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Everything You Need to Know about Skiing Near Chicago

Chicago skyline versus a person skiing at sunrise

Who says you need to pack your bags and head to the Rockies in order to go skiing? In fact, there’s plenty of skiing near Chicago. Forget the airport and ski near your own backyard this winter. 

This complete guide to ski resorts near Chicago is jam-packed with info to help you hit the slopes. Beginner skiers and snowboarders will enjoy learning the basics on a smaller mountain. With affordable lift ticket prices and shorter lift lines, you’ll get more snowy fun for your dollar.

The Best Ski Resorts Near Chicago

Afraid that the second flattest state (Florida is number one), doesn’t have action-packed ski resorts nearby? As you’ll see below, there are quite a few local ski resorts near Chicago that offer plenty of fresh snow without the super-expensive lift ticket. Here’s a look at a few of our favorite skiing near Chicago that you’ve got try this winter.

Four Lakes Alpine Snowsports

Only 30 miles outside of the Windy City, this is the closest ski resort near Chicago on our list. With seven different lifts (tow ropes) and even a terrain park, this is an excellent spot to learn how to ski or snowboard. Rates are extremely reasonable (only $28 on Saturdays!) and during the week, the resort is open until 10pm, allowing you to get some turns after work.

Alpine Valley

Located two hours outside of Chicago in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, Alpine Valley Resort boasts 20 runs including the steep drops of Big Thunder and the longest run of over 3,000 feet! Unsurprisingly, some of the best skiing near Chicago can be found at the beautiful Alpine Valley Resort. There’s a ski school for both adults and kids so you can hone your skills and reach your skiing goals. This location even includes a ski-in-ski-out resort at the base if you choose to make a weekend out of your skiing adventure.

Wilmot Mountain

For action-packed skiing just an hour and a half from downtown Chicago, head to Wilmot Mountain in Wilmot, Wisconsin. This smaller, 120-acre ski resort packs a punch with two well-featured terrain parks and even an alpine skiing race course. With an excellent ski school, this is the perfect spot to learn how to ski near Chicago.

Devil’s Head Resort

Fun fact: it’s only a three-hour drive from Chicago to get to Wisconsin’s highest mountain. Devil’s Head Resort is the biggest ski resort near Chicago with a 500-foot vertical drop and 30 runs that are groomed twice daily. Devil’s Head Resort has an even split between beginner, intermediate, and advanced terrain, making it an excellent choice for groups of mixed abilities or those looking to up their skill level. 

Snowboarders love the resort’s board-friendly runs and the large pro shop can help you with any last-minute things you may need. Devil’s Head Resort also boasts cross-country ski tracks and a lodge for a variety of snowy activities. What’s not to love?

The Mountain Top at Grand Geneva

The Mountain Top and Grand Geneva brings family-friendly fun to the slopes. Only a 90-minute drive from Chicago this is one of the best ski resorts near Chicago. Boasting over 20 runs, sledding, and ice skating there’s plenty of fun to keep you smiling all weekend long. The Grand Geneva Resort offers plenty of accommodation from basic to luxury villas to round out your perfect ski weekend.

Cascade Mountain

Adrenaline junkies rejoice! Cascade Mountain in Portage, Wisconsin offers all the thrills you could ever want with four terrain parks, a halfpipe and even a super pipe! For those that don’t want to turn tricks in the park, there are 10 challenging, black diamond runs that offer steep descents and tricky mogul fields. If you’re a beginner, don’t worry: there’s ample easy terrain and moderate trails to zero in on your skills. The best part? Kids under 12 ski free!

How to Prepare for a Ski Trip

When it comes to preparing for a ski trip, whether it be a weekend getaway or a day out on the slopes, you’ll want to remember a few key things before you go. First, think about the weather. Is it going to be windy? Extremely cold? Sunny or cloudy? All of these things will have an effect on your day and what to wear, so be prepared for the conditions at hand.

Next, you’ll want to make sure you have all the right gear. We’ll dive into the details in a second, but once you know the weather you can be prepared with proper clothing and gear for your big ski day. 

Lastly, see if it makes sense to purchase your lift tickets in advance. Some resorts offer discounts for advanced, online purchases and you can skip the long ticket lines. If you’re going for multiple days, say a week or so, look into getting a season pass. A season pass might be your most economical option if you plan on skiing several times throughout the season or you’re going on a longer trip.

Where to Rent Skis and Snowboards Near Chicago

If you’re new to skiing and snowboarding, it doesn’t make sense to spend thousands of dollars on a setup. For a more budget-friendly ski day, rent your gear instead. Most resorts have a gear rental shop at the base. However, the rentals tend to be more expensive and not as high quality. A great way to rent skis in Chicago is to rent via a peer to peer rental service. You’ll be able to rent high-quality skis and snowboards for a reasonable price and get the perfect fit you need for success on the slopes.

What Do I Need to Ski or Snowboard?

For a day on the slopes you’ll want to pack a few handy essentials in order to stay cozy. Here are the must-have items you’ll need for skiing near Chicago:

  • Skis/snowboard, poles (for skiing only), boots, and bindings
  • A ski or snowboard-specific helmet. Using a bike helmet or other helmet won’t protect you against head injuries common to skiing. 
  • Waterproof pants. It’s easy to get wet as snow melts next to your warm body. You can opt to have ski pants, or you can use rain pants with long underwear and fleecy, warm pants underneath.
  • Ski socks. Ski socks are tall, knee-high socks that offer a compression fit. Essentially, they are thinner, but warm. You can certainly get away with other socks in a pinch, but be sure to wear the socks you plan on skiing with when you try on your equipment. At a minimum the socks need to cover your legs above your boots to avoid chafing.
  • A warm winter coat. Waterproof will work best.
  • Warm, non-cotton layers such as wooly base layers, fleece, or other synthetic material.
  • Ski goggles to protect your eyes from glaring sun or cold wind.
  • Sunscreen and lip balm
  • A neck gaiter to protect your neck from the cold and wind
  • Gloves or mittens, water proofed works best.

There are also a few handy items that are nice to have while on the slopes. Of course, you don’t need these things to ski or snowboard, but if you’re looking to save a little time and money they are certainly nice to have.

  • A small backpack with a hydration sleeve or one that can carry a water bottle.
  • A hydration bladder or reusable water bottle
  • Snacks
  • Kleenex (be sure not to litter)

Tips for Skiing Near Chicago Without a Car

Going skiing without a car is always a challenge. However, you don’t need wheels to hit the slopes. There are a few different ways you can navigate not having a car and enjoying the snow. First, join a ski club. Chicago-based ski clubs often organize trips to various resorts where transportation is included, it’s a great way to meet fellow slope enthusiasts. Some of the closer resorts sit close to a Metra line. For example, you can leave from Union Station and arrive at Four Lakes Alpine Snowsports in just over an hour. You will need to take an Uber/Lyft from the train stop to the resort, however. Another option would be to rent a vehicle for the day. It is certainly worth the effort and allows you more flexibility. Alternatively, you could scan outdoor-based Facebook groups and look for rides. Offer to pitch in on gas or buy a round of beers. No matter what you decide, there are many options to go skiing without a car.

What to Expect on Your First Day Skiing

For your first day on the slopes, remember that it’s okay to be a bit nervous. Skiing, and especially snowboarding, isn’t the most natural movement. If you’re new to snowboarding, expect to spend a lot of time on your backside. Once you take a few lessons and learn the ropes, you’ll eventually be able to link your turns and move. For skiers, the initial learning curve is a bit easier. Take your time and go slow as you learn a new skill. Remember, if you don’t have a willing friend ready to teach you how to ski or snowboard, investing in a lesson will help tremendously with figuring out how to ski or snowboard.

Who says you can’t ski near Chicago? It might not be the steep, peaks of the Rockies, but there’s plenty of shred-worthy terrain right near the Windy City. With so many resorts located within a three-hour drive from Chicago, there’s plenty of ways to hit the slopes this year.

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