A Brave Ski Mom Interview with Peta, a mom from the Chicago area and owner of the website UtterlyChaotic, about her family and the dogs who rule them.
Since we live in the Chicagoland area, my pick would be Granite Peak in Wausau, Wisconsin.
Granite Peak is about a 4 hour drive from our house, so I like to stay over at least one night – but it’s worth it.
Why Granite Peak?
Without getting on a plane, Granite Peak has the most vertical elevation available in our region. It’s also just a bit too big to fully ski in a single day.
What makes Granite Peak good for families?
- A wide variety of trails with a good distribution of beginner, intermediate and expert runs.
- Great snowmaking and grooming.
- Well maintained lifts and good layout that maximizes skiing.
- Big enough to give you a challenge and some variety, small enough that you can feel safe letting the kids go off on their own.
- Easy parking, convenient lodge and area to stash your gear.
- Ample brown bag lunch facilities.
- Abundant ski patrol.
- Very reasonable lift ticket prices.
But my favorite feature is the new glade skiing for kids. A well marked and maintained trail runs through a small glade off one of the beginner trails. Placed in the trees are about a dozen life-size animal figurines for the kids to find: A fox, baby deer, owl, raccoon inhabit the glade, beckoning curious little ones. Just too adorable.
What would make Granite Peak even better?
I wouldn’t change much, if anything. Granite has continued to re-invest in itself over the past 20 years I’ve been skiing there. Originally called Rib Mountain at Granite State Park, they have polished both their image and facilities by adopting the name Granite Peak. In the past decade, there have been numerous upgrades to the slopes, chairlifts, rental shop and ski shop.
The area boasts some old school, but fast and functional lifts. A high-speed detachable 6 lift (Comet) was installed about 10 years ago, and an additional high-speed detachable will be installed for next season.
For beginners and small kids, the area is set up in a very skier friendly way. The teaching area is easy to find, and well segregated to keep kids safe from faster skiers. It’s located centrally, so parents don’t have to trek across the slopes to get their kids to lessons.
Do you have any “secrets” to share about Granite Peak?
Three words: Family Festival Weekends.
Granite is very family friendly, and offers 3 Family Festival Weekends each season. These weekends include rental equipment, lodging, lift tickets, beer (or beverage) & a brat for under $500 for a family of 4. (2 adults, 2 kids under 12) Special activities on Family Fest include horse-drawn sleigh rides, night skiing and fireworks on Saturday nights. These weekends always fall a week before or after holidays like Presidents weekend, and I’m always surprised at how uncrowded the slopes are.
Any advice for families coming to Granite Mountain?
Everything can be done on-line: planning, booking lodging and purchasing tickets. In fact, the required liability waiver can be printed out and signed before you get to the lift ticket window. Big time-saver, and less time standing out in the cold.
Where do you like to eat?
We enjoy eating in the lodge. What began as a cozy, but serviceable, rustic lodge with a limited menu has morphed into a comfortable bar area beside a large fireplace. The bar area opens into a solarium seating area with a beautiful view of the slopes and an outdoor patio area. A snack bar serves up the usual hearty ski lodge fare, as well as a local favorite: fried cheese curds. When the weather is sunny, and the crowd builds up, brats and burgers are also served on the outdoor grill. Patio seating is generous, when the sun is out, there’s just no better place to take a lunch break.
A huge chalet sits beside the original lodge with an additional, larger cafeteria, ample seating, lockers and a fantastic 2-story picture window view of the western slopes. New this year is an outdoor café between the chalet and Comet lift serving warm beverages and pastries.
Otherwise, there are no restaurants “on-campus.” You’ll need to leave the slopes for a true dinner meal. The Wausau area has developed significantly in recent years. You’ll find everything you need within 5 minutes of the mountain.
One local place we love is the Wausau Mine Company. It’s a truly unique place about 5 minutes from the mountain. The main dining room is designed to look like a mine, complete with water features. The menu is varied, offering lots of comfort food, burgers and sandwiches. Local beers and cheese curds should not be missed. It’s a perfect place to relax and grab a hearty meal after a long day on the slopes. You’ll definitely want to “Get Shafted” at this restaurant while you’re at Granite.
Where do you like to stay?
There is no lodging directly affiliated with the mountain, but you can book ski packages at the local hotels through the Granite Peak web site for preferred prices. There are about 18 hotel/motels are within 10 minutes of the slopes.
Close by is the Best Western/Midway, which has a lovely, large, skylight pool and lounge area, hearty breakfast, spacious rooms and an attached restaurant for dinner. Although the property is dated, it is clean and comfortable and the staff is very helpful.
We’ve also stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Weston. Their rooms were great, and the pool area sunny and bright. It’s a newer property, about 10 minutes from the slopes.
A new property, Stoney Creek Inn Grand Lodge, has recently opened, although I haven’t stayed there yet. In addition to the usual lodging, it has a water park. It would be perfect for younger kids who can’t ski all day and for families looking for activities other than skiing. They also offer family suites with 1 or more bedrooms, helpful for a large family or families traveling together.
What makes Granite Peak unique?
Although Granite Peak has about 75 runs and operates up to 11 lifts, it retains a cozy intimate feel. The setting is really beautiful, and it’s just a pleasure to ski.
What is your favorite memory of Granite Peak?
I’ve got two.
One is from taking my daughter, then almost 11, to the more challenging trails off the Donner Chair. This area has several double black diamond trails. She insisted on taking one of the steepest and most difficult trails again, after really struggling down the first very steep section. “I am gonna stick my pole in that mountain Mom!” she told me. And, she did.
The other is her reaction to skiing underneath the fireworks display in the evening during a Family Festival Weekend. The fireworks looked close enough to touch. (And they were: a portion of the trail was blocked off for setting off the display!)
Do you have any family skiing tips to share?
Ski school is a necessity. When my daughter was about 3, she finally asked “Momma, can I ski wiff you?” I took her up to the local ski hill, but got a little lost and missed the group lesson. I knew there was no hope of teaching her myself……and I broke into tears. Recovering, I realized she was under 4 and I didn’t need to pay for a lift ticket. So, I decided that my only option to get her on snow was a private lesson. Her instructor was a wise, grandfatherly gentleman who was only too happy to teach her. It was the best accident ever, because she learned so much one on one, was soon riding the lifts, and developed a love of the sport.
As she continued learning to ski we would spend time together on the bunny slope, but we both had more fun when she was in ski school – with trained professionals.
It’s not worth wasting time waiting for rental skis at the mountain. Kids, especially younger ones, have a limited amount of patience and energy. If you aren’t ready to invest in ski equipment for growing kids, do yourself a favor and rent before the trip at your local ski shop. You’ll be ready to hit the slopes when you arrive. Your kids (and you) will have a much better experience. And if you are having trouble carrying your kids and their gear, take a sled. Plop everyone, and everything, into the sled and pull it to the lodge.
When did you start skiing?
I started skiing at age 12, when my friends signed up for a recreation center six-trip package to the local mountain, Great Gorge/Vernon Valley in NJ. We all wore two pair of jeans and didn’t have any of the right gear. I was soaked and cold. Honestly I couldn’t tell you why I didn’t quit. But I am glad I didn’t. No one in my family had ever skied, and I remain the only skier.
What is your favorite thing about family skiing?
It’s fun. It’s outdoors, and we like to go FAST. Once my daughter became an avid skier, my husband bowed to peer pressure and got in on the act, too.
The Brave Ski Moms Adds…
Peta did such a comprehensive job, that I have nothing to add. I do love how Wisconsin puts its stamp on skiing, with cheese curds, brats and beer!
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