By Brenton Martell
In a state famed for its “frozen tundra,” rarely is there any concern about the weather producing too little snow in the winter. Even so, to create the best conditions for downhill skiing, snowboarding, and tubing – and to stretch the season out for nearly half the year – ski resort operators in the state know better than to leave matters in the hands of Mother Nature. As soon as temperatures begin to creep below freezing, Wisconsin’s top ski resorts ready their snow cannons, which turn and churn out snow to entice skiers and boarders onto the slopes as early as November, and to keep customers moving vertically until as late as April.
By November, the urge to get back on the slopes begins to get unbearable for Tyrol Basin’s thousands of loyal followers. To appease its fans, Tyrol’s snow guns begin combining pressurized air and millions of gallons of water to give winter a helping hand. In addition to being used to kick off the season, the snowmaking system is also relied on throughout the season to combat fluctuating winter weather.
Tyrol Basin has good reason to keep pumping the powder out; ranked in 2013 as the top terrain park destination in the Midwest by Transworld Snowboarding, it boasts the state’s only permanent “Airbag” – a fifty feet long, fifty feet wide, ten feet deep air-pillow that allows skiers and snowboarders to score big air without suffering the ground-pounding consequences that usually come with a failed landing.
Boasting one of the largest vertical drops of any ski resort in the Midwest, and the very top drop in Wisconsin, Granite Peak’s hundreds of acres of skiable terrain get covered early and often by 500 snow cannons and a corps of trail-grooming snowcats. The coverage reaches 100% of the mountain’s trails, ensuring that visitors’ favorite runs will be open as often as possible. This central Wisconsin resort also frequently flip-flops with Tyrol Basin for first and second place in Transworld Snowboarding’s terrain park rankings, bolstering Granite Peak’s draw from late fall all the way into the early spring.
Although nearly six feet of snow fall naturally on Devil’s Head’s twenty-five trails in an average year, this 500-foot-vertical beast is backed up by nearly 350 snow guns to keep the Devil’s Head cool throughout the winter months. Even when you can’t make it out to the mountain, you can keep an eye on the live Snowcam to track the snowmaking progress.
In addition to the destinations highlighted above, be sure to check out our downhill skiing landing page for information about other skiing, snowboarding, and tubing locations throughout Wisconsin.