The Chicago area is most commonly associated with things like deep-dish pizza, hot dogs, and love for disappointing sports teams. While Chicago’s geographically flat landscape does not bode well for downhill skiing, good ski resorts can be found for those willing to take a drive. Within three hours of Chicago, there are plenty of ski …
Guide to Illinois’ 5 Ski Resorts
From the outside looking in, the chance of finding ski resorts in Illinois would seem unlikely. After all, it’s known as the 2nd flattest state in the US behind Florida, it only receives about 20 inches of snow annually, and the temperatures tend to vary widely throughout the state.
Surprisingly, despite all of these factors, it still has some hidden gems for those looking for some powder to shred in “The Corn State”. In the winter months, the northern part of the state is a lot cooler than the southern part, ranging from the teens (lows) to the mid-30s (highs)— so naturally, the ski areas are all found up north.
Although the land is mainly flat, there are a few mountains and hills tucked away that are just right for skiing and snowboarding. The typical ski season in Illinois lasts from early December through mid-March as long as the weather is cooperative. Although all of these ski areas have snow-making capabilities, the temperatures have to be below freezing in order to make snow.
While it’s not home to major ski resorts with crazy verticals and towering peaks like Colorado or Alaska, there’s still plenty to offer Illinoisans and people that call the Midwest their home.
History of Skiing in IL
In 1959 alpine skiing became an official sport in Illinois when Chestnut Mountain Resort opened, but in 1905 is when skiing got its true start in the state. This is when the Norge Ski Club was formed, which was started by 3 Norwegian immigrants in Chicago who wanted a place to ski on the weekends. This is also the same time ski jumping, which originated in Norway, was introduced to the state.
The Norge Ski Club is still an important part of the ski scene in the state today preparing athletes for Olympic-level competitions in ski jumping. In fact, 3 people from this club earned their spot in the Beijing 2022 Olympic games in February.
Snowstar Winter Sports Park
Snowstar Winter Sports Park in the Coal-Creek Valley, perched high above the Mississippi River, is a small family-owned ski area in Rock Island County. With 28 skiable acres, a 262-foot vertical, and a 790-foot summit it comes in as the 2nd largest ski area in the state.
It features a café and day lodge with a fireplace to warm up after a long day of skiing. If you’re planning a weekend getaway, there are plenty of lodging options within 15 miles away. Snowstar also offers some awesome features including night skiing, a 9-lane tube park, freestyle terrain, plus skiing and snowboarding lessons.
Chestnut Mountain Resort
Chestnut Mountain Resort in the historic town of Galena, is a full-service resort that includes a 3-star hotel and also happens to be the oldest resort in the state—opened in 1959. The 475-foot vertical and 220 skiable acres make it the largest and highest resort in the state.
It’s popular for having the most diverse snowboarding terrain in the Midwest and also for offering the biggest terrain park. With 19 trails from beginner to black diamond, there’s a little something for everyone at Chestnut Mountain Resort.
Villa Olivia Ski Area
Villa Olivia Ski Area, located near Chicagoland, has some of the best learning terrain in the state and boasts the most popular tubing hill in Illinois. It also offers night skiing, equipment rentals, and a ski cafè.
This small ski resort features 15 skiable acres (the least in the state) and a 180-foot vertical, giving beginners a terrific place to learn the ropes of skiing and snowboarding. However, their 7 beginner through advanced trails accommodate all experience levels.
Four Lakes Alpine Snowsports
Four Lakes Alpine Snowsports in Lisle is just 32 minutes from Chicago—making it the closest ski area to the Windy City. It features 25 skiable acres with the shortest vertical in the state at 100 feet.
It comes in at #2 in the state for the best intermediate terrain but also offers some awesome beginner and advanced runs. Similar to the others, they offer night skiing, equipment rentals, and skiing/snowboarding lessons.
Lake Carroll Ski Hill
Lake Carroll Ski Hill, in the town of Lanark, was once a popular ski area in the ’70s but is now private and consists of a ski hill and tube hill open only to Lake Carroll property owners and their guests. The ski hill is currently closed for renovations but the tubing hill is up and running.
This ski area features 25 skiable acres and a 210-foot vertical drop.
The Corn State in the winter months offers much more than meets the eye. Whether you’re looking for full-scale resorts, the most challenging terrain around, or just a little something for beginners; you’re sure to find it in Illinois.