We’ll be straight: The hills of Illinois and Wisconsin are never going to rival the mountains of Colorado, Wyoming and beyond. But what they lack in height, they more than make up for in convenience. So the next time you need to feel the thrill of swooshing down a slope but can’t stomach the thought of a long, expensive flight, check out one of these ski and snowboard destinations, each one less than five hours from the city.
RAGING BUFFALO SNOWBOARD SKI PARK (1-HOUR DRIVE)
It’s pretty amazing that you can hit the slopes in the ‘burbs. Just 45 miles northwest of the city, this snowboarding haven has half-pipes, kickers and table tops. Don’t worry, there’s plenty for skiers, too.
WILMOT MOUNTAIN SKI RESORT (1.5-HOUR DRIVE)
If a past visit to Wilmot left you underwhelmed, now’s the time to return. Vail Resorts recently acquired the spot and sunk $13 million into renovating the lifts, lodge and kids’ ski and snowboard area. Colorado it ain’t, but it just might be as close as you’ll get without airfare.
ALPINE VALLEY SKI RESORT (2-HOUR DRIVE)
Alpine’s three terrain parks and 21 trails span 90 acres and a 388-foot drop. If you’re a first-time skier and those stats mean nothing to you, don’t worry: The resort has a ton of beginner-friendly areas plus group and individual lessons.
CASCADE MOUNTAIN (3-HOUR DRIVE)
If you hit the road Friday after work, you can still make it in time for a ski session at Cascade. Lights at night keep the mountain open until 10 p.m. And for an unusual après-ski activity, hit the indoor water park.
CHESTNUT MOUNTAIN (3-HOUR DRIVE)
We were surprised, too, but, yes, you can ski in Galena. Chestnut Mountain’s 19 trails overlook the Mississippi River and historic town, making this one of the most picturesque options on our list. While you’re there, check out another surprising Galena attraction: the local wineries.
Set amid the glacier-formed Baraboo Bluffs, Devil’s Head boasts some pretty spectacular views. The sights from the resort’s 500-foot peak are easily the best, but don’t be surprised if you’re be too busy goofy-smiling as you cruise down it to notice.
Granite Peak may be a hike, but with Wisconsin’s highest vertical drop (700 feet), it’s a destination worth traveling to. If you’re more of a book-by-the-fireside type, you’re in luck: The resort’s historic 1939 stone chalet is what cozy chalet dreams are made of.