The Midwest might not be the first destination that comes to mind when planning winter ski trips, but there are plenty of places in the area to hit the slopes. Most ski areas have a wide variety of runs, making them perfect for all levels of ski enthusiasts. The hills may not be as steep as their competitors out West, but they have the perfect conditions for getting kids started on skis and families looking to spend quality time together in the snow. This winter, pack your gear and head to some of the best places to ski in the Midwest with kids.
Best Places to Ski in the Midwest with Kids
Located in the northernmost part of Minnesota, about 90 miles north of Duluth, four interconnected peaks form a magical ski retreat in the Midwest, Lutsen Mountains. Here visitors will find 95 runs and an 825 foot vertical rise overlooking beautiful Lake Superior. The longest run is 2 miles long, there are over 1,000 skiable acres, and they have at least 10 feet of snow annually!
There’s an eight passenger gondola, along with seven other lift chairs that can transport up to 10,000 riders per hour. Lutsen has five progressive terrain parks for snowboarding, classes for all levels, and nearby there’s ice climbing, sledding, and cross-country skiing.
The Lutsen Resort is Minnesota’s oldest resort, founded by Swedish immigrants in 1885, and the entire place exudes Scandinavian charm. Families can stay in the lodge, or at town homes, cabins, or condos nearby. The resort offers additional activities like a beach campfire, cross country ski and show shoe tours, and nightly music or meals at the pub. It is a quick shuttle from here to Lutsen Mountains. Caribou Highlands is ski in/ski out, with all rooms offering mountain views. The property offers evening bonfires and s’mores, access to snowmobile and snowshoeing trails, dog sledding, and family games and movies at their Mountain Kids Camp.
Photo credit: Visit Cook County, MN
Grand Geneva is located just outside Lake Geneva, Wisconsin about an hour from Milwaukee, and 90 minutes from Chicago. This is a great place for families with young children to come and learn the basics of skiing and snowboarding. The mountain has three lifts, 20 runs and sits on just over 30 acres. It has a new six acre terrain park with a dedicated lift. The vertical rise here is 211 feet, but that’s perfect for families.
The mountain offers night time skiing, snow shoeing, skating, and sledding. Non-skiers can relax at Leinenkugel’s Mountaintop Lodge or at the adjacent resort, Grand Geneva Resort & Spa (with emphasis on the spa).
Grand Geneva Resort & Spa offers holiday events throughout the season like holiday tea, a trolley tour of lights around the property, and elf mail runs. Each week different family friendly activities are offered for guests and the town of Lake Geneva is less than 10 minutes away by car. Those looking for something extra for the kids might want to consider the Timber Ridge Lodge, with its indoor water park which is just a quick shuttle ride to the slopes. Either one is a good option for families looking for a ski weekend.
Photo credit: Timber Ridge Lodge
Granite Peak is located in Rib Mountain State Park in Wausau, Wisconsin, about 90 minutes northwest of Green Bay. There isn’t a resort at the slopes, but there are many lodging options in nearby Rothschild and Wausau itself.
There is a large variety of terrains at Granite Peak, and it has at the largest vertical rise in Wisconsin at 700 feet. There are 75 runs, 4 terrain parks, and the two longest/highest high speed chairlifts in the Midwest. The park has 265 skiable acres, ski school, snow shoeing, and night skiing. Those who don’t want to hit the slopes can hang out in the recently renovated Sundance Chalet, a landmark that has been around since 1939, or head to Wausau for shopping and other dining options.
Photo credit: Granite Peak
Chestnut Mountain is located in Galena, Illinois, high upon a ridge overlooking the Mississippi River along the western edge of the state. Chestnut Mountain is perfect for all ages and skill levels, so families can feel comfortable on the slopes. The highest point is a 475 foot vertical drop that weaves in and out of 19 runs, ranging from bunny hills to black diamonds. All your family has to do is choose the right one. For snowboarders, Chestnut Mountain’s 7 acre terrain park (named the top Midwest Snowboard Park by Transworld for 3 consecutive years), has its own triple-chair and surface lift with more than 25 rails and jumps. It’s also the largest terrain park in all the Midwest.
Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa has a Nordic Center with a 1.5 mile skating pond and also offers cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Galena’s charming historic old town offers unique dining experiences, great shopping, and charming boutique hotels. It’s a beautiful place to visit after a day on the slopes.
Photo credit: Galena/Jo Daviess County, Illinois
Crystal Mountain is located in Thompsonville, Michigan, about 30 miles southwest of Traverse City. The mountain has multiple options for lodging, from hotel rooms at the base of the mountain to condos and resort residences throughout the property. The mountain has 58 slopes, with 29 of them lit for night skiing, and 4 terrain areas. There’s also cross country skiing available and lessons for all levels of skiing. There are 9 lifts and 102 skiable acres, plenty of room to explore!
Crystal Mountain resort offers extra activities as well including fat tire snow biking, ice skating and hockey, snowmobiling, snow shoeing, and horse drawn carriage rides. Each week during the winter there are special activities like laser tag, movie night, adventure courses, and craft night, but they rotate, so check the schedule. Guests might enjoy trying the Crystal Spa at the end of the day, sitting by the family campfire, or grabbing a bite at the Thistle Pub & Grille. One things is for sure, families will not complain of boredom with all there is to do at Crystal Mountain.