Let’s face it.
Skiing 200′-300′ of vertical can be fun for a couple of hours, but the slow fixed-grip lifts and long lift lines of most Midwestern ski areas can detract from the overall experience.
Everything is relative, of course, and some Midwesterners are perfectly content with the typical Midwestern ski area experience.
Granite Peak is anything but typical for the Midwest.
I started the day (Friday) with a mid-morning departure from Madison, WI bound for Granite Peak with blue skies and temps ranging from the high-20s to mid-30s.
The two-hour drive from Madison felt long in the moment, but this is what we have grown accustomed to as skiers, right? At least I was cruising at a cool 80 mph the entire 140 miles on I-39N.
I chuckled thinking about the suckers that were in bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-70 heading west of Denver. Then I got jealous.
I arrived at Granite Peak around 11 AM, and was greeted by the sounds of children screaming, cars parking, and the sight of a long lift line forming around Granite’s Comet Express.
I, not so quietly, uttered to my friend,
‘Well shit. I didn’t think anybody was going to be here. The local kiddos must be out of school.’
We mustered up our best smiles as we geared up.
Admittedly, we were fearing the worst. Did we drive 2 hours to sit in lift lines all day?
We thought that by skiing on a Friday we could avoid the lift apocalypses that have been plaguing Midwestern ski areas all season.
Oh well. We don’t consider ourselves to be quitters.
I moseyed on up to the lift ticket line and flashed my driver’s license to redeem one of my two days at Granite Peak included on the Indy Pass. Redeeming those Indy Pass tickets never gets old.
I like to pretend I’m some sort of VIP. Then I remember it only costs $199 (early season) to purchase. It’s nice to day dream, okay?
The lift ticket attendant smiled and handed me a fancy-schmancy RFID pass, and I was on my way to the lift.
Remember how I expressed concern about waiting in lift lines all day just a few paragraphs above? Yeah, what an idiot I was.
You see, Granite Peak is home to three high-speed detachable lifts. A claim that few ski areas in the Midwest can make.
We joined in what seemed to be a long line, but were pleasantly surprised that we only waited for 5 minutes, and were ecstatic that we reached the summit in just 2-3 minutes of riding on the lift.
The temperature was ideal for February skiing in Wisconsin.
We had just exited a span of more than 30 days with high-temps below freezing, and the 35 degree air combined with direct sunshine was a welcome gift from the skiing gods.
They must have heard my prayers the night before.
The snow was a little firm on the first run of the day, but it gradually softened to a nice edge-gripping consistency that was still fast enough to get my blood pumping, and wasn’t so soft that I felt like I was skiing in May.
You get what I mean, right? It was perfect.
Granite Peak’s 55 trails are spread out over 200 acres along Rib Mountain. The maximum skiable vertical is 700′. A number that dwarfs the majority of Midwestern ski areas.
I was pleasantly surprised with the pitch of the runs at Granite. Most of the black-diamond runs provided an ample 300-400′ of ‘steep’ vertical that fed to various run-outs back to the lifts.
I’m usually not a fan of run-outs as they don’t provide all that much to the skiing experience, but having that extra 200’+ of mellow vertical was quite enjoyable considering I’ve only skied in the badger state this season.
Many of the small ski areas in the midwest offer similarly-sized ‘steep‘ runs, but they typically end right at the lift.
Having an extra few hundred feet of vertical to carry speed and work on my edge-to-edge turns ended up being one of the highlights of the day.
The sun kept shining throughout the afternoon.
I found that Granite Peak’s western runs off the Dasher Express were fun, but were slightly-more protected from the sun and therefore a little bit icy.
I spent most of the day lapping the main six-pack Comet Express, and the runs on Granite’s eastern flank off the Cupid Express. The best runs for challenging terrain off Comet are hands-down ‘Exhibition’ and ‘Sundance’.
I also thoroughly enjoyed laying down some carves on ‘Shadow Ridge, Mission Ridge, and Idle Wild’ off Cupid Express.
I highly recommend skiers and riders visit Granite Peak to enjoy the best skiing experience offered in the state of Wisconsin, and one of the top-5 in the entire region.
While the resort lacks plentiful snowfall, and can be plagued with crowds, the high-speed lifts, great snowmaking, steep runs, and friendly faces will leave you pleasantly surprised.
I mean if you have an Indy Pass already, what’s stopping you?