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Photograph: Joe Orban

Hit the slopes at the best snowboarding and skiing resorts near Chicago

Bunny hills, steep slopes and breathtaking vistas—there's a lot to love about the best ski resorts near Chicago.

Written by
Samantha Nelson
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Chicago hasn’t gotten meaningful snow yet this winter, but area snowboarding and skiing spots are getting ready to take advantage of plunging temperatures. Plenty of places make their own snow, so even if nature hasn’t provided any, those looking for the best things to do outside this winter should plan on making a day trip to hit the slopes. Lessons for all skill levels and ages are available if you don’t have any experience or are rusty, and many destinations in neighboring states provide excellent options for weekend getaways with spas, restaurants and luxurious hotel rooms. The best destinations for skiing and snowboarding near Chicago will give you a taste of cold weather adventure.

Skiing and snowboarding at these slopes is contingent upon weather conditions. Always call ahead or check resort websites.

The best ski and snowboard slopes near Chicago

W2501 County Road, Elkhorn, WI, 800-227-9395

Driving time from Chicago: about two hours

The gist: Winter sports enthusiasts will find plenty of variety at this southern Wisconsin ski resort, which features 21 ski runs, a vertical drop of 388 feet and three terrain parks.

Season dates: Weather permitting.

Ticket to ride: Weekday tickets $64 (beginner hill $45); weekends $74 (beginner hill $55); equipment rentals are $45 for a half-day and $55 for a full-day plus $15 for a helmet.

600 River Rd, Otsego, MI, 269-694-2820

Driving time from Chicago: about 2.5 hours

The gist: Boasting 20 runs, six chairlifts, three wonder carpets and two rope tows, Bittersweet caters to skiers and snowboarders of all ages and abilities. A separate beginner area features three chairlifts and a terrain park. Those looking for a challenge can hit the advanced terrain park, where the features change regularly.

Season dates: Weather permitting.

Ticket to ride: Weekday tickets $52 (beginner hill $42); Saturday and holiday tickets $70 (beginner hill $58), Sunday tickets $68 (beginner hill $58); reduced rates available in the evenings; equipment rentals $15–$42.

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W10441 Cascade Mountain Rd, Portage, WI, 608-742-5588

Driving time from Chicago: about three hours

The gist: Kids ages 12 and under ski for free at this Wisconsin resort as long as they're accompanied by an adult—and if you're looking for more family fun, the 900-foot-long snow tubing chute doesn't disappoint.

Season dates: December 3–March 19.

Ticket to ride: $89; kids under 12 ski free with adult; equipment rentals $10–$119.

8700 W Chestnut Rd, Galena, 800-397-1320

Driving time from Chicago: about three-hours

The gist: This resort’s 100-room lodge is situated high on the bluff of Chestnut Mountain, offering breathtaking views of the Mississippi River. Its 475-foot vertical drop runs 3,500 feet through 19 slopes ranging from beginner to black diamond. A conveyor lift, two quad chairs and four triple chairs zip you to the top of the mountain nearly as fast as you go down.

Season dates: Weather permitting.

Ticket to ride: Weekday tickets $50; weekend and holiday tickets $70; ski/board rental $40.

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12500 Crystal Mountain Dr, Thompsonville, MI, 855-995-5146

Driving time from Chicago: about five hours

The gist: This northern Michigan destination has it all: 59 downhill slopes for skiing and snowboarding, six chairlifts, two carpet tows, three terrain parks, seven wooded glade areas and a learning area. NASTAR racing is offered Thursday through Sunday and private and group lessons are available daily. Accommodations include luxury suites, hotel rooms, condos and resort homes.

Season dates: November 25 through the first week of April.

Ticket to ride: Day passes start at $59; full equipment rentals $30–$60, $15 for just poles or helmets.

S6330 Bluff Rd, Merrimac, WI, 608-493-2204

Driving time from Chicago: about three hours

The gist: This South Central Wisconsin ski resort located in the Baraboo Bluffs contains one of the highest mountains in Wisconsin, with a 500-foot vertical rise. At 300 acres, it's also the third-largest resort of its kind in the Midwest.

Season dates: Weather permitting.

Ticket to ride: Weekday tickets $68; night tickets $40; weekends $78; equipment rental $49.

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444 Eagle Ridge Drive, Galena, 815-777-5000

Driving time from Chicago: about 2.5 hours

The gist: This resort offers complimentary transportation to the nearby Chestnut Mountain for skiing, though if you want to have some winter fun onsite you can take advantage of the Nordic Center, which offers sledding, ice skating and snowshoeing. Warm up around a bonfire or with a relaxing treatment at the new 12,000-square-foot Stonedrift Spa.

Season dates: Weather permitting.

Ticket to ride: Equipment rentals $8 for sleds, $10 for skates, $25 for snowshoes.

5750 Lakeside Dr, Lisle, 630-964-2550

Driving time from Chicago: about one hour

The gist: With an "anyone can do it" 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, an intermediate trail and an advanced learn to race program.

Season dates: December–March.

Ticket to ride: Daily slope tickets $24-$31; equipment rentals $21 for skis, $31 for boards, $10 for helmets.

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7036 Grand Geneva Way, Lake Geneva, WI, 262-248-8811

Driving time from Chicago: about 1.5 hours

The gist: The beginner- and family-friendly resort offers 21 runs, a 211-foot vertical, a six-acre terrain park, three chairlifts, two carpet lifts, and skiing and snowboarding lessons. You can also enjoy cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, and sledding. Warm up by the fireplace at the mountaintop lodge while watching other skiers rush past.

Season dates: Opens December 10.

Ticket to ride: $60 weekdays, $70 weekends and holidays; rentals $10 for helmets, $45 for skis or snowboards.

16991 Asbury Rd, Dubuque, IA, 563-556-6676

Driving time from Chicago: about 3.5 hours

The gist: This beautiful mountain, which overlooks 100 square miles of countryside, takes you down through a century-old cedar forest reminiscent of Colorado or Wyoming. With 21 trails, two terrain parks, a kids park, and ski and snowboarding lessons, you’ll find something fun for any age or skill level.

Season dates: Weather permitting.

Ticket to ride: Tickets $36-$55; equipment rentals $5–$38.

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13421 Mann St, Jones, MI, 269-244-5635

Driving time from Chicago: about two hours

The gist: This southwestern Michigan mainstay (it’s been in business for more than 50 years) features 12 slopes, two terrain parks, a 225-foot vertical drop and a fireside lounge. This year brings a new trail, a racing program for adults and kids, a renovated cafe, extra equipment rentals and improved snowmaking. The ski and snowboarding schools offer lessons for all abilities and there’s a full service ski & board shop to get you outfitted with everything you need.

Season dates: Mid-December to mid-March, weather permitting.

Ticket to ride: Weekday tickets $42 (evenings $35); weekends and holidays $53; equipment rental $25.

07500 23 1/2 St, Gobles, MI, 269-694-9449

Driving time from Chicago: about 2.5 hours

The gist: This Michigan ski hill has been around for 61 years. Visitors can take advantage of an expanded snow tubing park with nine lanes and a new moving sidewalk lift. The mountain also offers multiple beginner hills, wooded trails, two terrain parks, group and private lessons and a race league.

Season dates: Weather permitting.

Ticket to ride: Weekday tickets $48; evening tickets $45; weekend and holiday tickets $60; equipment rentals $35, $15 for helmets.

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1401 W Lake St, Bartlett, 630-289-1000

Driving time from Chicago: about an hour

The gist: This local slope run by the Bartlett Park District, which makes its own snow, features seven downhill runs, a quad chair lift and six rope tows, plus snow tubing.

Season dates: December 17–March 5, weather permitting.

Ticket to ride: Weekend/winter break/holiday (9am–10pm) $45; night slope (Thursday, Friday and Sunday after 5pm, Saturday 5–10pm) $34; equipment rental $9–$43.

11931 W Fox River Rd, Wilmot, WI 630-289-1000

Driving time from Chicago: about 1.5 hours

The gist: Wilmot Mountain, which celebrates its 85th anniversary this year, offers 120 acres outfitted with 25 trails, four terrain parks, seven lifts and two conveyor lifts, ensuring that beginner and experts alike will feel at home. Not so keen on skiing and snowboarding? Try out the resort's 22-lane snow tubing set up.

Season dates: December through March.

Ticket to ride: Epic Day Passes, which grant visitors half off of lift tickets, starts at $41.

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