Riding the Rails, Wisconsin-Style
Last Updated: 12/10/2014
Snowboarding in Wisconsin isn’t a sport—it’s a lifestyle
By Jordan Leahy
I look down toward the jump and imagine the perfect line, with the chance for an innovative trick. Then I ratchet my boots snug inside my bindings, finishing my final prep. My head bobs to the music. Then I’m off, gliding toward the jump, looking for the moment. I launch off the perfect wedge, rotating in the air, and stomp a clean landing. My friends cheer, pumped because I landed a gnarly trick and they caught it on film. I carve to the side to take a quick breather, and when I look up again I see my buddy dropping in to feel the same experience.
This is snowboarding in Wisconsin, one of many ways to take advantage of our snowy winters. Wisconsin has plenty of resorts where you can have a snowboarding adventure—almost as many as Colorado! I discovered a passion for boarding my freshman year of high school, but it’s never too late to start.
That fall, I bought boots, bindings, board, coat, goggles, and gloves for $600 at a Madison swap meet. With board options ranging from all mountain to racing to freestyle, a used board is a good way to find out what you like. Complete setups usually cost between $400 and $1,000. Board shops are a good place to buy, too. They always have a positive vibe and stay up-to-date on new riding technology. Plus, they can tell you the best place to ride to fit your style. I found my second home was Tyrol Basin, where I could explore my new love of wedges and rails to ride.
I’ve always been inspired by the production and energy in the terrain parks—separate areas at a resort with jumps, rails, and other “terrain” so boarders can do tricks. Last year I managed the Tyrol Basin terrain park between my classes at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, changing the park at night after the lift stopped running, reconditioning the features and, sometimes, building all new terrain. Sometimes I’d finish at 2 or 3 a.m., hike off the hill, and sleep in my car in the parking lot.
If you want to board bum, don’t stop at one resort—make it a road trip. Tyrol Basin, Alpine Valley, and Cascade Mountain have some of the best terrain parks in the Midwest. Tyrol Basin built its first half-pipe in 1988. Alpine Valley’s Mohawk Terrain Park creates one of the slickest hills around. Every year, Cascade Mountain engineers one of the longest parks with a flow that’s a must to experience. And all these resorts are within about 90 minutes of Madison.
A little farther north you can find great boarding at Devil’s Head and Christmas Mountain. Or travel up the beautiful Mississippi River and stop at Mt. La Crosse. The downhill skiing has been so good there that the Wisconsin High School Ski League championships are held there each year in February. Even farther north, visit Trollhaugen Mountain, a ski resort with more than 80 acres of skiable terrain with options for every rider.
And don’t forget to hit up Sunburst and Wilmot Mountain outside of Milwaukee. These cozy resorts are great places to learn the feeling of freedom you can get while flying on a board. Season passes are available at every resort, and usually cost between $200 and $500; early season deals and ski packages are always a steal.
Every hill in Wisconsin has its own personality, so people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds can find their niche. Plus, there’s no right or wrong way in snowboarding—it’s a lifestyle!
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