Plan Your Trip > Regional Guides > Complete Guide to Skiing from Chicago

Avant Ski's Complete Guide to Skiing from Chicago

Eliot Hellman                 March 2020

Despite getting enough fluffy white stuff to literally stop traffic on the highway, Chicago’s distinct lack of vertical elevation means you probably won’t be catching a glimpse of the city in any Warren Miller videos. Nevertheless, the region’s Scandinavian settlers brought their skiing traditions with them and today, there are dozens of ski hills dotting the landscape of Northern Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Most are within a 5 hour drive of Chicago. (The travel times/distances referenced are from the Cloud Gate/“The Bean” installation).

 

This is not Colorado or even New England — nothing exceeds 1,000 ft., snow quality can be hit-or-miss, and resorts artificially inflate their trail count by assigning names to short cutouts in the trees or splitting a single piste with a chairlift and counting it as two separate trails. (We list the published trail counts in order to compare apples to apples.) 

However, ski resorts compensate with other offerings like tubing, cheap drinks, diverse ski school programs and great discounts on mid-week or children's tickets. Looking to take advantage of your Epic Pass? Head to Wilmot. If you’re planning a weekend trip with the kids, Cascade and Devil’s Head will keep everyone entertained. For those that want a taste of skiing mountains out west but don’t want the hassle of flying, head up to Granite Peak for a long weekend.     

 

Craving something bigger? Chicago’s two airports offer multiple daily flights to every well-known ski destination in the country. There are even non-stops to some of the more exclusive destinations like Aspen, Vail, and Jackson Hole. In fact, the biggest problem for Chicago’s skiers and snowboarders may just be deciding which resort is the best match for your needs or offers the best bang for your buck.

TOP RESORTS TO VISIT FROM CHICAGO BY CATEGORY

WEEKEND TRIPS​

LONGER TRIPS

PRO TIPS

TOP DAY TRIPS FROM CHICAGO
 

Wilmot Mountain

Wilmot, WI; 1.5 hours driving from Chicago               

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Overview. Ask any group of Chicago skiers and snowboarders about “Wilmot” and half of them will probably respond: “That’s where I learned to ski!” Since 1938, Wilmot has provided generations of Chicagoans a convenient resort to pick up skis for the first time or slide on snow for a couple hours mid-week, despite a mere 230 feet of vertical.

Acquired by Vail Resorts in 2016, Wilmot received the big resort treatment with high-speed quad lifts, upgraded terrain parks, and a first-rate snowmaking system. Thankfully, the rutted out ice sheets of years past are nowhere to be found. The dim lighting, dingy walls, and funky smells in the old base lodge have also been replaced with an interior that mimics the feel of Vail’s larger destination resorts, including an upscale cafeteria. 

 

Wilmot screams family fun, with affordable skiing, snowboarding, & tubing (adult weekend passes are $70). If you, or your children, need lessons or a test run before heading to the larger peaks, Wilmot is the spot to do it. 

Getting To: Drive, parking is free; Take the Kennedy Expressway (I-90 W) to the Edens Expressway (I-94 W). Exit at Rosecrans Road (Exit 2) and take Rosecrans Rd./Illinois 173 west to Wilmot Rd. 

Special Programs: Join the Preferred Program (it’s free!) and get a discount, equivalent to the price of your Wilmot ticket, on your lift ticket (for up to 4 days) at one of several Vail Resorts out west. Discounts are available for a combined skiing and tubing ticket. 

QUICK STATS

Passes: Epic Pass

Rates: Buy online for a $5 discount and automatic enrollment in the Preferred Program

Lessons: Offers hourly, one-day, multi-day lesson and seasonal packages for children and adults of all abilities

Terrain: 120 skiable acres, 23 Trails, 2 Terrain Parks

Breakdown: 38% Green, 33% Blue, 29% Black

Average Snowfall: 45 inches

Vertical Drop: 230 ft

Lifts: 7 total; 3 quads, 2 triples, 2 doubles, 4 magic carpets

 LET'S GO 
  • Wilmot is the closest ski resort to Chicago, only 1.5 hours driving (~66 miles away)

  • The trendy pub-grub at Walt’s Tavern (located above ski rentals adjacent to the main lodge) is the best food around; the rear patio also offers picture-perfect views

  • Most lift lines are short (even on weekends) except for the #2 Chairlift and magic carpets that are swarmed by beginners and ski school

  • Quality snow-making and grooming 

HESITATIONS
  • Advanced riders may find themselves craving more options after a couple of hours. The black runs have a few steep sections, but are decidedly short

  • Driving is required between the tubing hill and ski hill (there is no pedestrian connection). Fortunately, the tubing hill has its own base lodge with a concession stand, beer and wine bar, and parking

  • There are no lodging options at the resort or in the immediate vicinity. Wilmot is best as a day trip 

Alpine Valley Ski Resort

 

Elkhorn, WI; ~2.25 hours driving from Chicago          

1/3

Overview. Driving through the rolling hills of southern Wisconsin, sharp-eyed skiers will spot the Alpine Valley chairlifts overlooking the surrounding landscape from a mile away. The runs are a straight shot down the face of the mountain, but the nearly 400 feet of vertical ensures that you’ll get some satisfying turns before you run out of room. The trails are separated by wooded areas reminiscent of ski resorts in Colorado or Tahoe, offering intermediates the chance to occasionally duck in and out for a small taste of “tree skiing.” Advanced riders, however, should not expect true glades. 

 

For apres ski, grab a local craft beer and some traditional bar food at the expansive, second-floor bar in the main lodge with TVs, a fireplace, and huge windows that provide a great view of rippers carving up the hill or clueless gapers rag-dolling down the slope. Attached to the ski lodge is a 120-room hotel that makes Alpine Valley the nearest “destination resort” to Chicago. Despite being convenient, non-mountain activities are limited and the hotel feels worn and dated. 

Getting To: Drive; plenty of free parking. Take the Kennedy Expressway (I-90 W) to the Edens Expressway (I-94 W). Head north on I-94 W to WI-20 (Exit 333), and drive west on WI-20. 

Special Programs: Season passes ($314 - $562, depending on age and purchase date). Ski & Lodging package includes 1 nights lodging, 1 dinner, 1 breakfast and 2 days unlimited skiing for $197 per person.

Passes: Alpine Valley (not affiliated with any other resorts)

Rates: Window ticket purchases only, mid-week discounts available; Half-price tickets for children under 5

Terrain: 21 Trails, 3 Terrain Park

Breakdown: 33% Green, 38% Blue, 29% Black

Average Snowfall: 80 inches

Vertical Drop: 388 ft

Lifts: 12 total - 3 quads, 3 triples, 1 doubles,  5 tows/conveyors

QUICK STATS

 LET'S GO 
  • Creates the look and feel of an alpine resort within ~2 hours drive of Chicago 

  • Rolling terrain, wooded areas, and terrain parks provide a full day of challenges for all ability levels

  • “Ski-in/ski-out” accommodations are available. Some of the hotel rooms have doors that open directly onto the slopes and chairlifts

 HESITATIONS
  • Crowds. Lift lines can be quite long, especially on weekends, holidays and bluebird days

  • The two hour drive (each way from Chicago) makes for a long day trip. For a weekend trip, we prefer to drive one more hour to the Wisconsin Dells for better lodging, cheaper lift tickets, more terrain, more vertical, and more off-mountain entertainment

TOP WEEKEND TRIPS FROM CHICAGO

Wisconsin Dells - Cascade Mountain & Devil's Head

Lake Delton/Wisconsin Dells; ~3 hours driving from Chicago                

For an adrenaline-fueled weekend of pure, childhood fun, head up to the ski resorts of the Wisconsin Dells. With a combined 77 trails spread across nearly 500 acres, the one-two punch of Cascade and Devil’s Head is a knock-out choice that doesn’t force skiers to commit the whole weekend to a single resort. For steep black runs, Devil’s Head has the upper hand, while beginners and intermediates will appreciate Cascade’s long, windy greens, and wide-open blues. 

 

Either resort is individually worthy of a day trip from Chicago, but don’t spend 3+ hours hauling everyone each way. Instead, stay 20-30 minutes away at one of dozens of hotels in The Dells. Splash around the gigantic indoor water parks with whimsical themes, hit an escape room, drive go-karts or play laser tag. When it’s time to refuel, dinner can be anything from a fancy steakhouse to a kitschy burger joint.  

 

Keep in mind, Cascade and Devil’s Head are 15 miles apart and they do not offer a combined ticket. But even advanced skiers and riders are rewarded by an elusive experience in Midwestern skiing: sufficient challenges to stay entertained all weekend. Drive up on a Friday night, ski all day Saturday and Sunday, and be back in Chicago in time for dinner. 

 LET'S GO 
  • Wide variety of terrain offers something for everyone

  • Massive waterpark resorts like the Wilderness, Great Wolf Lodge, and Kalahari provide acres of indoor water slides, wave pools, jungle gyms, mini-golf, laser-tag, arcades, and carnival games

  • Don’t miss Moosejaw Pizza & Dells Brewing Company for pizza, burgers, pasta, and a rotating selection of beers crafted at the onsite brewery

  • For a more refined experience, catch the Happy Hour at Del-Bar (one of the best restaurants in town) from 4:30-5:45 for small bites that won’t break the bank 

  • Either hill (Devil's Head or Cascade) is individually larger and taller than options closer to Chicago (Alpine Valley or Wilmot) and lift ticket prices are comparable or even cheaper. 

HESITATIONS
  • Winter is the offseason in the Wisconsin Dells. Plan carefully, some shops and restaurants may be closed, especially mid-week

  • Weekend room rates at the major waterpark resorts get pricey. There's no hotel at Cascade and the hotel at Devil's Head is old and dingy 

  • Complex lift ticket pricing options based on day of the week, time of day, holiday premiums, and skier age can make it hard to figure out if you’re getting the best value

Devil's Head

Merrimac, WI, ~3 hours drive from Chicago

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Getting To:Take the Kennedy (I-90W)/Jane Adams Tollway west (north) towards Rockford. At Rockford, continue on I-90 W to WI-78 at Exit 108A. Head south on WI-78 for ~15 minutes to Bluff Road.

​​

Specials Programs:  Night skiing for $16 on Thursdays. Discounts for multi-day, beginners-area restricted tickets, and 6-12 year olds. Kids 5 and under ski free.

QUICK STATS

Passes: Devils Head Season Pass: Adults: $299- $449; Teen (13-17): $249 - $399; Child (6-12): $199-$349; Senior (60+): $199-$349

Terrain: 30 Trails, 2 Terrain Parks 

Breakdown: 30% Green, 40% Blue, 30% Black

Average Snowfall: 45 inches

Vertical Drop: 500 ft

Lifts: 9 total -  5 quads, 1 triples, 1 double, 2 tows/conveyor

INSIDER TIPS

  • Top Trails. For Beginners The Meadows to Cirque to Devil’s Playground; Intermediates Dante’s Inferno; Advanced The Serpent or Revenge 

  • For the kids. There is a pool, hot tub, and game room, but it’s reserved for hotel guests. You’re better off taking advantage of everything The Dells have to offer

  • Favorite On-Mountain Dining. CliffHaus cafeteria is the main option, serving the standard selection of burgers, fries, pizza, and nachos. Pizza, a cheeseburger, or a chicken sandwich are available in the Devil’s Den

  • Favorite Après Spot. The Avalanche Bar has outdoor seating, and occasional music, but is not always open. The Devil’s Den is your best bet 

Cascade Mountain

Portage, WI; ~3 hours driving from Chicago              

Getting To: Take the Kennedy (I-90W)/Jane Adams Tollway west (north) towards Rockford. At Rockford, continue on I-90 W to WI-33 at Exit 106. Head west on WI-33 to Cascade Mountain Road and follow the signs. The resort is visible from the highway on the left side just before the exit.

​​

Specials Programs:  Kids 12 and under ski free with a paying adult.

QUICK STATS

Passes: Adult Season passes: $239-$459 (20% off for teens, seniors, military); Child (12 and under): $99; Night Pass: $239 

Terrain: 47 Trails, 3 Terrain Parks 

Breakdown: 38% Green, 24% Blue, 30% Black

Average Snowfall: ~53 inches

Vertical Drop: 460 ft

Lifts: 11 total - 2 detachable quads, 2 fixed quads, 2 triples, 2 double, 3 tows/conveyors

INSIDER TIPS

Chestnut Mountain

Galena, IL; ~3 hours driving from Chicago          

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OverviewPerfect for a romantic weekend getaway, Chestnut Mountain and the town of Galena offer entertainment for all ages to enjoy a relaxing family vacation. With 475 feet of vertical, Chestnut is one of the tallest ski resorts in the region and the rolling terrain creates interesting trails, even if its acreage is on the smaller side. While beginners and intermediates should find enough variety for two days, advanced riders will be pretty satisfied after one full day on the slopes. Fortunately, the resort is a 15 minute drive from the historic, former mining town of Galena, IL. Stroll down Main Street lined with wineries, restaurants, and quaint shops selling handcrafted jewelry, antiques, and gourmet chocolate. 

Getting To: Take the Kennedy (I-90 W) to US-20 W. Turn left at 4th Street/BlackJack Rd. and continue south to the resort following the signs. 

​​

Specials ProgramsDiscounts for skiing midweek, Sunday afternoons, and Friday nights. Keep an eye out for early December promotions in which the date is the amount you pay for your lift ticket. (i.e. $14 on December 14).

Images from Chestnut Mountain Media Kit

 LET'S GO 
  • The Far Side is a seven acre, dedicated terrain park with its own chairlift and conveyor belt

  • A hotel with indoor pool and hot tub, three restaurants, rental facility, and gear store on site make Chestnut a one-stop shop for a weekend ski vacation

  • Hundreds of vacation homes from small condos to mansions are 25 minutes away at the 6,800 acre Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa. You can book directly through the resort, but many of the properties are privately owned and better pricing can be found on Homeaway, VRBO, or AirBnB. Most resort amenities are available to private bookings, but always double-check. 

HESITATIONS
  • Only one “real” green trail; the rest are bunny slopes that most beginners will quickly progress past

  • Noticeable increase in difficulty between the green and blue trails

  • Although park-junkies will appreciate The Far Side, advanced skiers/riders with downhill aspirations will be satisfied after one day, despite almost 500’ vertical

INSIDER TIPS

  • Top Trails. Beginner Old Main; Intermediate Crazy Horse; Advanced Warpath

  • For the kids. Pool, hot tub and video game arcade at the hotel. Head into town for sweets at Galena Kandy Kitchen and unlimited samples of homemade jams and fruit butters at Galena Canning Company

  • Favorite Dining. In town, we like Vinny Vanucchi’s for Italian-American food served in a rustic setting with an Italian-centric wine list

  • Favorite Après Spot. Summit Bar at Chestnut, for upscale bar food and a unexpectedly good drink list 

QUICK STATS

Passes: Chestnut has its own Season Passes (it's not part of a multi-resort pass program) 

Rates: Adult season passes ($495); Family (4 ppl, $29 each additional): $1,840. Passes include 2 free tickets to Lutsen Mountains (MN) and Granite Peak (WI)

Terrain: 19 Trails, 3 Terrain Parks

Breakdown: 26% Green, 58% Blue, 16% Black

Average Snowfall: 50 inches

Vertical Drop: 475 ft

Lifts: 10 total - 2 quads, 4 triples, 4 tows/conveyors

Granite Peak Ski Area

Wausau, WI; ~5 hours driving from Chicago          

OverviewWith 700 vertical feet and nearly 70 trails that cut through thick trees, Granite Peak can feel like skiing “out west.” Top-to-bottom blue cruisers? Yep. Terrain Parks? Check. Steeps, bumps, and glades? Check, check, and check. Beginners have trails off the Santa Lift all to themselves, while advanced riders should head over to the Dasher lift and lap it until your legs are jelly. Switching between the mountain’s three distinct sections can be time consuming, so stick with one area before moving to the next.  

At the end of the day, cozy up with a boozy hot chocolate at one of four fireplaces inside the charming, wood-and-stone Historic Chalet, or chill outside by the fire pits and heat lamps and check out the action on the slopes. For dinner, head back towards Wausau and stop at one of the restaurants (national chains and local pub/grill food) scattered among the clusters of hotels along the highway. Or check out downtown Wausau for Mexican or Italian food, a white-tablecloth steakhouse, or a unique gastropub/brewery that are all within walking distance of each other. 

Granite Peak offers a skiing experience usually reserved for bigger mountains that few resorts in the Midwest can rival, and it’s all within a 5 hour drive of Chicago. If you’re planning on driving from Chicago to a nearby ski resort for a 3-day weekend, Granite Peak deserves a spot at the top of your list.  

 

Getting To: Take the Kennedy (I-90 W), keeping left at the fork to stay on I-90 (signs for Rockford). Continue on I-90 to I-39 N to Exit 190, N. Mountain Rd./County Rd. NN. Head west on N. Mountain Rd./County Rd. NN to Snowbird Ave.

Specials ProgramsPurchase the “Family Combo” ticket (1 adult and 1 child, age 6-15) for a 20% discount off the price of two separate tickets. Discounts for children (up to age 5), seniors, students, advance purchase, nighttime and midweek skiing.​​

 LET'S GO 
  • Better downhill to uphill time than most midwestern resorts (it takes longer to ski down some trails than to ride back up!) 

  • The best collection of green runs in the region are served by the dedicated Santa Lift

  • Every type of terrain you would find at a resort out west. Even (small) cliffs!

  • Wausau is a real town with restaurants, breweries, spas, a waterpark, bowling alley, and ice skating

HESITATIONS
  • It can be challenging for groups of mixed abilities to stay together. There is no true beginner terrain from the summit and most lifts go all the way to the top 

  • Nearly impossible as a day trip from Chicago; difficult for anything less than a long weekend - the five hour drive on Sunday night after skiing all weekend is tiring

  • Lodging on mountain is very limited and expensive

INSIDER TIPS

  • Top Trails. Beginner — Whitetail to Snowflake; Intermediate Top Notch to Timber Wolf to Sunset; Advanced Dasher Lift

  • For the kids. Grab a day pass to Logger’s Landing Waterpark at the Grand Lodge Hotel, or dinner, arcade games, and laser tag at Wausau On Water 

  • Favorite Dining. The dinner menu at Red Eye Brewing Company will take you by surprise with creativity far beyond what might be expected at a “brewery” 

  • Favorite Après Spot. The authentic, alpine ambiance at the Historic Chalet is unbeatable, even if the beer and cocktail list is somewhat limited

QUICK STATS

Passes: Granite Peak has its own Season Passes and is part of Indy Pass  

Rates: Season passes for adults: $529; Family (2 adults, 2 children, age 22 or under): $1,599; Child (6-12): $379

Terrain: 74 Trails, 7 Terrain Parks

Breakdown: 30% Green, 35% Blue, 30% Black, 5% Double Black

Average Snowfall: 75 inches

Vertical Drop: 700 ft

Lifts: 7 total - 1 six-pack, 2 quads, 2 triples, 2 tows/conveyors

 
 
 
 
 
FAVORITE DESTINATION TRIPS FROM CHICAGO
 

While Chicago lacks big mountains close to home, it’s central geographic location offers something arguably better: easy access everywhere! When it’s dumping in Park City or Snowbird, hop an early morning flight to Salt Lake City (SLC) and rip turns by lunchtime. For amazing value, direct flights to Denver (DEN) are often ~$100 with easy access to Keystone and Arapahoe Basin. If the West Coast is having a dry season, head east to Stratton, Stowe, or Killington via Albany (ALB), Hartford (BDL), or Burlington (BTV).

Chicago even has direct flights to smaller, exclusive destinations like Vail (Vail/Eagle Airport, EGE), Steamboat Springs (Yampa Valley Airport/Hayden, HDN), and Aspen (Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, ASE). Extend your season by heading to Canada for late season pow at Whistler. And yes, Chicago to Vancouver (YVR) is direct too.

Overview of Direct Flight Routes From O'Hare International Airport (ORD)

From ORD, direct service is available to all of the major ski gateway cities in the U.S. as well as many more exclusive destinations

Resorts

Keystone, Breckenridge, Vail, Beaver Creek, Winter Park, Copper

Park City, Deer Valley, Solitude, Alta, Brighton, Snowbird

Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Heavenly, Kirkwood, Northstar

Tahoe Resorts (same as above)

Tahoe Resorts (same as above)

Tahoe Resorts (same as above)

Sugarbush, Stowe, Mad River Glen, Smugglers Notch, Bolton

AspenSnowmass

Steamboat Springs

Vail

Jackson Hole, Grand Targhee

Telluride

Big Sky

Direct (ORD)

Denver, CO 

Salt Lake City, UT 

San Francisco, CA

Sacramento, CA

Reno, NV

Oakland, CA

Burlington, VT

Aspen, CO

Hayden, CO

Eagle Vail, CO

Jackson Hole, WY

Montrose, CO

Bozeman, MT

Also From

MDW 

MDW 

MDW

MDW

MDW 

MDW only

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~Drive Time

from Airport

1.5 - 2.5 hours

45 minutes 

3 - 4 hours

2 hours

~1 hour

~3 hours

1 hour

10 - 15 mins

30 mins

~ 1 hour

~ 1 hour

1.5 hours

~ 1 hour

FAVORITE DESTINATION TRIPS FROM CHICAGO

Aspen Snowmass

Aspen, CO; ~2.75 hours direct flight from Chicago         

1/3

Overview. Aspen Snowmass has it all - four mountains within an 8.5 mile radius, a combined 5,300 acres of varied terrain, an outstanding dining scene, a happening après scene, accommodations fit for celebrities, world class instruction and its easy to get around. Snowmass is the largest of the mountains (over 3,100 acres) and is excellent for families, intermediates and experts. Aspen (Ajax) and Buttermilk balance one another - Aspen, with a base in the heart of downtown, has steep fall lines and lacks beginner terrain, while Buttermilk, home of the X-Games, is five minutes away and offers more moderate pitches, perfect for learning or cruising something more mellow. Just 10 minutes from town, Aspen Highlands' signature feature is long, steep bowls. We recommend choosing one mountain for a day, but the RFTA buses allow seamless travel between all four. There is plenty for non-skiers to enjoy. 

Getting To: United offers direct service to ASE from ORD; Aspen is only ~10 minutes from the airport and there is no need for a car. 

 LET'S GO 
  • Unrivaled variety of awesome terrain - steep & deep, groomers, glades, backcountry, bowls and bumps

  • Top notch everything - novices to experts and even the non-skiers will have a blast

  • Choose luxurious accommodations in Aspen or ski in / ski out at Snowmass (95% of lodging at Snowmass is slope side)

  • Hard days on the slopes are rewarded with a range of après ski options at the top of their games

  • Not a skier, or want a break from the slopes, go shopping, check out the spas, the cross country trails or try uphilling

HESITATIONS
  • Despite its convenient regional airport, ASE sits between the mountains - rapidly changing weather and limited visibility lead to frequent flight delays, cancellations, and diversions to Grand Junction

  • Direct flights are pricier; Denver is ~4 hours driving 

  • Limited options for reasonably priced accommodations

  • If you’re looking for a mellow / off the beaten path scene, this is not it 

INSIDER TIPS

  • Après ski and dining in Aspen are outstanding (worth the trip if staying in Snowmass). Make dinner reservations, especially during peak periods

  • On windy days, consider Ajax or Buttermilk, the peak of Snowmass is at 12,500 feet and Le Cirque and High Alpine can shut down or run slowly

  • The Highlands Bowl is a highlight at Aspen Highlands - buy straps for the journey (you can thank us later)

  • Uphilling is growing in popularity here and a great workout. Consider investing in some skins and summiting some of the peaks on foot

  • Rent from Four Mountains Sports - overnight storage and free, seamless equipment transfers amongst all four mountains at no extra cost is super convenient 

QUICK STATS

Passes: Ikon Pass 

Value: Aspen/Snowmass offers 7 days on the Full Ikon Pass and 5 days as a $150 add-on to the Base Pass

Terrain: 336 Trails, 10 Terrain Parks (across the 4 mountains)

Breakdown: 6% Green, 43% Blue, 17% Black, 34% Double Black

Average Snowfall: 355 inches

Vertical Drop: 4,406 ft

Lifts: 40 total, uphill capacity: 50,000+ ppl/hr (across all four mountains)

 
 

Snowbird

Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT; ~3.5 hrs direct from Chicago              

1/3

Overview. Snowbird, aka "The Bird" is for serious skiers and boarders. This no frills resort is true to its roots as a haven for those seeking powder and steep, rugged terrain. The scenery is spectacular with 360º views of jagged peaks characteristic of the Alps. Hidden Peak (11,000 ft) is the highest lift accessible point in Utah. The light and flakey snow benefits from the Lake Effect, elevation and drier climate and lives up to Utah's title as "the greatest on earth." The iconic, European style tram carries ~100 passengers from the base to Hidden Peak in ~8 minutes. The Bird has one of the longest seasons in North America. Average annual snowfall totals 500+ inches and being partially on private land, it can easily remain open through May (though the Gad Valley, leased from the Forest Service, becomes "backcountry.")

Getting To: Direct service to SLC is available from ORD and MDW; Snowbird is a 40 minute drive from SLC International Airport.

 LET'S GO 
  • Snowbird is for the adventurous - fall lines are steep and exploration is encouraged, pretty much anywhere is game

  • Logistics for a resort of this caliber don't get much easier. A short ride from Salt Lake City and the Snowbird Center has everything you need 

  • Dedicated learning areas, private group options and mountain guides can improve your technique at all ages and levels

  • Come find "the greatest snow on earth"

HESITATIONS
  • Limited terrain for Beginners and Lower Intermediates. Trail ratings are deceiving, this place is steep (Blues here are like Blacks at neighboring Park City resorts). Just learning? It's easy to visit Alta

  • Crowds - the fine powder and steep fall lines are no secret. Locals flock after big storms and runs are skied off quickly

  • The après ski scene is small and mellow. It fits the bill after a rigorous day on the mountain, but if looking to party, this is not your spot

INSIDER TIPS

  • Avoid long waits for the tram to Hidden Peak (esp. on weekends and powder days) by taking the Peruvian Chair to the Peruvian Tunnel 

  • Skiers should purchase the all access pass to Snowbird and Alta. It's only $25 more and easy to go between (The Baldy Lift from Mineral Basin connects to the SugarLoaf peak at Alta). 

  • Intermediates and those newer to the Bird wanting a warm up can take Chip's Run from Hidden Peak

  • The Cliff Lodge is the most luxurious of the four lodges. The other lodges are simple and comfortable, everything is in walking distance

QUICK STATS

Passes: Ikon Pass 

Value: The Full Ikon Pass offers 7 days between Snowbird and Alta and 5 days on the Base Pass

Terrain: 171 Trails; Backcountry access

Breakdown: 27% Green, 38% Blue, 20% Black, 15% Double Black

Average Snowfall: 500+ inches

Vertical Drop: 3,240 ft

Lifts: 11 total, uphill capacity: 17,400+ ppl/hr 

 
CHICAGO SKI/SNOWBOARD STORES

Day trips are even easier if you have all of the gear in advance. Here are our favorite places to buy gear as well as rent equipment ahead of a day or weekend trip. Avoid paying a premium slope side with this guide.

Viking Ski Shop | W. Fullerton

One of Chicago’s oldest ski and snowboard shops, the three story shop feels cramped, but has a decent selection of gear and apparel for the entire family's next ski trip. Home to some of the best ski boot fitters in the city, they can map your foot, heat-mold the plastic, or craft inserts to for ultimate comfort. Bring your existing boots in for upgrades, or trust their expertise and find a correct fitting pair from the get-go. They have a second location in Barrington. 

The House | Lincoln Park  

A gear shop catering almost exclusively to snowboarders and skateboarders (they don’t sell skis or even apparel from “traditional” ski brands). They have Burton apparel and accessories along with a selection of high end gear from Never Summer, Jones, and Union. Sharpening and waxing are reasonably priced and quick turnaround time. As the brick-and-mortar outlet for TheHouse.com, the store can also get anything in inventory on the website.

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