friendly, professional staff that cares; short lift lines; first-rate instructors
Around 20 years ago I learned I have seasonal affective disorder and literally become sick if I don't get outside enough during the winter. Fortunately around that same time I learned to ski and it seems to take care of it for me. So when I was transferred to southern Illinois I was fearful how I was going to deal without it. Then a neighbor told me about Paoli Peaks located 2 hours away in southern Indiana. Could Indiana really have skiing? Well, I've learned that they do, and it can actually be great fun.
I admit that when I first saw it, it seemed to me to look as flat as a parking lot, and not a whole lot bigger either. But I hadn't come for a mountain experience, and to find anything even slightly bigger was an 8 hour drive. Besides, I had just come for some exercise and because I missed skiing. Paoli definitely provides all of that, and sometimes even a bit more.
I now ski Paoli at least once a week, from mid-December till early March. This is where I chose to teach my grandkids to ski, and was I ever glad. I enrolled them in Ski Camp and found it one of the wisest decisions I ever made. Not only is it inexpensive by ski school standards, but the quality of instruction was as good or better than your bigger resorts. Plus, the teacher actually seemed to care about my grandkids. She spent the day with them, made skiing fun, and taught them so that even though only 4 & 5 they were able to ski not just the bunny hill, but the entire hill. I've also had a few lessons at Paoli, and can testify that they are willing and able to teach not just to beginners but all levels if you ask.
Changes in the hill layout have made it safer by giving boarders and trick skiers their own terrain park section. This cuts down on potential contact with those who I call "accidents waiting to happen", but still leaves plenty of fun runs for the rest of the crowd. I'm also impressed with the quality of the grooming and how well the surface holds up even on a 50-degree day. And the mid-night skiing on weekends is about as good of a price as you'll find anywhere (plus a chance for the snow to firm up if it has gotten soft). I never dreamed I would say this that first day I saw the hill, but Paoli has a lot to recommend it.
No, I'm not saying you're going to have the perfect powder of Utah, nor the gut-check steeps of the Rockies, not even the quaint ski villages of New England. So, yes, I still look forward to an annual ski vacation at a big mountain resort. But between those sessions, for a family looking for an inexpensive get-a-way, or a beginner wanting to learn the basics, an intermediate working to improve, or even an advanced skier looking for a tune-up, Paoli serves quite well when one can't get to the mountains.