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Qs re Upper Midwest hills

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Opinions on northern MN / WI / UP spots?

I'm thinking of a 3 or 4 day trip this winter to ski with a friend from the twin cities and our kids. We've got a place to stay in northern Wisconsin, about 40 minutes SW of Duluth. So I was thinking one day each at Spirit Mountain, Whitecap (80 mile drive), and Giants Ridge (100 mile drive). The Ironwood resorts (Indianhead, etc.) are also in day trip range -- another 20 minutes or so past Whitecap? A better bet than Giants Ridge?

I know Lutsen is the biggest but it's 120 miles each way, a little past comfortable day trip range. So I figured a day at each of the smaller spots would do fine, and might add up to more terrain (though less vert) overall.

Kids are 13 and everyone's a good skier (or boarder) so ski schools, greens and blues are not a priority. Snow quality, interesting / challenging terrain, and accessible lifts are all of interest.

post #2 of 9
I can't comment on some of the others ones you listed, but I really enjoy Whitecap. It has more of a mountain resort feel (if there is such a thing in the Midwest). There is a good variety of terrain for everyone and is large enough that it doesn't usually feel overly crowded. I've been to Powderhorn and Indianhead and like them alright...just not as much as Whitecap.

You can get a lift ticket that's good for 3 resorts in that area if you get tired of one place and want to try something different.
post #3 of 9
I'd nix Giants Ridge in favor of the Ironwood Resorts if you can't justify the trip to Lutsen...
post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 

SJCzar - Why do you prefer Whitecap to the others? It has significantly less vert (400') than Indianhead (638') or Powderhorn (600') - but covers a larger spread (500 acres). I found some pictures of Whitecap through google searching and it looks real flat and spread out. Do any of these places have any pitch?
post #5 of 9
I like Whitecap better than Big Powderhorn also. I haven't been to Indianhead but hear its decent. Here's the breakdown:

keep in mind I am indeed a nut for vertical - but in this case the Whitecap terrain is just better. And broader. Its a unique Midwestern area because of the three hill layout. Granted, some of the runs are not that impressive, especially the Greens, but The Eagle's Nest area has true black and double diamond runs complete with large rocks to jump off or go between. Also, there is a pretty sweet chair ride to that mountain because you get on at a different mountain then ride high over the layout over to Eagle's Nest. When you ski Whitecap you can actually get sort of isolated from the rest of it. Again, Eagle's Nest is very good for Midwest challenge. And great snow, really good if a big storm hit the night before.

Powderhorn has some decent runs and a bit longer runs, but several of them are pretty flat and just straight. I like skiing there, but I really think Whitecap has sort of a special Euro skiing feel (what do I know, I've never been to Europe) complete with an old wine hut to go take a few swigs of hard cider when you're cold.

I've stayed slopeside at both for really cheap rates before in case you decide to stay. Either one you choose you must go to the Bell Chalet for dinner in Hurley/Ironwood. Its worth it.
post #6 of 9
I agree with everything Michigander said about Whitecap. It's one of the few places in this area where you may actually have to take out the trail map to find your way back to the lodge. Most of the runs feel like true runs, not just different ways to get down the same side of the hill.

That one lift that goes between two of the peaks is just freaky high up.

We have stayed at the lodge once. The room was very nice, although we were in the newer section, so I can't comment on all the rooms.
post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks. Lodging's not an issue so long as Highway 2 is clear, we've got a place to stay w/in reasonable driving distance. Sounds like a fun place to explore, though I really don't like the idea of falling hundreds of feet from a rickety chairlift in Wisconsin, of all places. It'd be hard to explain, though I doubt I'd be around to explain it.
post #8 of 9

My Opinions

The idea of going to a different area each day sounds like the best way to go. Here is my characterization of some of the areas.

Spirit Mt. -- Mostly an overgrown beginner area. Likely crowded with teenagers
++ Modern High speed quads. Mega terrain park

Whitecap -- Old slow lifts
++ Steep section (if it isn't icy) Mt feel

Powderhorn and Indianhead -- Old slow lifts, vertical is not well used (stairstep kind of runs)
++ likely less crowded

Blackjack -- Smaller
++ My favorite in that area because the runs have a more consistant pitch. (very cruiseable) Has a skiercross run

Lutsen -- Long drive. Slow lifts. Crowded on vacation days. Pricy lift ticket. No terrain park (at least last time I was there)
++ Moose Mt section has a very mountain like feel. It has long runs with a decent pitch(nearly a mile). (might be worth the longer drive) Great bump run (south facing so it could get hard) Fewer snowboarders

Good luck and enjoy the experience with your friends.
post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks Skugrud, that's helpful. Blackjack had some pictures on their website that confirm what you're saying about the pitch.

A lot of the "1000 foot" hills I've skied back east have just 400 feet good and then runout -- so 500 feet good and then straight to the lift looks just fine.
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