Chicago is a must-see city – not just in the summer, but in the wintry months as well. Though its terrain is not quite as mountainous as the slopes of the Appalachians or the Rockies, the Midwest offers plenty of quality skiing for thrill seekers and cross country enthusiasts. Here’s our roundup of a few of the best skiing opportunities near Chicago. If you’ve got a rental car and an entire day (or better: weekend) to kill, these mountains will fully suit your needs.
Best Skiing Near Chicago: 8 Great Spots For Skiing Around the Windy City
1. Crystal Mountain - Thompsonville, MI
The super posh (and family-friendly) resorts at Crystal Mountain are one way to convince your crew to trek nearly five hours north of Chicago to Thompsonville, MI. Lodgers can relax in luxury suites, condos and townhouses or the 18,000 square-foot spa in between runs down the mountain, which is open roughly from Thanksgiving to April.
Though the skiing is superior, snow isn’t the only reason Chicagoans journey to Crystal Mountain: The resort boasts two award-winning 18-hole golf courses throughout the warmer months, in addition to a renowned golf school for all age and ability levels. Crystal Mountain also features the only nearby Alpine Slide, where thrill-seekers can ride down the mountain via an enormous slide.
Cost of an unlimited adult lift ticket: $17 ($62 with rental)
Hours of operation: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
2. Boyne Resorts - Boyne Falls, MI
Chicagoans who seek big mountains can now end their search: the largest resort of the entire Midwest awaits you at Boyne Mountain Resort in Northern Michigan. The highest peak is 1325 feet with a 552-foot vertical drop, while the longest run is 1.25 miles – which can result in a brutally cold (but totally worth it) lift ride.
But from the paintballing to the downhill zip line to the horse-drawn carriages, skiing is just one piece of the puzzle at Boyne. The Grand Lodge resort, part of a greater collection owned by Boyne Resorts, also offers a “thrilling round” of golf at The Alpine course as well as a “playable hall of fame” at The Monument (where each hole is dedicated to a golf legend).
Cost of an adult lift ticket: $59 adults, unlimited/all-day access
Hours of operation: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
3. Mount Bohemia - Mohawk, MI
Only the tried and true thrill-seekers are advised to check out Mount Bohemia, the experts-only, no-beginners-welcome, 900-foot-vertical-drop stronghold in Grant, MI – far into the Upper Peninsula. With nearly 300 inches of naturally-occurring snow each year (thanks to Lake Superior’s weather effect) and un-groomed paths of deep powder (ranked #1 east of the Rockies by Powder Magazine!), this mountain has earned a reputation for its double and triple black diamond runs.
Mount Bohemia typically opens in late December and closes in early May. Be sure to check out the Bad Seed run, built over a prehistoric volcano and filled with cliff drops. But of course, proceed with caution!
Cost of an adult lift ticket: $59
Hours of operation: 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, open later on weekends
4. Cascade Mountain - Portage, WI
Cascade Mountain, located about three hours from Chicago in Portage, WI, offers activities for the expert skier as well as the rest of the group – first-timers, intermediate skiers and even snow tubers. Located just 15 minutes south of the Wisconsin Dells, vacation opportunities abound; get ready to make a weekend (or longer) out of it!
The mountain, which is known for its night skiing, is typically open from mid-December until late-March. Longtime Cascade Mountain skiers recommend purchasing a season past to get the most powder for your money.
Cost of an adult lift ticket: $50
Hours of operation: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekends
5. Indianhead Mountain Resort - Wakefield, MI
Another Upper Peninsula resort, Indianhead – unlike its quiet, rural surroundings – is often abuzz with year-round sporting and entertainment activities. Hiking and golf are the most popular summer and fall undertakings at the resort. In March, the Mountain Top music festival takes over the resort with nearly 20 bands over one weekend. Indianhead also features a health club, a Family Fun Center and – of course – some of the greatest skiing in the Midwest.
Though the snow is mostly machine-made and groomed, the runs are packed with excitement. Voyager’s Highway – one of the beginners’ trails – takes up 40 acres (the size of some Midwest ski areas as a whole!). The resort recently reported that about 326 skiable acres would be open by the beginning of 2016 – two times the size of the massive Granite Peak Ski Area in Wisconsin!
Cost of an adult lift ticket: $62
Hours of operation: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
6. Chestnut Mountain - Galena, IL
Stay in state at Chestnut Mountain’s Galena location, a top Midwest vacation spot according to Thrillist Chicago. The town is filled with history, charm and year-round activities. You can also take the Windy City ski bus, which includes an all-inclusive ride to the resort and a lift ticket – even lessons and gear, if needed.
The lodge itself isn’t quite posh, and the runs are shorter on average than other Midwest resorts, but they do include steep drops and quick turns on the Mississippi riverside – which could benefit adventurous snowboarders and skiers.
Cost of an adult lift ticket: $52 weekends, $40 weekdays
Hours of operation: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
7. Ski Snowstar - Andalusia, IL
Pro skiers know that skiing in the Midwest is not the same as skiing in the Rockies, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Ski Snowstar has the advantage of being accessible to both experts and beginners… not to mention it’s close enough to Chicago for a day trip. The runs aren’t steep, but neither are the prices, and the terrain presents challengers for even expert-level skiers.
Ten minutes outside of the Quad Cities in Andalusia Township, Snowstar gives a small-town, vintage feel for Chicago travelers looking for a quiet getaway. The park doesn’t accumulate much natural snow, so temperatures must consistently hit the low 20s to open for the season. With low costs for rented gear and excellent ski school instruction, it shouldn’t be tough to convince any first-time skiers to tag along.
Cost of an adult lift ticket: $40 weekends, $25 weekdays
Hours of operation: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., open later on weekends
8. Ski Brule - Iron River, MI
Ski Brule is a definite fan favorite for Midwestern skiers. Located near the Ottawa National Forest in Iron River, MI (just east of Wisconsin), the management makes a point of opening the resort before competitors (sometimes as early as October) and staying open after the others have closed for the season. First-time snowboarders are welcome to take a free Learn-to-Ride program before dropping into the snowboard arena on site. Take a trip down the Big Bear or Double Doodle trails if you’re looking for an expert-level challenge!
The 120-year-old Homestead Lodge provides a cozy atmosphere complete with potbelly stoves and Apache, the friendly “Homestead Horse.” Families enthuse over the tubing park, while night owls can enjoy weekend nights at the saloon with entertainment, karaoke and dancing.
Cost of an adult lift ticket: $46
Hours of operation: 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
This article was written by Caitlin Klask.