If you’re looking for something active to do this winter, whether it be with your family, friends or significant other—or even your pet!—you might consider hitting the slopes. Here are six “local” winter sports parks and resorts to look into, each targeting different types of skiers and snowboarders.
Looking for a family outing? You might be interested in checking out Grand Geneva Resort or Ski Snowstar Winter Sports Park. If your small children won’t be up for a full day of skiing, head to Chestnut Mountain, where you can drop the kids off at Powder Playcare for a couple of hours. Is cross-country skiing or dog sledding more your thing? Then Justin Trails Resort is for you. If you’re more interested in a good snowboard terrain park, Raging Buffalo is where it’s at. Finally, if you’re a serious skier but want to give boarding a try this year, Sundown Mountain has a lot to offer.
No matter what type of skiing or boarding you’re looking for, one of these six destinations—most within a three-and-a-half hour drive from Peoria—will suit your needs. You’ll find a short description of each resort’s features, ticket prices and contact information below. And when you’re out there, remember that if you haven’t crashed lately, you’re not skiing hard enough!
Ski Snowstar Winter Sports Park
Andalusia, IL—1 hour and 45 minutes from Peoria
Family Oriented Skiing, Snowboarding and Tubing
Ski Snowstar is a family-oriented winter sports park just 10 minutes from the Quad Cities. In addition to downhill skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing, the park offers ski and snowboarding lessons, plus the Little Dipper Training Area where kids can safely learn to ski.
Twenty-five percent of their 28 acres of terrain are rated for beginners, 50 percent for intermediate and 25 percent for advanced skiers. All 14 trails are always fully covered with plush, white snow—even at night! The tougher trails are packed with rails, boxes, spines, table tops, hip jumps, quarter pipes, rollers and more for those looking for a challenge. Ski Snowstar also has a five-lane tubing hill.
Certified National Ski Patrolers are always around to ensure everyone has a safe and fun time. The group’s dedicated members are well-trained and help maintain a safe and controlled skiing environment.
Grand Geneva Resort
Lake Geneva, WI—3.5 hours from Peoria
Great for Families
The Mountain Top at Grand Geneva has it all! This resort offers 18 slopes for downhill skiing, a half pipe and terrain park for snowboarders and five miles of scenic, winding trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
The Mountain Top’s staff makes sure it’s a safe place for skiers of all ages and ability levels. With over 80 qualified instructors, everyone in the family is able to learn from people who know their stuff. The Mountain Top allows students to spend as much time as they need on each skill, moving on only when they’re ready. They also offer instruction designed specifically for youngsters.
Mountain Mites, a program designed for ages six to 14, stresses the importance of safety, and Snow Cubs introduces four- to six-year-olds to a snow experience in a group setting.
Sundown Mountain Resort
Dubuque, IA—3 hours from Peoria
For Serious Skiers and Boarders
Sundown Mountain offers 23 downhill trails, a 300-foot half pipe and a racing department for skiers and boarders. They are family friendly and also offer a kids’ park and program.
Thirty percent of the downhill trails are meant for beginners, 60 percent for intermediate skiers and boarders and 10 percent for pros. Their half pipe offers an array of waves, rails, boxes and more, and everything is illuminated for night skiing and boarding. The Skiwee Kids Park offers children a private ski slope and personal ski carpet. The Family Park, equipped with small trails, teeter totter slides and bumps, is another place where kids can learn.
Sundown’s trained instructors ensure each guest gets the training and tips he or she needs, and even have an adaptive program for physically challenged skiers. They also offer professional boot fitting for every guest, wireless internet service, timed racing and live music every Saturday.
Justin Trails Resort
Sparta, IL—5 hours from Peoria
Cross-Country Skiing and Dogsled Pulls
Justin Trails offers many things other ski resorts don’t. They have 10 miles of trails for cross-country skiing and eight miles for those who want to strap on snowshoes and take a trek through the woods. They also offer two hills for snow tubing. What makes Justin Trails so unique, however, is their skijoring and dog sledding.
In skijoring, the resort’s two trained Siberian huskies pull skiers through special trails. The dogs are harnessed to skiers and directed by staff members who ensure the safety of both the dogs and skiers. The huskies are also available to pull children on dogsleds. Justin Trails Resort is pet-friendly; those skiers who have large, well-traineddogs are welcome to try sledding with their “best friend.”
Because Justin Trails doesn’t have the ability to make snow, six inches must fall for ski trails to be open. However, snowshoeing and dog sledding don’t require much snow at all. Night hikes are also featured at Justin Trails, whether it’s snowing or not!
Raging Buffalo Snowboard Park
Hoffman Estates, IL—3 hours from Peoria
Raging Buffalo is a haven for snowboarders. Because there are no ski slopes, they are able to focus on making their terrain park the best it can be. Raging Buffalo has it all—half pipes, table tops, rails—you name it! And the best part about the park is that the terrain changes throughout the season. For up-to-date details on what the park is offering, check out their website.
Safety is a must, and helmets are mandatory at Raging Buffalo. Members of the Snowboard Patrol are committed to the safety and education of boarders on the terrain park. They are always present and highly visible, should first aid be necessary.
Chestnut Mountain Resort
Galena, IL—3 hours from Peoria
Great for Parents Who Want Real Ski Time
When it comes to skiing and snowboarding, Chestnut Mountain has 19 trails—ranging from novice to black diamond ability levels—and Farside, the largest terrain park of its kind in the Midwest. They offer skiing and boarding lessons, as well as Powder Playcare, a children’s center.
Skiers and snowboarders of all ability levels will feel comfortable on Chestnut Mountain’s trails. Twenty-six percent of their trails are rated for beginners, 47 percent for intermediate ability levels and 21 percent for skiers and boarders who really know what they’re doing. The other six percent makes up Farside, Chestnut’s terrain park. It’s packed full of quarter pipes, box jumps and more than 25 types of rails for snowboarders and skiers alike.
Unique to Chestnut Mountain is Powder Playcare. This children’s center features a Romper Room, nap area with cribs and beds and a central area for registration and play activities. Parents can drop their kids off with the center’s staff and hit the slopes by themselves for a few hours.
The Powder Pups and Powder Rangers programs, for ages four to six and seven to 12, respectively, teach youngsters the skills they need to encourage confidence and independence on the slopes. Chestnut Mountain’s 50 professional guides and instructors are available to teach older beginners as well. a&s