6 Slopes Close to Home: Ski Destinations Less than a Day Away

The Midwest’s “mountains” can fuel any case of coastal insecurity.

In addition to trumping us with the “we get the new fashions first card,” the women in New York and Los Angeles can be skiing the rugged Adirondacks and the majestic Sierras after only a few hours in the car.

Whatever, we’re nicer.

And we can still be on the slopes in less than a day’s drive from the North Shore.

The backdrop of rolling hills and prairie combined with classic Midwestern ingenuity (read: state-of-the-art snowmaking and well-articulated modern resorts) offers a ski experience within a half-day’s drive of Chicago that mimics many farther and pricier destinations.

If you want the Swiss Alps, try Alpine Valley, Wisc.

The vintage ski chalet at the base of Alpine Valley sets the tone for the European feel of this resort located minutes from Lake Geneva. With 5 black-diamond runs, experts can pretend they’re heading off-piste at Zermatt.


skivacation2If you want a great ski school like Deer Valley, try Chestnut Mountain, Ill.

With 50 professional guides and instructors, the Chestnut Mountain Ski School can accommodate any age skier at any ability. The Powder Pups program (ages 4-6) helps young skiers learn the basics through small group instruction and fun ski games, while  the Powder Rangers Program (ages 7-12) keeps it playful but can challenge even the most daring tween.


If you want funky, laidback charm like Steamboat Springs, try Wilmot Mountain, Wisc.

The epitome of the Midwestern ski experience. Just over the Wisconsin border, you can spot Green Bay Packer fans pulling flasks from their snowmobile suits and newbie Chicagoans nursing their sore bones over cocktails in the Pizza Barn. Bad ski fashion and questionable drinking behavior aside, Wilmot offers serious skiers 11 lifts and 25 runs.


If you want a rocking half-pipe like Mammoth Mountain, try Raging Buffalo Snowboarding Ski Park in Algonquin, Ill.

Blame it on the X games. It’s all about big air, gnarly tricks, “sagger” pants and grunge hoodies for young snowboarders. And they can find their fun, believe it or not, in the far north suburbs at the Ranging Buffalo Snowboard terrain park on it’s half pipes, kickers, tabletops and staircases.  Maybe they’ll even find other white kids with dreadlocks.


If you want a big family resort like Vail, try Granite Peak, Wisc.

Since 2000, Granite Peak has added 58 new runs, installed seven new chairlifts, replaced the snowmaking system and completely modernized the base village. At 4 ½ hours north of Chicago, a day trip might be pushing it, but with 18 hotels in Wausau and the Rib Mountian Inn adjacent to the slopes, it’s well worth a weekend trip.

If your kids want to ski, and you want to stay at home, try The Snow Flake Club

The Snowflake Club out of Williams Ski Haus runs well-organized weekly ski trips for kids ages 8 through 16. Best of all, they can catch the bus from Deerfield, Highland Park, Kenilworh, Lake Forest or Wilmette.

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