Wisconsin Downhill Dreamin'

By Russ Lowthian

From the kettle moraine region of the southeast to the Lake Superior shoreline in the north, visitors to Wisconsin can choose from thirty downhill ski and snowboard areas, the third largest collection of any state in the country. While they share a common pursuit, each has its own unique personality. The following list contains thumbnail sketches of ten top ski areas in the Badger State, sorted by region.

Southern Wisconsin

Alpine Valley Resort
Elkhorn, WI

Alpine Valley Resort is the largest ski area in southern Wisconsin’s kettle moraine region. Winter enthusiasts will find a picturesque setting with 20 trails that range from beginner to expert mogul runs.

The trails are supported by 12 lifts, including three high-speed quads, three express triple chair lifts, one double chair lift and five wonder carpets. For snowboarders, there’s a complete terrain park. There’s also a professional ski school program.

Cascade Mountain Ski Area
Portage, WI

Cascade Mountain is situated in the Baraboo Bluff region in south-central Wisconsin. Its north-facing slopes house a variety of pine-bordered trails and a challenging terrain park. Some of the 44 trails -- like the Mogul Monster -- are steep and challenging, while others like Adele's Alley are over a mile long and fun for beginners and cruisers. Getting to the top of the mountain is fast and easy with eleven lifts, including the high-speed Mountain Express quad chairlift.

Snowboarders and skiers will enjoy the 30-acre terrain park, which includes the only super pipe in the Midwest. If you like fresh powder, head to the expert-level North Wall trail. Whenever possible, the resort makes light snow overnight and leaves it ungroomed -- perfect for carving first thing in the morning.

Devil's Head Resort
Merrimac, WI 

Devil's Head Resort is nestled in the hillside of a glacier-formed bluff, offers a challenge for skiers of every level. Located in the south central section of Wisconsin, the resort is listed as one of the Midwest's “10 Best Ski Destinations” by Ski Magazine.

There are 30 trails, a half pipe and new terrain park, all supported by 9 lifts. Skiers here should be on the lookout for bright orange racing bibs that identify "blind skiers." The resort welcomes those with disabilities, staging special ski lessons, races and other ski-related activities.

Mountain Top Ski Area at Grand Geneva Resort
Lake Geneva, WI

Mountain Top Ski Area at Grand Geneva Resort in southeastern Wisconsin offers 20 runs serviced by five lifts. Psyched for snowboarding? Try the terrain park for thrilling action.

Tyrol Basin
Mount Horeb, WI

Tyrol Basin overlooks a picturesque valley near Mount Horeb in the south central part of the state, just minutes west of Madison. Known nationally for its world-class half-pipe, the facility has now added a second half-pipe to accompany its 18 downhill runs. Tyrol’s tree-lined trails and terrain park are supported by five lifts.

Wilmot Mountain
Wilmot, WI

Wilmot Mountain is set on the edge of one of the great glacial terminal moraines, has a character all its own. Located just west of Kenosha, near the Illinois border, it offers 23 trails. Advanced skiers will gravitate to Snow Bowl, Competition and Sidewinder. Beginners, intermediate skiers and boarders will also find ample trails to fit their skill level. And for kids four to eight, Wilmot Mountain offers the Pied Piper Children's Program.

Wilmot Mountain’s snowmaking capabilities guarantee great conditions from early November through late March. There are 11 lifts to support the resort, which also features a half pipe and a terrain park.

Wilmot Mountain's Snow Tubing Area was built at a separate area so it does not take away from the existing skiing and snowboarding runs. The Snow Tubing Area is over 1,000 feet long, has up to 22 tubing lanes and two conveyor lifts to take you back up the hill

Central Wisconsin

Granite Peak
Wausau, WI

Granite Peak lies in the center of the state and boasts the second highest vertical drop in the upper Midwest. This 700-foot mountain became a ski area after residents cleared six runs by hand in the mid-thirties.

In recent years, the facility has undergone extensive renovation and improvement. With 75 runs, the picturesque alpine environment provides the ideal backdrop for a day out on the slopes. From challenging chutes and tree skiing to a full terrain park, there’s something for the whole family. Granite Peak’s runs are supported by seven lifts, including a high-speed quad and Mid-America’s longest high speed, six-person chairlift. Ski Magazine now ranks Granite Peak the top ski destination in the Midwest.

Mount LaCrosse Ski Area
La Crosse, WI

At Mount LaCrosse Ski Area visitors will find great slopes carved into the bluffs of southwestern Wisconsin’s Mississippi River Valley. Skiers and boarders can watch eagles soar over the river as they explore the facility’s 18 trails and terrain park. Boasting four lifts and a wide variety of ski terrain, it accommodates skiers of varying skill sets with everything from the gentle Mileaway to the challenging Damnation, whose 516-foot vertical drop makes it Mid-America’s steepest run.

As the sun sets to the west, guests can relax in the St. Bernard Room and recap the day’s events with friends. Named "Best Skier's Bar in the Midwest" by Skiing Magazine, it’s a great place to plan night skiing and après-ski activities.

Northern Wisconsin

Dresser, WI

Trollhaugen, known for its midnight skiing, is nestled above the St Croix River Valley along the state’s west central border. This family-run recreational park offers great skiing and snowboarding on 23-24 runs, a terrain park and a half pipe, all supported by 10 lifts.

With night skiing, Trollhaugen has a huge commitment to making snow. This season they've added more high capacity guns to increase snow coverage, as well as a new power tiller to groom the trails to perfection.

Whitecap Mountain
Upson, WI

Whitecap Mountain takes advantage of the lake effect snow on the resorts’ three mountains. Located near Lake Superior, on the ancient and picturesque Penokee Range, the resort benefits from an annual average snowfall of over 200 inches.

Forty-three runs offer novice, intermediate and expert skiers and snowboarders a variety of options. Experts can show off their skills on the master-designed ski runs or dance playfully over the bumps of Kilimanjaro, while intermediates will enjoy cruising down the wide Grindelwald trail.

An avid skier, Russ Lowthian has carved his way throughout most of the Midwest and chronicled his adventures for numerous outlets. The Minnesota Skier editor and previous contributor to “Slide and Glide” magazine, Russ is currently working on a couple of books focused on biking, paddling and birdwatching in Wisconsin.