Illinois Ski Areas

snowstar Fan gun snowmaking power at Ski Snowstar

Chestnut Mountain Resort, Galena • 139 skiable acres (?!) on 475′ vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 1040′; Base elevation: 565′. 8 Lifts: 2 quads, 3 triples, 3 surface. Uphill Capacity: 10,000/hr. Terrain Mix: 30-40-30. Longest Run: 3500′. Season: usually late December through mid-March. Night Skiing 7 days. Rentals. Annual Snowfall: 48″. Snowmaking: 100%.
The SKInny: Chestnut is certainly the class of Illinois skiing: good conditions, “regular” trails, and a decent vertical as midwest resorts go. The 139 skiable acres is a bit much; estimate it more in the 60-75 acre range. Downside is that it gets crowded, sometimes very crowded, and has the usual weather issues. When conditions are on, it’s fantastic. On a good day you can (almost) imagine yourself at Stowe.
Signature Trail: Warpath. (coincidentally, this is the trail shown here in the photo)

Fourlakes Ski & Snowboard Area, Lisle • 25 skiable acres on 100′ vertical
Specs: 6 surface lifts. Terrain Mix: 30-70-0. Longest Run: 800′. Annual Snowfall: 48″. Snowmaking: 100%.
The SKInny: Crowded, leans more toward snowboarding these days. Lots of snowboarders. Skiers might be better off hoofing it up that hill at the local golf course. But when you gotta, absolutely gotta ski, you’ll be glad Four Lakes is so close to Chicago. Great for taking the beginner prior to that winter vacation. Snowboarders are a blight on modern society.

Norge Ski Club, Fox River Grove • Ski jumping facilities
The SKInny: Illinois can proudly say that it is home to the oldest continuously operating ski area in the United States. So what if it happens to be ski jumping only. Memberships available, volunteers “snow” the hill, training, competitions, you name it. Great group of people. If you’re looking for more information about ski jumping, please click here for an “introduction” on the SkierNet winter sports site.

Plumtree Ski Area, Lake Carroll • 25 skiable acres on 210′ vertical — Not open to the general public
Specs: 2 Lifts: 1 double, 1 t-bar. Terrain Mix: 65-35-0 Longest Run: 1,500 ft. Annual Snowfall: 44″. Snowmaking.
The SKInny: Former public area, Plumtree is now a private club for Lake Carroll property owners, guests, etc. Aging equipment, wide open bowls, decent place. Look up “typical skiing in the Midwest” and you’ll find Plumtree Ski Area. Wish there were more Plumtrees open to the general public.

Raging Buffalo Snowboard Park & Freestyle Ski Area, Carpentersville • 5 skiable acres on 150′ vertical
Specs: 3 surface lifts. Longest run: 700 ft. Annual Snowfall: 40″. Snowmaking, rentals, lessons. Night skiing. Helmet use mandatory.
The SKInny: For years they were snowboard only — refused to allow skis, so we refused to list them. We’ve both come a long way since then, and although this is really targeted for park & pipe stuff it’s a terrific operation with excellent snowmaking. Separate beginner area keeps things from becoming too crazy. Upside-down layout with a nice riverfront setting.

Ski Snowstar, Taylor Ridge • 25 skiable acres on 228′ vertical
Specs: 6 Lifts: 2 quads, 2 doubles, 2 rope tows. Terrain Mix: 10-50-40. Uphill capacity: 4,800/hr. Longest Run: 2000′. Season: usually December through March. Night Skiing 7 days. Rentals. Annual Snowfall: 36″. Snowmaking: 100%.
The SKInny: Another “upside down” ski area (lodge at the top). Certainly gets crowded — too crowded — but certainly does a good job moving people up the hill. Good family atmosphere.
Signature Trail: Cosmos

Villa Olivia, Bartlett • 15 skiable acres on 180′ vertical
Specs: 4+ Lifts: 1 quad, 3 surface. Terrain Mix: 40-50-10. Uphill capacity: 2,400/hr. Longest Run: 1300′. Season: usually December through March. Night Skiing 7 days. Rentals. Annual Snowfall: 25″. Snowmaking: 100%.
The SKInny: Small family type operation, golf course that added skiing to keep the cash flowing in the winter. Lodge mid-hill, pleasantly crowded little ski area, fun atmosphere — especially for kids. Snowboarders tend to stay in the terrain park area.

Lift Tickets at Discount: This is a “clearinghouse” of sorts that many ski areas use to raise cash by selling discount tickets in advance, called Liftopia. If you haven’t used this service, it is important to knowfor certain that you are going on a specific date. The deeply discounted tickets must be purchased in advance; generally up to two days out. The sticking point is that some ski resorts only make a limited number of tickets available to Liftopia for any given day, so they might be sold out if you wait too long…so, as soon as you are absolutely, positively sure that you will be skiing on a certain day, click this link to get deeply discounted tickets. I’ve used this service many times, but again, ONLY when I am absolutely certain I will be skiing on a specific date. You need to have access to a printer to print out your receipt, and you have to take identification with you to the mountain. I’ve knocked a third off the price of some tickets. Not every area participates, but it’s well worth checking if you’ve got a date nailed down.