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Snow Seekers

Hit the Slopes Close to Home

McHenry County Magazine
Tyrol Basin Ski and Snowboard Area in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin.
Tyrol Basin Ski and Snowboard Area in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin.

The best cure for the post-holiday blues is a winter getaway. Sure cruises and beaches are nice, but why not make the most of winter by getting out of the house and onto the slopes and trails? 

Even if you are not an experienced skier or snowboarder, it’s no problem. There are options right in our area for a great weekend of fun, so pack up the car and the kids, or gather a group of friends and hit the slopes at one of these nearby destinations.

Tyrol Basin Ski and Snowboard Area
Located just 25 miles from Madison in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, this 40- acre park offers 17 ski trails and six snowboard terrain parks for various ability levels.  On weekends, beginning skiers and snowboard riders can take hourly lessons, which includes equipment rental. 

More experienced athletes can test their skills on tree-lined trails and terrain features – such as rails, jumps and more.  “Our West Ridge is steep and our black runs are definitely challenging,” says general manager Josh Faber.

Off the slopes, Mt. Horeb’s quaint downtown offers specialty shops, antiques and art studios, plus hand-carved wooden trolls that pay homage to the town’s Scandinavian heritage. Chocolate lovers won’t want to miss Sjolinds Chocolate Shoppe, featuring pastries, candies and is also open for lunch.  The Grumpy Troll Brewery serves local craft brews, sandwiches and pizza.

February 3-5 is the annual Scandihoovian Winter Festival, featuring indoor and outdoor events, including a community bonfire, candlelight cross country skiing, and more. 

Mt.Horeb lodging ranges from a family-owned motel, to a modern corporate inn and suites, with a fitness center and pool, to a guest house inspired by the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright. Learn more about the area at Travel Wisconsin’s Mt. Horeb page at www.travelwisconsin.com.

Wilmot Mountain
Open since 1938, Wilmot was purchased in January by Colorado-based Vail resorts and has just undergone a $13 million renovation. 

The resort has three new chair lifts with quad seating, and two high-speed rope tows to move skiers and snowboarders up the hills. “We’ve increased our capacity quite a bit, which means people will spend less time waiting in line,” says general manger Taylor Ogilvie.

Improvements to the base lodge have upgraded and expanded Wilmot’s dining options.  A former cafeteria has been replaced with a multi-station food court.  A new, sit-down restaurant, Walt’s Tavern, offers a menu of burgers, sandwiches, salads and appetizers and a full bar. 

Other improvements include a new children’s area and ski school, expanded terrain park, and improved snow-making technology. 

What hasn’t changed are Wilmot’s 23 ski trails, ranging from beginner-friendly to challenging, two terrain parks and a tubing area. “What’s unique about Wilmot is that even though it’s not a tall hill, our runs have a lot of variety, so it’s interesting,” Ogilvie says. 

Wilmot is located in between Lake Geneva and Kenosha, Wisconsin, so there are plenty of places to stay, from basic to family-friendly to luxurious. Lake Geneva’s annual Winterfest, held Jan. 28- Feb. 12, offers the US National Snow Sculpting Competition, plus music, food, family activities and more. For more information visit Travel Wisconsin’s Lake Geneva and Kenosha pages at www.travelwisconsin.com

Snowstar Winter Sports Park
Located about two hours from the far west suburbs in the Quad Cities metro area, this family-friendly ski, snowboard and tubing park caters to beginners of all ages. “We are very good at teaching snowboarding and alpine skiing to people who new to winter sports,” says managing partner Joe Bowman.

Bowman, who is also an instructor, has taught beginners ranging in age from toddlers to grandparents. “Seniors who want an active, wellness-oriented lifestyle are a growing segment of our market,” he says.

Advanced skiers will find Snowstar a convenient and affordable place to brush up on their skills before their big mountain trip.  “Our instructors are certified Level 2 and 3, just like the mountain resorts,” says Bowman. 

The park’s 11 tubing lanes offer a fast, fun activity that everyone can enjoy together, regardless of skill.

Lodging can be found within a 10-minute drive, and the Quad Cities offers plenty of winter fun, including museums, wineries, casinos, dining and American Bald Eagle watching over the Mississippi River. “The river freezes over except in our area, so the eagles migrate here. Wherever there’s open water, you’ll see them,” says Joe Taylor, president/CEO of the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau.

For lodging, travel information and more, see visitquadcities.com.

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