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Iowa Ski Area Guide -- Very Complete

  • Mt. Crescent, Crescent • 40 skiable acres on 300' vertical
    crescent ski area Specs: Summit elevation: 1500'; Base elevation: 1200'. 4 Lifts: 1 quad, 1 double, 2 surface. Uphill Capacity: 3,200/hr. Terrain Mix: 33-34-33. Longest Run: 2200'. Season: usually December through mid-March. Night Skiing 7 days; Open Saturdays till 3:00 am (Sun). Rentals. Annual Snowfall: 30". Snowmaking: 100%.
    The SKInny: Here's a converted cornfield offering skiing just a stone's throw from Omaha. Not a bad little hill; a bit crowded in the evenings. Annual pass seems like a decent deal; daily lift ticket prices semi-reasonable. As ski areas go, you know, it's nicely done...almost feels like a New England ski area.


  • Fun Valley, Montezuma • 35 skiable acres on 240' vertical -- SKI OPERATIONS SUSPENDED


  • Nor-Ski Runs, Decorah • 30 skiable acres on 250' vertical -- SKI OPERATIONS SUSPENDED
    Specs: 3 Lifts: 2 j-bars, 1 rope tow. Terrain Mix: 50-34-16 Longest Run: 1,200 ft. Season: CLOSED.
    The SKInny: Now a "lost" ski area. Nothing troubles me more than to type those words...this was a local "Town tow" community ski area, open when conditions allowed. There are fewer and fewer of these places...I often wonder why more communities don't support operations like Nor-Ski, and why the communities that have them allow them to fade away. When you see the Nor-Skis of the world, you need to do whatever you can to support these ski areas.


  • Riverside Hills, Estherville • 40 skiable acres on 190' vertical - OPERATIONAL STATUS UNKNOWN
    Specs: 3 Lifts: 2 t-bars, 1 rope tow. Terrain Mix: 20-40-40. Uphill capacity: 4,800/hr. Longest Run: 2000'. Season: usually December through March; Weds-Sun. Night Skiing. Rentals. Annual Snowfall: 60". Snowmaking: 100%.
    The SKInny: Small timey hill for locals; see description for Nor-Ski immediately above. You know, a lot of people from east or west pooh-pooh these little hills, but be assured there are quite a few of us who would love to spend a morning at the Riverside Hills of this world, just to say we were there. Any ski area -- no matter how small, no matter how flat -- is important and deserves our support in this age of litigation.


  • Seven Oaks, Boone • 30 skiable acres on 275' vertical
    Specs: 3 Lifts: 1 triple, 2 surface. Terrain Mix: 20-40-40. Uphill capacity: 3600/hr. Longest Run: 1800'. Season: usually December through March. Night Skiing; closed Thurs. nights. Rentals. Annual Snowfall: 30". Snowmaking: 100%.
    The SKInny: Well, you know you have to pay the bills somehow. Skiing isn't exactly a sideline, but we're not sure it's the main attraction at Seven Oaks since the only photograph on their website is a bride and groom cutting a cake. Anyway, we like this place: reasonable prices, and a darn decent vertical. If you're in the area, go.
    Signature Trail: Drop Zone.


  • Sleepy Hollow Sports Park, Des Moines • 20 skiable acres on 100' vertical
    Specs: 3 Lifts: 1 quad, 2 rope tow. Longest Run: 1000'. Season: usually December through March; Weds-Sun plus holidays. Night Skiing. Rentals. Snowmaking.
    The SKInny: Imagine a water park, except with snow and lots of Des Moines youth trying desperately to be king of the hill. Anyway, the rates are great and the atmosphere is good fun for beginners.


  • Sundown Mountain Resort, Dubuque • 55 skiable acres on 475' vertical
    Specs: 7 Lifts: 1 quad, 2 triples, 2 doubles, 2 surface. Terrain Mix: 40-40-20. Uphill capacity: 9000/hr. Longest Run: 4000'. Season: usually late November through mid-March. Night Skiing 7 days. Rentals. Annual Snowfall: 45". Snowmaking: 100%.
    The SKInny: This is an upside-down (lodge at the top) ski area that -- surprisingly -- almost looks like a regular ski area such as you might find further east. Trails are cut through a wooded hill that was once an undeveloped buffer between farmland. Fights with Illinois' Chestnut for the Quad Cities ski dollar; it's a toss-up. Probably the top ski area in the state. Let's face it, this sort of vertical is tough to come by in the midwest. If you can catch Sundown on a weekday morning, you've got a great day of skiing ahead.
    Signature Trail: Gun Barrel.


Best all-around Skiing Guide for Women...

Mom has a pretty raw deal on the average ski trip. They're expected to make sure every child is geared up and ready to go...settle the arguments, feed the family, prepare the snacks, pack the chapstick, and so on...and then ski the black diamonds with dad after the second lesson.

Sound familiar?

The book, Skiing: A Woman's Guide by Maggie Loring and Molly Mulhern Gross ought to be mandatory reading for every ski mom. It not only provides the basics for managing the gang, it also gives a step-by-step instructional guide from a woman's point-of-view. This link is to amazon.com, where you can usually pick up a used copy for about two bucks. Mom, it's the best two bucks you'll spend all winter.

Key

Hotshots are skiers who can ski anywhere, anytime, in any conditions, and generally enjoy showing off those skills. Wanderers are skiers who like to go exploring, to essentially get "lost" and move from face to face, seldom skiing the same trail twice. Newbies are the girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband who has never skied before, but gamely insists on going along. Obviously, Blues represents intermediate skiers, while Blacks refers to experts.

A note about ski area statistics: Although it's hard to believe, some ski areas are (gasp!) less than truthful with their numbers. Like the guy who lies about his, uh, shoe size, some ski areas believe that inflated numbers make their resort sound more appealling. When these numbers are obviously questionable, we put a note: (?!) and will attempt to verify the legitimacy of the claim.

A Signature Trail Is mostly subjective. Whether it's history, reputation, the view, or degree of difficulty...it's the run you have to do, even if it isn't necessarily the best the resort has to offer. If a ski area calls a trail by two names (one at the top, and another at the bottom) in an effort to claim more trails, we go by the upper name. If a trail is called "Upper Whatever" and "Lower Whatever," we simply list it as "Whatever" in this index.

More

Use this to get Lift Tickets at Discount: There is a "clearinghouse" of sorts that many ski areas use to raise cash by selling discount tickets in advance, called Liftopia . If you haven't used this service, it is usually best to know for certain that you are going on a specific date. The deeply discounted tickets must be purchased in advance; generally up to two days out. The sticking point is that some ski resorts only make a limited number of tickets available to Liftopia for any given day, so they might be sold out if you wait too long...so, as soon as you are absolutely, positively sure that you will be skiing on a certain day, click this link to get deeply discounted tickets . I've used this service many times, usually when I am absolutely certain I will be skiing on a specific date. Some resorts offer "flex" tickets with which you can specify the date, and some have a few different tiers of pricing. In other words, you might be able to get a lift ticket that can be used on different days, but you'll pay a little more for that privilege. You need to have access to a printer to print out your receipt, and you have to take identification with you to the mountain. I've knocked a third off -- even half off -- the price of some tickets. Not every area participates, but it's well worth checking before you head to the slopes.

A tiny portion of your Liftopia purchase helps fund this website, at no added cost.

If the ski resort business interests you, I strongly recommend a book by Hal Clifford called Downhill Slide: Why the Corporate Ski Industry is Bad for Skiing, Ski Towns, and the Environment. It provides an inside look at the marketing logic behind clocktower villages, and the dubious practices of the US Forest Service that enables these resorts to be built. Fascinating reading.

Ski Movies for Mere Mortals

Did you ever feel like those big money ski movies are often a big let-down? You get all pumped up for the new release from some ski film company, and it's mostly incredible footage of guys jumping out of helicopters and shredding down some un-named mountain on the far side of the globe. They're neck deep in powder, skiing lines that you'll never, ever see. If you want ski movies you could actually relate to, a bunch of guys called The Meatheads, from Burlington, VT have made a series of "Ski The East" films. They film at real resorts like Sugarloaf, Blue Mountain, Big Boulder, Mount Snow, Ski Sundown, Stowe, Jay, Mountain Creek, Killington, Sunday River...urban locations ranging from Virginia to Quebec...mogul skiing with The Hammer and Radio Ron...and backcountry throughout New York, New England, and the Chic Chocs. It's simply fantastic -- and since it's the same terrain we can get to, it's inspirational!

Their most popular current release is No Matter What , which received the ski equivalent of an Oscar for the Jay Peak powder segment, filmed during 2012 of all things. One that is probably their best is from a year ago, called Prime Cut . Another favorite is Wanderland: An East Coast Ski Thriller. All Meatheads DVDs have hours of "bonus" footage, so it's like getting three ski movies for the price of one. The links go to Amazon.com, which enables you to order and return if you don't like them. And a small percentage of the sale helps us pay the expenses of this website, at no extra cost to you.

Here's a preview, courtesy Youtube...




Masthead photo courtesy Sundown Mountain Resort.

"Tally Ho" was a popular slope at Fun Valley.