The black diamond runs in the Midwest may not be as steep as the ones in Aspen, but you can still fulfill your need for snowboarding and skiing near Chicago. Whether you ski or snowboard, these Chicago area resorts have slopes for everyone from beginners to semi-pros. Best of all, they’re reachable by car for a long weekend getaway. (Sorry, Chicago proper remains as flat as a pancake.) Feel free to cozy up by the fireplace after a full day of cutting through the white powder.
Always call or check resort websites for snow and weather conditions.
RECOMMENDED: Find more things to do in Chicago this winter
Illinois ski and snowboard slopes
1401 W Lake St, Bartlett, 630-289-1000
Miles from Chicago 49 (about an hour drive)
The gist This local slope run by the Bartlett Park District features 7 downhill runs, the perfect options to cut your teeth on the snow.
Ticket to ride Weekday tickets $29; weekends and holidays $39; equipment rental $13–$39.
Rt 31 at Wilbrandt Rd, Algonquin, 847-836-7243
Miles from Chicago 45 (about an hour drive)
The gist You don’t even have to leave the ’burbs to find a hill dedicated to the oh-so-trendy sport of snowboarding. Raging Buffalo, near the Fox River in the Northwest Suburbs, offers half pipes, kickers, table tops and other rad features, plus a “magic carpet” (basically a slanted moving sidewalk) on the beginner hill.
Ticket to Ride Weekday tickets $32; weekends/holidays $45; equipment rentals start at $45.
8700 W Chestnut Rd, Galena, 800-798-0098
Miles from Chicago 161 (about a three-hour drive)
The gist This resort’s 120-room lodge is situated high on the bluff of Chestnut Mountain, offering breathtaking views of the Mississippi River. And even though indoor activities include a pool, sauna and game room, the real reason for visiting is to take advantage of the hill. The seven-acre winter terrain is constantly covered with the white stuff, enticing skiers and boarders of all levels. Its 475-foot vertical drop runs 3,500 feet through 19 slopes ranging from beginning to black diamond. Two SunKid conveyor belts, two quad chairs and four triple chairs zip you to the top of the mountain as fast as you go down.
Ticket to ride Weekday tickets $40; weekend tickets $50; holidays $52; ski/board rental $35.
5790 Forest View Rd, Lisle, 630-964-2550
Miles from Chicago 28 (about a 40-minute drive)
The gist With an "Anyone Can Do" method, beginners can learn to navigate the slopes in no time. These hills in the western ’burbs consist of two bunny slopes, a terrain park, and two intermediate inclines, each accessible by tow ropes.
Ticket to ride Daily slope tickets $28; rental equipment $20–$38.
Michigan ski and snowboard slopes
600 River Road, Otsego, MI, 269-694-2820
Miles from Chicago 153 (about two and a half hours)
The gist Boasting 20 runs and seven chairlifts, Bittersweet caters to intermediate shredders of all ages. The resort offers a ski school and a Wonder Carpet lift on the beginner hill, which makes it easy for first-time skiers to get to the top of the slope.
Ticket to ride Weekday tickets $32; weekends and holidays $41; equipment rental $25.
12500 Crystal Mountain Dr, Thompsonville, MI (855) 995-5146
Miles from Chicago 280 (about a five-hour drive)
The gist Voted the Best Terrain resort in the Midwest by OnTheSnow, this destination has it all: 20 ski or snowboard slopes, eight lifts, four terrain parks, snow-sports school and daily NASTAR racing. Accommodations include 250 luxury suites, hotel rooms, condos and resort homes, with amenities such as an outdoor 20-person hot tub, a fitness center and a spa.
Ticket to ride Weekday tickets $52; weekends $67; holidays $71; equipment rentals $38.
13421 Mann St, Jones, MI 269-244-5635
Miles from Chicago 103 (about a two hour drive)
The gist This southwestern Michigan mainstay (it’s been in business for more than 40 years) features 11 slopes, a 225-foot vertical drop and a fireside lounge. Swiss Valley also offers race programs, lessons and group rates.
Ticket to ride Weekday tickets $30; weekends $37–$39; holidays $19–$39; ski/snowboard rental $20–$25.
7500 23 1/2 St, Gobles, MI, 269-694-9449
Miles from Chicago 146 (about a two and a half hour drive)
The gist This Michigan ski hill has been around for more than 50 years, beginning with a single tow rope before expanding to four lifts. Visitors can relax with drink and some grub at the Snowshoe Bar or take advantage of 15 trails and two terrain parks.
Ticket to ride Weekday tickets $29; weekends and holidays $37–$39; equipment rentals $13–$25.
Iowa ski and snowboard slopes
16991 Asbury Rd, Dubuque, IA, 563-556-6676
Miles from Chicago 207 (less than a four hour drive)
The gist The only Midwest ski slope to receive the National Ski Areas Association Award of Excellence six years in a row, this beautiful mountain takes you down a century-old cedar forest reminiscent of Colorado or Wyoming. With 21 trails, two terrain parks, and six lifts, this resort will have you up and down the hills in no time.
Ticket to ride Weekday tickets $36; weekends and holidays $44; ski/snowboard rental $30.
Wisconsin ski and snowboard slopes
W2501 County Rd D, Elkhorn, WI, 800-227-9395
Miles from Chicago 87 (about a two-hour drive)
The gist Touting itself as the only resort in the Midwest with three high-speed quads and four Wonder Carpets (a type of conveyer lift), this Wisconsin resort’s longest run is 2,500 feet while its vertical drop is 388 feet. Adult and children’s classes are offered, but sledding and cross-country skiing are not.
Ticket to ride Weekday tickets $49; weekends and holidays $59; equipment rental $27.
W10441 Cascade Mountain Rd, Portage, WI, 608-742-5588
Miles from Chicago 177 (about a three-hour drive)
The gist Cascade maintains a top rep with snowboarders, catering to radicals with four terrain parks outfitted with obstacles, a superpipe and halfpipe, and also to families with a snow-tubing park, beginner slopes and a modest hill (460 feet). The combination of manmade and natural snow keeps the north-facing side of the Baraboo Bluffs at a happy medium—neither too slushy nor fluffy. For its size, the mountain sports 36 diverse runs—most painfully short. Ten black-diamond runs won’t wow West Coasters, but should keep skiers entertained between the mogul fields and sharp descents.
Ticket to ride Eight hour ticket $49; day and night ticket $55; kids under 12 receive a free lift ticket when accompanied by a paid adult; equipment rentals $22–$44.
S6330 Bluff Rd, Merrimac, WI, 800-472-6670
Miles from Chicago 185 (about a three-hour drive)
The gist This South Central Wisconsin ski resort is only three hours away from Chicago, and contains one of the highest mountains in Wisconsin. The resort takes care of its slopes just as well as its guests; the ski slopes are groomed twice a day to ride down the mountain as exhilarating as possible.
Ticket to ride Weekday tickets are $47; weeekends and holidays $52; equipment rental $29.
7452 Kathryn Ave, Sparta, WI, 800-488-4521
Miles from Chicago 262 miles (about a four-hour drive)
The gist You could easily spend an entire weekend vegging out fireside in one of Justin Trails Resort’s cozy cabins. But if you’re determined to be active, try tackling an 1,000 foot long hill on an inner tube, getting pulled on skis by dogs (it's called skijoring) and cross-country skiing through Wisconsin’s gorgeous wide-open spaces.
Ticket to ride Cabin rentals $100–$500; guests can rent snowshoes ($5) and skis ($10).