CHICAGO – For the expanse of flat prairies that make up the Midwest, skiing options are decent – respectable even – with a handful of terrains and trails that rival more famous resorts to the east or west.
And as the winter months emerge, conversations around masks and social distancing also continue for a new ski season. For some, COVID-19 has meant a permanent change in operations.
At Cascade Mountain, near the Wisconsin Dells, last season’s pandemic protocols highlighted the benefits of limiting daily ticket sales, leading them to continue to limit capacity regardless of COVID-19, said marketing director Evan Walz. .
“This allows for a better driving experience for our guests and a better operational experience for us,” he said. “It’s considerably, considerably below what a typical Saturday in previous seasons would be. Gone are the days of huge elevator lines with nowhere to move.
Last year, the resort had a strict masking policy requiring guests to wear one at all times, even outside on the slopes. This season, with promising vaccination rates, they are giving customers choice.
“We strongly recommend that they wear masks for obvious reasons; there is the chance to be exposed just about anywhere there are people. But we’ll do our part and just hope customers take action to be safe based on their comfort level, ”Walz said. Employees will continue to wear masks.
Several ski resorts, including Cascade Mountain, have revamped their online shopping cart transaction systems for online sales, which Walz added was another product of COVID-19.
Even without the added stressors of COVID-19, choosing the right ski resort takes a bit of thought and clicking to find the best trails, the most scenic glades, and for beginners, the easiest terrain.
So if you’re heading to the Midwest this winter, grab your skis. Here is an overview of some great seaside resorts to visit:
m Grand Genève Resort and Spa, 7036 Grand Geneva Way, Lac Léman, Wisconsin; 262-248-8811; grandgeneva.com
Greater Geneva, conveniently located between Milwaukee and Chicago, is home to 20 downhill trails served by three chair lifts and terrain designed for all age groups and skill levels. The resort’s snow-making capabilities allow it to stay open even when there is no snowfall.
Certified instructors trained in the latest ski techniques provide individualized attention to beginner and seasoned skiers taking lessons. A few notes related to the pandemic: Lift tickets will be sold online only with a set amount available per day, and customers are encouraged to prepare in their cars before heading to ski areas.
For non-skiers, sledding or ice skating is an option, as is hiding in the arcade with air hockey, table tennis and more.
After a day on the slopes (or at the spa), guests can retreat to a heated igloo for 90 minutes while sipping hot chocolate with mint schnapps or a hot toddy under the Wisconsin skies. The igloos run from November 22 to March 14.
m Chestnut Mountain Resort, 8700 W Chestnut Mountain Road, Galena, Illinois; (800) 397-1320; chestnut.com
Chestnut offers 19 ski and snowboard runs, a good chunk of which is aimed at beginners, with 12 green or blue runs, a rabbit trail, and Rookie’s Ridge for a designated spot to get your snow legs. The longest runway at the resort is an impressive 3,500 feet.
Group ski lessons cost $ 20 per hour. Interested in snowboarding? The Burton Learn to Ride Package includes a lift ticket, rental of specially designed beginner snowboards, and a two-hour lesson for $ 150.
And if you’ve never boarded a moving ski lift, don’t worry, Chestnut’s ski staff are equipped to help skiers every step of the way. Above all, the view of the Mississippi River from the top of the hills is worth every unsightly fall, slide, and fall.
Regarding COVID-19 safety, masks will be mandatory indoors regardless of vaccination status.
m Wilmot Mountain, 1931 Fox River Road, Wilmot, Wisconsin; 262-862-2301; wilmotmountain.com
Under the same ownership as Vail, Breckenridge, Alpine Valley and Brandywine and just over an hour’s drive from downtown Chicago, Wilmot Mountain is ideal for a day trip or an impromptu city break.
Day passes start at $ 70 with preferential rates until November 21. Once you’ve got your bearings, ride four green runs, seven blue runs, and seven black diamond runs, or test freestyle snowparks with ramps, fun boxes, and half-pipes.
Face coverings are required indoors and, at time of posting, proof of vaccination is required for guests over 12 to dine at select restaurants, including ski school programs that include the breakfast. Employees should be vaccinated and undergo daily health examinations.
m Crystal mountain, 12500 Crystal Mountain Drive, Thompsonville, Michigan .; 855-995-5146; crystalmountain.com
The range of winter activities at this northern Michigan resort will appeal to any adventure-loving kid, from an obstacle-filled outdoor laser tag course to an archery range to a ride in the sky. sled on the 1,700 foot long alpine slide.
And then there is skiing. Up to four family members can take a personal tour of Crystal Mountain with a ski or snowboard instructor, or kids can learn on their own with lessons grouped by age and ability. Parents can book Nanny McSki, certified babysitting instructors who spend the day with the children. Meanwhile, adults can try black diamond trails or unwind with restorative full-body massages and soothing spa facials. Once the fun is over, the whole family can relax in some pet-friendly accommodation, quaint cottages, or mountain-top bungalows with ski-to-door access – and kids up to 17 stay free in winter and ski for free on weekdays.
Restaurants are equipped with HEPA air filtration, UV light filtration has been added to all premises, and indoor masking is encouraged for unvaccinated visitors.
m Cascade Mountain, W10441 Cascade Mountain Road, Portage, Wisconsin; 608-742-5588; cascademountain.com
At Cascade Mountain, children 12 and under ski for free with a paid adult ticket. That, added to the fact that it has some of the best snow parks and longest, well-groomed trails in the Midwest and proximity to Wisconsin Dells, makes the resort a one-stop-shop for families looking to stretch their budget from winter vacation.
The resort has undergone several off-season updates in preparation for its 60th season, including newly lit terrain, making a total of 125 acres available for night skiing.
Face coverings are not mandatory for guests, but they are highly recommended, especially in crowded indoor spaces. The lifts will be loaded to capacity, and those who are not comfortable with other people should let the attendant know, and they will adapt. It’s usually crowded, as most resorts are during the holiday season, but skiers – especially early risers – might find solace in the resort boundary on daily ticket sales.
m Granite peak, 227200 Snowbird Ave, Wausau, Wisconsin; (715) 845-2846; skigranitepeak.com
Granite Peak’s 68 trails and variety of terrain are what skiers would normally expect to find in the west near the Rockies. and for Midwestern standards, the 700 foot vertical drop gives the illusion that maybe, you really are far from home.
The drop is by far the highest in Wisconsin and the third in the Midwest.
Frequent Chicago skiers will likely find the 275-mile hike worth it to experience the resort’s 55 trails and 225 acres of land (the most for a Wisconsin resort), seven lifts, including the only one. Wisconsin high-speed ski lift and a powerful snowmaking system priced at $ 2.5 million.
Unlike last year, Granite Peak hopes to make things “as normal as possible” by not requiring guests to wear masks when skiing, chair lifts, or queuing, but they hope that skiers will use their best judgment when it comes to COVID. -19 security.