Meyer said.

Another aspect that each of the areas features is a ski and snowboard school for first timers. Classes generally last several hours and are offered both in the morning and afternoon.

One of the main draws for each of the Midwest ski and snowboard locations is their accessibility to groups. All of the resorts in the Midwest welcome groups and offer discounted rates for large ones.

“We do a lot of groups; we do field trips in the mornings for schools,” Wiseman said. “Then we turn around at night and we do the night school [for groups]. We also have a lot of group activities on the weekend.”

What sets some of the resorts apart from the rest are the lodges and hotel accommodations on site.

While each resort has a lodge of some sort, with an offering of food, drinks and a place for visitors to rest when they’re not on the hill, some resorts have attached hotel rooms, indoor pools and several restaurants on location.

“We have 120 rooms on site. We do have rooms that range from regular, standard hotel rooms to suites to dorm accommodations,” said Stewart Stoffregen, marketing director at Chestnut Mountain in Galena, Ill. “So we can cater to all levels.”

As the temperatures continue to drop in the Midwest and snow begins to fall, skiers and snowboarders can expect a solid season on the slopes of the Midwest.

Each resort contacted is projected to be open by Dec. 10 at the latest.

For more information about ski and snowboard resorts in the Midwest visit SkiCentral.com or OnTheSnow.com.