Love it or hate it, the winter season is nearly upon us. Here's the upside: The best way to endure the long cold months, is to embrace it! And I mean really embrace it. How do we do that, you ask? The short answer: by hitting the slopes!
Now let's be clear, despite the fact we both sport a ginger 'do, I am no Shaun White. But that doesn't mean I don't have an awesome time attempting to ski and snowboard here in Wisconsin. That's the great thing about this state - there really are parks and resorts that cater to winter lovers of all abilities, from novice (me!) to expert (not me...).
So unpack your board or skis from storage and take a virtual journey with me to 14 premier skiing and snowboarding destinations in Wisconsin. We're drifting down fluffy snowbanks, winding past frozen lakes and meandering through Wisconsin's backwoods...
- Granite Peak (Wausau)
Round up the family and make your way to central Wisconsin: Granite Peak in Wausau gives skiers and riders so much to love. With the most modern and convenient lift system in the Midwest, Granite Peak continues to set the standard for advanced and customer-friendly lifts. Beginners will love Granite Peak, too - there are three lifts devoted to learning skiers and boarders.
- Alpine Valley (Elkhorn)
Set in the stunning Sugar Creek Valley - complete with mature tress and rolling terrain - Alpine Valley provides diverse domain for beginners and experts alike.Their fancy high speed Quad Advanced Chair lift system means you'll spend less time in line and more time on the snow. If you love numbers, you'll love these: Alpine boasts more than 90 skiable acres with 20 runs, a verticle drop of 388 feet and a 3,000-foot slope, aptly named, "Alpine."
- Cascade Mountain (Portage)
Ah, Cascade Mountain has a soft spot in my heart. I can recall many field trips to this legendary Columbia County ski gem! It sounds like it's time for me to make new memories though because Cascade Mountain has been busy making big changes to their park. For starters, they're doubling the number of tubing lanes at Tube Town. (And who are we kidding; we're all just as likely to make a run down the tubing lane as we are the ski runs!) It's a great spot to take the whole family to. And no matter the season, I always love driving past the mountain on I-90/94...what a view!
- Christmas Mountain (Wisconsin Dells)
The Dells may be known for its summer activities, but Christmas Mountain lures snow bunnies from November through April. Here, skiers can take advantage of 15 downhill runs and a wide variety of trails. To really capitalize on your time at Christmas Mountain, you might want to register for private or group lessons. (May I recommend renting a GoPro right there at Christmas Mountain to capture your downhill voyages!)
- Christie Mountain (Bruce)
From nine "easier" trails to four separate progressive terrain parks (including double black diamonds with two cliff jumps!), Christie Mountain in Wisconsin's northwoods is an absolute blast. If dodging trees is your thing, you will love navigating your way through the jungly glade trails of Timber Pup and Timber Wolf. Then head on over to the east side of the park for a secluded t-bar area and have some fun on Wildcat and Bob Cat. Rumor has it, skiers and snowboarders regularly bump into "The Beast" while on the slopes. Trust me, you'll know it when you see it!
- Devil's Head Resort (Merrimac)
This full-service ski resort is situated in the heart of the unglaciated Baraboo Bluffs in South Central Wisconsin. This place is a perfect spot for those of you intermediate skiers really looking to get in on the action. There are 30 gentle rolling runs and new terrain parks "with longer trails, more flow and more rails in one run than any other ski area in Wisconsin."
- Grand Geneva (Lake Geneva)
Grand Geneva Resort & Spa has it all: 30 acres with 18 runs, a terrain park, 211-foot vertical, three chairlifts and two wonder carpets. Not to mention, there's skating and sledding opportunities for the extra ambitious. When you're ready to spend a little time indoors, I recommend slipping into your robe and slippers and renewing your senses at WELL Spa + Salon. And a bonus giveaway: Grand Geneva is offering a free lift ticket for opening weekend (Dec. 6-7) for those who support their food drive with a non-perishable food item. Visit Grand Geneva on Facebook to download the ticket.
- Little Switzerland (Slinger)
First opening in 1941, Little Switzerland may be one of the oldest resorts in the Midwest but they've undergone a multi-million dollar facelift in recent years. Today, the hill has 18 runs, four chairlifts, two handle tows and one rope tow. At the bottom of the hill, you'll find three terrain parks, a chalet and restaurant, bar, game room, snack bar and pro shop.
- Mt. LaCrosse (Stoddard)
Welcome to Mt. LaCrosse, home to Mileaway (Wisconsin's longest run!) and Damnation! (the Midwest's steepest trail). Skiers and snowboarders of all ages and abilities have been making the trek to Mt. LaCrosse since 1959. It's an outstanding destination with its 18 slopes and trails including a 516-foot vertical drop and a 5,300-foot run. Night owls will appreciate the park's well-lit slopes, too.
- Nordic Mountain (Wild Rose)
Making our way to central Wisconsin, we find ourselves at Nordic Mountain in Wild Rose, where you'll take delight in the area's 17 runs, three terrain parks and a thrilling tubing park. The folks at Nordic say there's always something fun to do when there's snow on the ground...and I couldn't agree more! Nordic Mountain is a great spot for beginners looking to have some fun at affordable prices.
- Sunburst (Kewaskum)
Kewaskum's Sunburst Ski Area features the hottest park design, with over 60 rails & boxes and set-ups that are constantly evolving. Add to that the fact Sunburst is the world's largest tubing park and you have yourself a winter wonderland in southeastern Wisconsin.
- Trollhaugen (Dresser)
A family-oriented ski area, Trollhaugen Outdoor Recreation Area is located about five miles south of St. Croix Falls in northwestern Wisconsin. In addition to the obvious here (i.e. thrilling skiing and snowboarding, of course), Trollhaugen also offers 10 lanes of tubing, cross-country skiing, snowshoe trails and zip lining! For my fellow night owls: Trollhaugen is well-known for their late night (or early morning?) 3 a.m. skiing & snowboarding. Count. Me. In.
- Tyrol Basin (Mount Horeb)
About five miles north of Mount Horeb and 22 miles west of Madison are 17 tree-lined slopes on 40 acres plus one of the few half-pipes in the Midwest. Winter enthusiasts from all over the world have tested the slopes of Tyrol Basin. And it's no wonder why really: The team there has built quite a reputation for its five terrain parks, which were designed with both beginners and advanced skiers and boarders in mind.
- Wilmot Mountain (Wilmot)
For added variety, Wilmot Mountain has its own Snocross course, featuring banked turns, rollers, jumps, and plenty of speed. If that's not enough excitement for you, make your way though the mogul field where you'll come head-to-head with a variety of lines and challenges. Wilmot's four Terrain Parks are wildly popular, too - think progressive jumps, rails and jib features and much more!
Tip: For the true winter extremists, consider picking up a Skiing Wisconsin Coupon Book. The $99 booklet ($350 value) includes one lift ticket from several of the destinations mentioned above.
Mariah Haberman is the co-host of the nation’s longest-running tourism TV show, Discover Wisconsin. She hails from Evansville, where she was brought up in a family of seven in a small farmhouse outside of town. Some of her favorite memories include Lake Michigan fishing trips with her Dad, showing sheep at the Rock County Fair and buzzing around the farm on an ATV with her little brother. Watch Discover Wisconsin Saturdays at 10 a.m. on FSN Wisconsin’s outdoor block.