Lake Geneva | Winter road trip
Thu Feb 23 2012
After weeks of bitter cold, snow and endless gray skies, February is usually when my family starts craving an escape from Chicago—preferably to someplace warm and sunny. This year’s different. Blessed with unseasonably warm temperatures and an abundance of sun, we haven’t been plotting a trip to some sandy beach. For the first time I can remember, we've been longing for snow. Fortunately, we found a ton of it on a recent weekend at the Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva. Admittedly, it was fake snow, but no one stopped to question its authenticity: we were too busy swooshing down the ski slopes (and loving the views of the green golf course just beyond the manufactured snow mountain).
I’ve been to the Grand Geneva before for girls’ weekend spa trips and summer vacations. But this was my first winter road trip there, and it was just what the family needed. Our visit coincided with the resort’s annual Winter Carnival, a snowy extravaganza featuring snowboard and slalom races, games such as human bowling and winter golf and a spectacular nighttime torchlight parade on the ski mountain, followed by fireworks. The carnival added to our fun, but there’s no shortage of activities to keep the family busy on any weekend (or, for that matter, mid-week).
For the uninitiated, the Grand Geneva is a sprawling complex featuring two hotels, a spa and sports center, a convention center, horse stables, two championship golf courses, an indoor waterpark and 18 downhill ski slopes. Everything is connected by a trolley service (though there’s ample parking and valet service for those who prefer to drive).
After oohing and ahhing over the seemingly magical TV built in to the bathroom mirror, we headed off to the Mountain Top. There are multiple black diamond and double black diamond runs for experienced skiiers (They are short...Vail it’s not..but very, very steep), and several easy and moderate slopes for less experienced skiiers and snowboarders, including kids, who can start at ski school and work their way up. An all-day pass (10am–10pm) is $47 for adults and $38 for kids under 11. A 3–10pm option is available as well for $35 for adults and $26 for kids. Equipment rentals are extra.
Twelve hours is a long day of skiing for anyone, but especially for little ones. Better to start the day at the indoor water park in the Grand Geneva’s sister hotel, Timber Ridge Lodge Resort. Four free water park passes are included with a room rental at Timber Ridge, but extra passes can be purchased as well.
If you’ve been to one indoor water park, you’ve been to them all. This one is pretty much what you’d expect. Water slides, a water play area smaller "swimmers," basketball hoops, floating lily pads and a lot of noise. You know the drill. There’s an indoor/outdoor hot tub that was LOADED with kids during our visit, and an adult-only hot tub that had my name on it.
After spending $80 on a breakfast buffet at the Grand Geneva’s lobby restaurant, we were ready to go off-property for dinner. We scored a 15 percent off coupon to Sprecher’s Restaurant & Pub from the hotel concierge and made the five-minute drive to the restaurant, located about a block off of Lake Geneva. The kids loved sampling the Gorilla Grape and Orange Dream sodas (the entire place smelled like an orange dreamsicle) and my husband and I enjoyed sampling Sprecher’s specialty brews.
If you’re too exhausted from a day of skiing and waterparking to leave the hotel, order a pizza to your suite from the phone number posted on the fridge. It’ll set you back about $20. The pizza's not great, but the convenience is so worth it.
I woke up Sunday morning unable to walk after so much skiing, but managed to hobble my way over to the sports center/spa for an hour of tennis with my oldest son. If I’d been thinking ahead, I would have brought my swimsuit and spent some time in the hot tub in the women’s locker room (I’m assuming the fellas have a similar setup). The locker room also boasts a steam room and sweet relaxation lounge. To be honest, I’d probably still be lying there if I’d thought ahead.
Snowmobilers will hit the slopes at the resort March 16–18 for the grand finale of the AMSOIL Championship Snocross Series, when snowmobile riders will race on the steep slopes of the Grand Geneva's Mountain Top.