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Resorts near Chicago?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
My partner and I are from Australia, and my husband is going to be based in Chicago for a few weeks for work in January/February.
We ski and want to know where we should go while we're over there? It may just be for 2-3 days or we may take a week or so and then could travel further.
Do you have recommendations of what's close-by and what's worth traveling for?
Also, what are the best weeks to be over there? We can choose the dates we go over.
Never been to the USA but very excited to see Chicago and ski your slopes.
post #2 of 17

You can ski near Chicago but ....


You may do better in Colorado/Utah/Wyoming if you can take that week off on the way back


Tahoe may also be an option in this scenario.


I would wait to see what snow is on the ground though

post #3 of 17



Midway is not bad either.

post #4 of 17

As others have indicated, Chicago is situated in the middle of a vast expanse of very flat terrain stretching from Ohio to eastern Colorado.  There are a couple of man-made hills in the immediate vicinity of Chicago, but we're talking 30 meter vertical drops and unreliable snow quality, so only try these if you are desperate.


For a 2-3 day excursion, your best bet for a drive-to resort is to either go around Lake Michigan to the east and head for "Boyne Country"  or stay on the west side of the lake and head to northern Wisconsin or the western UP of Michigan.  Either will be a 5 to 7 hour drive depending on where exactly you go. These hills are on the small size - about 200 meters or less - so adjust your expectations accordingly.  The snow does tend to be reliable in the winter as almost all resorts have extensive snowmaking.


You can view your options on a map:


Any resort in the southern half of either Michigan or Wisconsin will have limited vertical and spotty snow - you need to go further north to get out of the flatlands, and even then the hills are not all that big.


If you have more than 2-3 days, hop on a plane and go somewhere like SLC, Tahoe, Big Sky, etc.

post #5 of 17

For the Midwest Chestnut Mountain is pretty nice -- I think it is a couple hours by car from Chicago.


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post #6 of 17

I grew up near Chicago and would highly recommend getting on a plane to Colorado, Utah, Reno/Tahoe or anyplace else you can get a good deal to find better snow and real mountains. 

There are a few very small resorts that you can drive to, but in close to the same amount of time flying you can experience much better skiing.

If you have traveled all the way from Australia, what is a few more hours to achieve a much richer experience? 

Southwest Airlines flies out of Midway Airport (smaller and sometimes more convenient than O'Hare.) They don't charge for your checked baggage and they usually have some airfare specials to ski towns in the fall (Look for these as they usually sell out quickly.)

There may also be other deals/offers that will become available.


While you are in Chicago enjoy all of the museums, zoos, and other attractions.

Thinking about the area makes me want some Lou Malnati's Pizza and gives me a strong craving for some White Castle Sliders. 

post #7 of 17

Chestnut or Cascade are OK for a day,  if conditions are good, which isn't all that often.


With two airports, lot's of opportunities to fly for a long weekend.  I've grown to prefer Midway for domestic flights because of Southwest, but you can't beat O'hare for international.


Aspen has the best access with three directs daily on a 2:35 flight.

post #8 of 17

Chicago is a major airline hub.  So flight options and fares are pretty good in general.  Southwest has a couple advantages as an airline for ski trips.  No charge for two pieces of luggage.  No fee if decide to change the date of a flight.  For instance, if booked to return on Wed but there is a snowstorm worth enjoying, then can change to Thu or Fri without penalty if the fares are the same.  If different, get credit for the original fare and can apply that to another flight.  Need to book online if might change later.


A non-stop flight from Chicago to the Rockies would be more worthwhile than driving to somewhere in the Midwest.  Denver and SLC come to mind.  Midway to SLC is under 4 hours flying time.  SLC has quite a few major ski resorts within an hour's drive of the airport.  Lots of lodging options at Park City, no car needed.  Or get spoiled by staying at a ski in/out lodge in Alta.


There are national holiday weekends in Jan and Feb that you should avoid.  Later can be a bit better in terms of snow coverage.  But depends on what type of terrain you are interested in.

post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hello all,
Thank you so much for all the suggestions. I think we'll fly to one of the big mountains for a trip, I like Aspen but my partners looking at SLC, but we're going to check out the other options you've mentioned and go with somewhere that get a good season next year. We're going Jan/Feb - what are the public holidays around then? I'm guessing they are crazy busy at the slopes, definitely want to plan around that.
Can't wait to ski in the US.
post #10 of 17

Jan 18- 20 Martin Luther King Weekend


Feb 15- 17 Presidents day weekend (Note most Schools have the week of Feb 15 - 22 OFF aka ski/skate week) 


Avoid these weekends if you can


And some resorts are not as busy as others but if its near a major metro center (Denver / Salt Lake / San Francisco) it can get crazy

post #11 of 17

The best areas for a day trip from Chicago are Cascade (#3 on Walts link map) or Devil's Head (#6 on Walt's link map). A longer trip would be Rib Mountain, #7 on the link map, this is the highest point in the state of Wisconsin. Boyne Michigan is a weekend trip with OK skiing. All of these areas are midwest skiing at it's finest; you will learn what the term "loud powder" means.

As many have already mentioned a weekend getaway to Colorado can be reasonable. American Airlines has round trip fairs under $400 Chicago to Denver. Shuttle from Denver to Summit County is $65. You can then ski, Keystone, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, A-basin, or even Vail.

If you want the real midwest ski experience go to Alpine Valley WI, 93 mi from the loop, 90 acres with 388 ft of vertical.

post #12 of 17
Originally Posted by RCC55125 View Post

If you want the real midwest ski experience go to Alpine Valley WI, 93 mi from the loop, 90 acres with 388 ft of vertical.

Spent 42 of my 43 years in the Chicago area.  Another option for the real midwest ski experience is Wilmot Mountain.  It'll take just over an hour to get there from the Loop w/o traffic.  Enjoy the mostly man made snow on 230 vertical feet (70 meters) spread over 120 acres.  If you ski fast you can be at the bottom of the "mountain" in 10-15 seconds.  So many great memories.


At Alpine Valley the have a two high speed quads.  I never could figure out why a ski resort needs a high speed quad for 388 feet of vertical.  By the time the quad is detached from the bottom bull wheel it's re-attachinig to the top bull wheel. 


post #13 of 17
I had to quit skiing at Alpine Valley at night, after a couple of drunks in Packer's jackets just missed killing my kids.
Another time I caught first chair at Devils Head with a patroller. As we rode up I noticed garbage cans every 50 yards under the lift surrounded by tons of beer cans. I mentioned that it looked bad and that they should pick them up every one and a while.

"That's we're I'm going, that's just from last night!"
post #14 of 17
Originally Posted by SHREDHEAD View Post

I had to quit skiing at Alpine Valley at night, after a couple of drunks in Packer's jackets just missed killing my kids.


That happened to one of my kids at Wilmot but it was a tweener on a snowboard (don't think he was drunk, just irresponsible).  It also happened last year at Copper with a teenager who was jumping in a slow, no jump zone.

post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the suggestions and stories!!
post #16 of 17

Best places I've skied in the Midwest are Mount Bohemia, Blackjack, and Whitecap. I haven't skied in Illinois, but from what I've heard everything there is small even by Midwest standards.


Mount Bohemia is without question the best place in the Midwest if you're comfortable on advanced-expert terrain. Nothing is groomed. Mostly tree skiing. If you're comfortable on double blacks all day (or the Australian equivilant, I don't know if you have the same rating system there) you'll love it. If not, you won't. Sometimes they have amazing snow, but they have a short ski season and don't make any snow, and I've been rained out of planned trips twice. If possible, it's best to make trips there as a last minute decision.


Blackjack and Whitecap are both very big for Midwest ski areas. After Mount Bohemia, they're my favourite places in the Midwest that I've been to (I've probably skied 20 or so places in the Midwest). Mostly groomers but some ungroomed, especially Whitecap, which has some pretty steep bump runs that would be double black even by mountain standards. I've heard good things about Devil's Head but have never been there. Pretty much anywhere in the Upper Peninsula is probably going to be decent by Midwest standards.


Keep in mind that most Midwest areas won't be much more than a bunny hill by mountain standards. If you can make it out west, do. I'd recommend Utah, but it depends on what you're looking for and how good you are. I love Snowbird (and Alta) but it's a very steep ski area so you won't have much fun there unless you're a pretty proficient skier. Same with Jackson Hole. If you go to Alta, know that they don't allow snowboarders, so if you are with any snowboarders it's out. Avoid the east, the west is better.

post #17 of 17
If you've got a week and can pick your dates there is no reason to ski the Midwest at all. Choose a non-holiday week and hop on a plane to Colorado, Utah or another Western destination. Skiing in the Chicago area is a waste of time and it will take you 7 or 8 hours by car to get to up north to the Whitecap, Blackjack, Indianhead or Mt. Bohemia. Colarado and Utah are more accessible.
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