Illinois Ski Area Guide -- Very Complete

  • Chestnut Mountain Resort, Galena • 139 skiable acres (?!) on 475' vertical
    Specs: Summit elevation: 1040'; Base elevation: 565'. 8 Lifts: 2 quads, 3 triples, 3 surface. Uphill Capacity: 10,000/hr. Terrain Mix: 30-40-30. Longest Run: 3500'. Season: usually late December through mid-March. Night Skiing 7 days. Rentals. Annual Snowfall: 48". Snowmaking: 100%.
    skier on warpath trail at chestnut mountain resort The SKInny: Chestnut is certainly the class of Illinois skiing: good conditions, "regular" trails, and a decent vertical as midwest resorts go. The 139 skiable acres is a bit much; estimate it more in the 60-75 acre range. Downside is that it gets crowded, sometimes very crowded, and has the usual weather issues. When conditions are on, it's fantastic. On a good day you can (almost) imagine yourself at Stowe.
    Signature Trail: Warpath. (coincidentally, this is the trail shown here in the photo)

  • Fourlakes Ski & Snowboard Area, Lisle • 25 skiable acres on 100' vertical
    Specs: 6 surface lifts. Terrain Mix: 30-70-0. Longest Run: 800'. Annual Snowfall: 48". Snowmaking: 100%.
    The SKInny: Crowded, leans more toward snowboarding these days. Lots of snowboarders. Skiers might be better off hoofing it up that hill at the local golf course. But when you gotta, absolutely gotta ski, you'll be glad Four Lakes is so close to Chicago. Great for taking the beginner prior to that winter vacation. Snowboarders are a blight on modern society.

  • Norge Ski Club, Fox River Grove • Ski jumping facilities
    The SKInny: Illinois can proudly say that it is home to the oldest continuously operating ski area in the United States. So what if it happens to be ski jumping only. Memberships available, volunteers "snow" the hill, training, competitions, you name it. Great group of people. If you're looking for more information about ski jumping, please click here for an "introduction" on the SkierNet winter sports site.

  • Plumtree Ski Area, Lake Carroll • 25 skiable acres on 210' vertical -- Not open to the general public
    Specs: 2 Lifts: 1 double, 1 t-bar. Terrain Mix: 65-35-0 Longest Run: 1,500 ft. Annual Snowfall: 44". Snowmaking.
    The SKInny: Former public area, Plumtree is now a private club for Lake Carroll property owners, guests, etc. Aging equipment, wide open bowls, decent place. Look up "typical skiing in the Midwest" and you'll find Plumtree Ski Area. Wish there were more Plumtrees open to the general public.

  • Ski Snowstar, Taylor Ridge • 25 skiable acres on 228' vertical
    Specs: 6 Lifts: 2 quads, 2 doubles, 2 rope tows. Terrain Mix: 10-50-40. Uphill capacity: 4,800/hr. Longest Run: 2000'. Season: usually December through March. Night Skiing 7 days. Rentals. Annual Snowfall: 36". Snowmaking: 100%.
    The SKInny: Another "upside down" ski area (lodge at the top). Certainly gets crowded -- too crowded -- but certainly does a good job moving people up the hill. Good family atmosphere.
    Signature Trail: Cosmos

  • Villa Olivia, Bartlett • 15 skiable acres on 180' vertical
    Specs: 4+ Lifts: 1 quad, 3 surface. Terrain Mix: 40-50-10. Uphill capacity: 2,400/hr. Longest Run: 1300'. Season: usually December through March. Night Skiing 7 days. Rentals. Annual Snowfall: 25". Snowmaking: 100%.
    The SKInny: Small family type operation, golf course that added skiing to keep the cash flowing in the winter. Lodge mid-hill, pleasantly crowded little ski area, fun atmosphere -- especially for kids. Snowboarders tend to stay in the terrain park area.

Additional Links

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, 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, 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, top of the Eagle trail, courtesy Chestnut Mountain.