Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding In The Great Lakes Region

Most of us cannot spend whole winter in Colorado or Utah skiing. So the next best thing is skiing somewhere closer to home. While the shape of the terrain, in general, in most of the Great Lakes Region does not favor big elevation change required for good downhill skiing/snowboarding, there are still many resorts that provide trails good enough for a casual skier.

You will be actually surprised how many ski places we have in the region. There are way over a hundred. Even southern Great Lakes states – Indiana and Ohio – have few. New York and Michigan have the most. In New York, though, probably at least half will not be in the Great Lakes region.

I know, what a lot of you will say, that many of these should not be even considered because of small elevation and very short runs, but if you only have a day, it is not worth traveling for hours to ski in better conditions. So if you want to exercise your legs, or you’re just learning, or you just have few hours and really want to ski – these places are fine.

Boyne Mountain Resort
Boyne Mountain Resort, Michigan


So what are the best places to ski around Great Lakes? In Michigan, the best in the Lower Peninsula is most likely Boyne Mountain. With the elevation change of 500 feet, longest run of 1 mile and 12 lifts, it, probably, is also the busiest. Not much further north, a little out of the way, is another Boyne resort – Boyne Highlands. It’s has greater elevation change at 552 feet, and longest run at 1.2 miles. Usually, because of being further away, it’s not as busy as Boyne Mountain. So if you’re in the area and hate crowds, head to Boyne Highlands.

Ski Brule Resort
Ski Brule Resort, Upper Peninsula, Michigan

In Upper Peninsula, it appears that nothing else come close to the ratings and popularity of Ski Brule. With same numbers as Boyne Mountains, as far as elevation difference and longest run, its popularity most likely comes from the fact that it is located on the border with Wisconsin and probably attracts skiers from four different states: Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois.

Searchmont Resort
Searchmont Resort, Ontario, Canada

Ontario, Canada

Now, if you are in the eastern part of Upper Peninsula, it does not mean that you are out of luck, as far as, great slopes are considered. You just need to head over the border to Ontario’s Searchmont. Located about 25 miles northeast of Saint Ste Marie, it is far away from any big metropolis and major highway. The elevation gain there is greater than any place in Michigan, at 748 feet. It’s got only four lifts, but considering the remoteness of the place, I would think it is enough.

As long as I write about Ontario, another place much further south, on the west side of Georgian Bay – Blue Mountain – needs to be mentioned. Very popular with Canadians, and skiers from Michigan, it well deserves the status because of prime location, relatively great elevation change of 722 feet and 1.1 mile longest run. Expect the place to be crowded though.

Bristol Mountain Resort
Bristol Mountain Resort, New York

New York

In New York state, on the western side, few places deserve a mention – Bristol Mountain, Holiday Valley and Peek and Peak. Even though, the best skiing in state of New York is much further to the east, these are still great, as far as Great Lake region is concerned. Bristol Mountain comes with an impressive elevation gain of 1200 feet, and the longest run of 2 miles. Next one is Holiday Valley with elevation change of 750, 1 mile longest run and 13 lifts.

On the eastern side of the Great Lakes, in New York, a popular skiing place is the Greek Peak resort, with the elevation change of 952 feet, 0.6 mile longest run and 8 lifts.


In Pennsylvania, similarly to New York, the best ski resorts are away from Great Lakes, further southeast. In the north, relatively close to Great Lakes, there is one that should be mentioned though. It is Seven Springs Resort. With 750 feet of elevation change, 1.2 miles longest run, it is at the top of the list.


Ohio, unfortunately, does not have any slopes worth mentioning. What’s there is short in elevation and length of runs.


Surprisingly, Indiana does a lot better. The more popular out of two resorts in the state, is Perfect North Slopes, with elevation change of 400 feet, and 1 mile longest run. It is located, however, in far south of the state, close to the Kentucky border.


In Illinois the most popular is Chestnut Mountain Resort with not bad elevation change of 475 feet, and about two-thirds of a mile for the longest run.


In Wisconsin, Granite Peak Ski Area comes with an impressive 700 ft elevation gain, however, short runs, but there are 74 of them. Another popular place is Devils Head with 500 ft of vertical gain and 1 mi longest run.

Lutsen Resort
The only gondola in the Great Lakes region at Lutsen Resort, Minnesota


Finally, in Minnesota, two resorts show up at the top of the list. First, Lutsen Mountains with an impressive 825 feet of elevation gain, and 2 mile for the longest run. It has 8 lifts. There are 90 different runs at Lutsen, and the only gondola in the region. Next on the list is Spirit Mountain, with respectful 700 ft of elevation change but much shorter runs.

Therefore, while skiing around Great Lakes is not as great as it is out west, there are plenty of places that provide fairly decent runs for a weekend full of fun. This is the reason why many of the resorts are pretty busy and crowed throughout the winter season.

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To find out what is available in your state or close to you – check out the links below listed by state/province. Also, immediately before are few links with general information.

There is also pretty nice phone app that I would like to mention, that will let you check the conditions at you favored ski resorts and provide a load of additional info. It is OnTheSnow. If you are a skier or snowboarder, it is worth downloading it to your phone.

So have fun out there, and maybe I will run into you on one of region’s slopes.

Illinois –


Michigan –


New York





Rich S.
Rich S.
Rich S. is a lifetime photographer and traveler based in Metro Detroit area. He has been traveling the Great Lakes area for over 30 years. Follow his blog about his trips, interesting activities and destinations in the Great Lakes region.

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