No Mountain? No Problem!

By Megan Roessler | Photos courtesy Granite Peak Ski Area

Imagine spending the day speeding down the slopes before kicking back in a cozy snow-covered chalet. It’s the kind of wintertime nostalgia that might make you think you’d need a ticket to Aspen or Jackson Hole to experience, but you’d be mistaken. For steep slopes and stylish retreats right in your backyard, be sure to check out these Wisconsin ski spots this winter.

Kewaskum’s Sunburst Winter Sports Park is in the greater Milwaukee area. Being in a flatter part of the state, it doesn’t offer the same verticals that you might find farther north or west, but this doesn’t mean a shortage of hills. Sunburst has 12 runs, several of which are rated as “advanced,” as well as three terrain parks. For those not ready to take on these more difficult slopes, Sunburst also offers a bunny hill and a snow tubing area.

Natural beauty and Midwestern charm make Mt. La Crosse in La Crosse stand out. “From up at the top you look down over a bluff and river valley,” says Jeni Blake, the resort’s marketing director. “Our natural beauty outshines a lot of other parks.” This character and scenery have helped keep Mt. La Crosse going strong since 1959. The park features the Midwest’s steepest ski hill, “Damnation,” a double-black diamond-ranked run, with a 516-foot vertical descent. But don’t worry if that’s not quite your speed. “Even if you’re not a skier, you can enjoy Mt. La Crosse,” Blake says, adding that the A-frame family-friendly chalet is perfect for a relaxing beer from their award-winning selection after hitting the slopes. A hot tip? Be sure to check out the chalet’s antique St. Bernard Room, and keep an eye out for family and student deals online.

With Rib Mountain State Park encompassing part of the resort and a rural downtown at its base, Granite Peak Ski Area is all about its community. The numbers definitely stack up for this family-owned park in Wausau: between its 75 ski runs and four terrain parks, there’s plenty of space to shred. New this year is the RFID gate system—the same system you’d find in Vail or Mammoth Mountain—which gives skiers a chip card that tracks their vertical feet and posts their photo to a leader board. Lisa Zilinsky, the park’s director of marketing, says visitors should make sure to check out the west side of the park. “The sun hits it the most,” she says, “It’s really beautiful.”

In Portage, just an hour’s drive from downtown Madison, Cascade Mountain is a winter classic. Perfect for a day trip, the site offers something for the whole family. The “Far Out” trail, at just over a mile long, takes skiers on a scenic pass around the edge of the ski area, and the snow tube park provides boundless fun with no athleticism required.

Whether you spend your time skiing or just relaxing back at the chalet, each of these Wisconsin ski parks offers a unique winter experience that proves quality downhill skiing is possible without mountains. If you’re a novice, or just want to give it a try for an afternoon, most of these resorts offer ski lessons for aspiring Lindsey Vonns and Chloe Kims of all ages.

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