Alpine Skiing

  • Ski the UP

    The snow appeared on cue, just as Wisconsin faded into the Upper Peninsula. One minute there was a dusting, and the next a whole layer, white and inviting. It seemed too perfect, as if there must be snowguns hidden behind the "Welcome to Michigan'' sign. But there was snow beyond that, too, right up to the doors of the three ski resorts that line U.S. 2 just inside the state line. That's why they call this Big Snow Country. Winds from the west whip across Lake Superior, picking up warmth and moisture, and dump it as snow — more than 17 feet annually, on average — when they hit the cold inland air of the U.P.

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  • Downhill on the Iron Range

    During three days at Giants Ridge one January, I kept wondering: Where are all the people? The sun was shining, the snow was ideal, and most schoolchildren still were on winter break. The handsome Lodge at Giants Ridge was giving discounts on its already low midweek rates, and kids could ski free. All that, and no lift lines.

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  • Classroom on the slopes

    When you live in the frozen north, you may as well embrace winter. My idea of fun is to cross-country ski, but for that, Mother Nature needs to bring snow. But alpine skiing, which I also like, requires only some big snow guns. After one wimpy winter, I bought alpine skis. They cost a lot, but I can actually use them, unlike my Nordic skis, all winter long.

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  • Fun in the fast lane

    Whenever I get out of the forest and onto the hills, I remember something: Downhill skiing is a blast.

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  • Cruising at Whitecap

    Ah, the smell of Coppertone in spring. Leaning back on a chairlift, basking in sun bounced off acres of snow, I was getting quite a tan — on St. Patrick’s Day.

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  • A jumpin' joint

    In Westby, Norwegians take their love of tradition to extreme heights. The high ridges and deep coulees south of La Crosse drew so many Norwegian immigrants in the 19th century that the area around Westby became known as "America's little Gudbrandsdal,'' after the valley in Norway.

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  • Downhill in Thunder Bay

    Thunder Bay is the Miss Congeniality of Canada — blessed but not beautiful, endearing yet not alluring. Craggy bluffs flank this working-class town of 120,000 on one side, and Lake Superior on the other. But the candy-striped smokestack of a paper mill is the first thing seen by those who arrive by air or U.S. highway.

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  • Bargains for beginners

    When you’re a beginning skier, it’s nice to catch a break. Alpine ski areas want to foster lifelong skiers and snowboarders, so most offer great deals to first-timers. Places often are limited, so reserve in advance.  Scour websites for details on deals. Here are a few of them:

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  • Skiing at Lutsen

    For alpine skiers, these are the best days of the year. At least, they are at Lutsen Mountains on Minnesota's North Shore. Started in 1948, the ski hill has the region’s steepest vertical drop, the longest runs and the widest variety, plus a killer view of Lake Superior.

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