While visiting family and friends over the holidays, I squeezed 5 days of skiing in across the upper Midwest. I don’t get back to the Midwest to ski much anymore and I forgot how much fun these smaller areas can be. Despite skiing at over 20 Midwest ski areas, I had never been to any of these before.
Day 1: Chestnut
Chestnut was 100% open and skied well but I was generally disappointed. Runs were long which was good for the blues but the blacks were steep for only a short distance. In the region, I still like Cascade better but Chestnut is clearly better than Alpine or Wilmot.
Overview from 3/4 of the way up
The steepest run Apachie
From near the bottom
Day 2: Spirit
I was impressed with Spirit. Runs were pretty long for the Midwest and several were decently steep. Spirit has big vertical for the Midwest but only the middle 400 of vert is steep, which is still impressive. The only downside was the freezing fog and the High Speed Quad was closed for unknown reasons. In the region, Lutsen and the Ironwood, MI ski areas are better but not by as much as you might think.
Day 3 & 4: Lutsen
I was very impressed with Lutsen and IMO it’s the best all around ski area in the Midwest. It’s the biggest, the 2nd tallest, has all run types and has gorgeous views of lake superior and the surrounding wilderness. Lutsen has the longest groomers (800’ vert) ranging from mellow to steep. It also has a lot of glade runs and good natural snow to cover them. There are only a few areas in the UP of MI with more snow and only Bohemia (and maybe whitecap) have better expert skiing. Lodging is basic and there isn’t a major town nearby but that was fine with me. It was unusually cold while we were there so I wasn’t able to take many pictures.
Great views on the drive up
Mystery mountain (one of 4 mountains at Lutsen)
The steep groomers on Eagle mountain. Not as steep as Boyne Mountain but close
Long runs with great views on Moose Mountain
Day 5: Welch
Welch is very good urban ski area (much better than those by Chicago or Detroit) but still a clear step down from the best Midwest ski areas. Lots of runs and several steep ones. The new “back bowl” area has short and narrow runs which is fun for a little variety