Very well organized, Lots of Trails, Fast rentals, Free lessons, Convenient Location
Lodge is sort of blah and no local nightlife.
I cannot believe I haven't skied Perfect North before now. It was awesome. Mind you, we're still talking about the middle of the U.S. It's not the Rockies or the Alps. It's not even the Appalachians. Still, Perfect North is one of the best places I've skied south of Maine.
The hill is surprisingly big. Pefect North does not publish detailed run information (at least not that I can find on their website). They claim a 400 foot vertical drop and a 1-mile "longest run." I'd guess that's about right. Runs are reasonable for this part of the country and compare very favorably with anything you'll find in North Carolina. I know there are much bigger places in WV or PA - but I can't drive to any of those on a regular weekend.
First of all, Perfect North is very well-organized. The people who run this place might want to have a crack at running the Indiana State government. . . I was told we were there on one of their busier days - apparently a special college weekend. There were lots of buses from various churches and schools, and the parking lot filled up by mid-morning. Lines for the lifts got longer as the day wore on. BUT, the slopes were not congested at all and the lift lines moved along steadily. We got lots of runs in. They have 3 big chair lifts to the top. They also have a separate chair lift for the main terrain park (Audition) - which REALLY helps keep a lot of traffic off the other lifts and off the regular runs. They have another separate chairlift for the beginners' area (Ski Wiz & Broadway) which helps cut down on congestion and keep beginners safely segregated from intermediate and expert traffic. Awesome planning by Perfect North on their lay-out and lift planning! I'd say we only waited 5 to 10 minutes for a lift during the peak rush.
There is someone from the staff at each lift line to prevent cutting and shoving. I only saw one little punk try to ram his way to the front of the line (I think it was an employee, too), but he got shut down. They don't put up with any crap here. The Ski Patrol is all over the place, too. It's a safe, controlled environment. Very nice for families with young kids but not like skiing in a police state, either.
My son and I set out to ski each of the 23 runs and then go back to the ones we liked best. We didn't quite get all 23 but we got close. We didn't even touch the terrain parks (Audition and Jam Session); however, I will say the terrain parks looked good - plenty of "toys," well maintained, and groomed. Also, my son and I didn't spend any time on the bunny hill - Cat Walk, Call Back, or Rehearsal. My wife spent all day on these and was pretty happy to make 16 runs without falling. Four magic carpet lifts (no tow ropes!) laid out in a quad serve the beginners' lesson and practice area. Ski Wiz and Broadway are the bottom ends of other runs, but they have a dedicated chairlift (the green lift) which is great for beginners to access these lower sections without taking on the bigger runs. Nice open spaces, not very steep, for practicing turns and stops. My daughter (13) enjoyed this area and we felt perfectly comfortable letting her ski there on her own most of the day.
Perfect North has on-going beginners group lessons on weekends FREE with the purchase of a lift ticket. It's set up like circuit training in the military - there are 7 stations with instructors at each and you just work at each station until you are ready to move on to the next one. You'll get an introduction to the very basic essentials here. Don't expect to leave this area ready to enter a race or take on a big hill. In fact, if you don't have any particular aptitude for skiing or at least some natural athletic ability, don't expect to leave this area at all. According to my wife and daughter, a few of the instructors are less patient than others and weren't going out of their way to provide any individual attention. But, it's free. If you run across an instructor you don't like, just move on. The main goal of these lessons is mainly to keep you from getting hurt - not to prepare you for the Olympics. It's more than you get at a lot of place, and beginners have tons of room to practice what they learn.
The trails at Perfect North are sort of naturally split into two groups with one group of trails served by the red and white chair lifts and the other group of trails served by the orange chair lift. Clyde's Super Slide and Short Cut bridge the two sections.
On the orange side of the hill you've got a nice long run called The Far Side which is OK but not very challenging. It's the longest run on the slope and perfect for beginners to build confidence. There is a series of jumps at the bottom, but you'd have to really be flying to get any air. This slope also seemed to get softer than the others in the afternoon sun, which made it slow in some sections.
Runway is a nice run that is only a little shorter than The Far Side but quite a bit faster. Four other runs branch off of Runway: Showtime/Lowershowtime, Encore, Intermission, and Special Effects. We only tried Encore, and we had to wait until the kids' slalom race was over before we could get on it. It's a nice, fast run but it doesn't last long.
Intermission and Special Effects are hard to tell apart, and we didn't try them. They are pretty steep and they both have trees. Showtime is a glade trail with moguls. Say what you want about skiing in Indiana - this run is no joke. If you don't know what you're doing, you will get hurt. They don't require helmets on it, and I'm not a big fan of wearing a helmet just to look cool, but you'd be foolish to do this run without one.
To get from the orange chairlift side to the red/white chairlift side, your best bet is to go left off the orange lift and take Clyde's Slide down. Go right at the bottom through The Meadow. You will end up telemarking across the bottom in front of the lodge to reach the white chairlift, but it's not bad. It can get crowded when they're having an event at the big terrain park but it's flat.
The white chairlift serves mainly Clyde's Slide and Hoyt Connection. Hoyt is not truly what I'd call a "connection." It's pretty flat and really only lets you pick up an alternate entry to Clyde's Slide. You'd have to climp up a pretty sharp hill to get from Hoyt to the orange chairlift trails. You'll have to do a little skating to get from the white lift to Backstage, Tuff Enuff, Center Stage/Hollywood, or Deception from the white chairlift. Or, you can just use the red chairlift. Backstage is a slightly faster but shorter version of The Far Side - nothing spectacular but a good warm-up run. Tuff Enuff was a fairly tame glade section leading to Backstage and would be a good intro to skiing amongst trees. Center Stage is similar to Encore - a fast run, a bit longer, with a just a hint of moguly-ness. From what I could tell, Hollywood was a glade trail running alongside Center Stage and possibly steeper than Showtime. I didn't try Hollywood.
Then there was Deception, a full-blown mogul trail. Mercifully short for those of us who don't ski every weekend or do a lot of squats. After the mogul section (which is generous), there's a nice fast section to the bottom and into The Meadow. My legs were feeling it by the time I got through the moguls. This would have been my favorite trail except that you've got to telemark across that flat spot in front of the lodge to get back to the lift.
As for all the other stuff that you have to deal with where ever you ski - lift ticket purchases, rentals, parking, etc. - Perfect North really has their act together. There is a lot of parking. We got there early and got a spot very close to the beginners' practice area, an easy walk from the lodge when we needed something from the van. Parking is free. There are about a dozen lift ticket windows, six outside and six inside the east lodge. All six outside windows were manned (or womanned) when we arrived. There was a line, but we were out in 15 minutes or less. (I suspect most people were like us and didn't even know about the windows inside the lodge - so the line was probably even shorter in there.) Our cashier was reasonably friendly and very efficient. I didn't feel rushed but the transaction was quick.
Just a note on the lift tickets: Perfect North uses a weather resistant card-like material that attaches with a plastic strap almost like a cable tie. Much easier to deal with than the old-fashioned stickers that have to be folded over a metal clip - especially when you have your hands full of gloves, wallets, credit card receipts, and rental paperwork.
My wife and daughter rented gear and it was a breeze. Rentals are downstairs from the ticket counters. They provide a counter space and pencils to fill out your information and then a staffer guides you into the largely self-service process. It may not be the most personalized approach, but it's definitely faster than most places and it works. Boots are racked up by size (mens size); you find the row with your size, grab a pair, sit down on the nearest bench, and put on your boots. Toes of the boots are color-coded. Skis are stored in kiosks identified by colors. Take your paperwork to the kiosk corresponding to the color on your boot and they hand you a pair of skis. Boom. Move through and pick up a pair of poles (if you use poles) from the bins near the exit doors and you're good to go. If you know your shoe size and know how to latch up a ski boot, you'll be out on the snow in under 15 minutes. Snow boards are in a separate room beyond the ski rentals - another excellent plan which helps keep things moving.
There are coin-operated lockers along the back and side walls of the rental area along with several change machines. $0.50 gets you a locker large enough for several pairs of shoes and possibly other junk - like parka liners, gloves and hats. Staff is all over the place asking if they can help you. There's also a tech shop at the end of the rental area where they apparently maintain rental gear and provide directions to the change machines. I cannot overemphasize how helpful and friendly the staff is at Perfect North.
Outside the rental area there are dozens and dozens of ski racks, including a section of coin-operated locking racks. (I didn't see anyone actually using the locks so I'm guessing theft isn't a big issue here.) There are some dedicated snow board racks, too. These crowd up by the middle of the day, but we managed to find a spot for our gear any time we needed one. Also easily accessed from the rack area are some rest rooms which were nice and clean.
The lodge itself was huge and had anything you really need. There's a nice deck on the second level overlooking the slopes. They have two different places to get food (plus a third snack bar at the snow tubing area and grilling on the deck on weekends). There's a ski shop and even more seating in the upper level. But, the lodge has all the ambience of a food court in the mall. There are three residential-sized gas log fireplaces built into a three-faced stone wall at one end of the main lodge. Other than that, it's just one huge open space filled with tables and chairs with two large open spaces comprising the east and west lodges connected to each end. That's great for youth groups and college kids to stuff their faces, but if I skied here often I'd really want to see a section of the lodge set aside for adults and families to relax by a REAL fire and maybe eat something besides a hamburger, burrito, or box lunch. Having said that, I must point out that Perfect North posts their food prices on their website and they are VERY reasonable. This is probably the most affordable lodge food I've ever seen.
I understand (and even appreciate) that Perfect North caters to families and isn't trying to be a night life mecca. They do not serve alcohol at the lodge. That's all fine. However, there is no other place in the immediate area for "apres ski" relaxation. The slope is located just outside of Lawrenceburg, IN in farm country. There are no cabins for rent on the slope, no hotels or restaurants between the slope and town, and Lawrenceburg itself is a very small city which seemed pretty quiet even on a Saturday night. Apparently there's a casino and some other stuff to see, but the nearest place to do karaoke and have a beer or take your family out for a good pizza is probably in Cincinnati - about 25 miles away. We were way too tired to drive to Cincinatti after skiing all day. So, we headed back to Florence, KY where we grabbed dinner at Skyline Chili and hit our hotel for the night. I guess we really weren't up for much nightlife anyway. If you're into that, I'd recommend getting a room in downtown Cinci.
Two last notes. We got a package deal from one of Perfect North's lodging partners as shown on the Perfect North website. That worked out very nicely. We ended up getting a very nice hotel room (that's HOtel - not motel) for a very reasonable price. We got two lift adult lift tickets for slightly more than the regular room rate and bought the kids' tickets at the slope. When you consider the very nice breakfast that came with our room, it was an exceptionally good deal. I highly recommend checking into Perfect North's package deals if you don't live within driving distance of the slope.
Finally, you will want to plan your departure from the slope carefully - otherwise you will sit in traffic trying to get back to the Interstate. The road to town is just a little 2-lane country road and it backs up a mile or two when tubing sessions let out. Bringing a GPS allowed us to bypass most of the traffic.
Overall, this was the best ski experience I've had in a long while. I highly recommend Perfect North to anyone who is stuck in the middle of the country and cannot afford to fly to one of the "big name" slopes.