- Overall Rating 4
- Family Friendly 5
- All-Mtn. Terrain 4
- Terrain Park 2
- Nightlife 3
Pros: Good grooming, cool skiing vibe
Cons: It's in the middle of no where
Recommended For: Family Friendly
Date Visited: Dec 1, 2006
Welcome to Northern Minnesota ski resorts: isolated in both location and school-of-thought. Like Lutsen, Giant's Ridge projects an aura of a throw-back generation: the days of yore of skiing. At times, you expect to see a lifty sneer at you if you have skis wider than 80mm at the waist and a wider shovel and tail. If you ski switch, you half expect a patroller to come out and tell you to "turn around" and "slow down." The overall mentality is that skiing is on two straight sticks, going forward, and that's that. Although not as true in this sense as nearby Lutsen Mountains, Giant's Ridge still holds to this general personification.
Unlike nearby Lutsen, however, and more similar to southern neighbor Spirit Mountain, Giant's Ridge is attempting to embrace the new generation of skiers--those who like speed on wider sticks (but who aren't racers) and the "new schoolers:" those who ski backwards with baggy pants. Giant's Ridge has had a mediocre park for awhile now, and even carries rental sticks that aren't a minimum of 190cm with some sidecut. Giant's management also seem to embrace the idea that the sport isn't alway going to be one-pieces and rear-entry boots, and this is evidenced by the above. To them, I applaud you.
Giant's ridge is one big hill, logically spread out with runs that are spacious and fun. The middle of the slopes offer varied beginner to intermediate terrain. Farther to skier's right of the middle section are some high-grade blacks that dangerously empty into lower-grade blues, but offer a little shot of speed and adreniline. Farther to skier's right is a mish-mash of blacks, blues, and greens that are wide and challenging, and rarely busy.
If you want a challenge, move to far skier's left for some real steeps and fun intermediate groomers. 2002, Alta, and Whiteface are heart-pumping steep shots that, although short, can make you feel like you are out West. This is also the best place to go on a powder day, as the snow sticks the longest on these runs. Rocky Top is a great cruiser on this side as well.
Giant's Ridges' terrain park is very lacking, but at least they can say they have one. While no one is going to drive any sort of distance to rage the Giant's Ridge terrain park, you can still have the kids go and bounce around there for a bit. They have a couple of rails, an icy half-pipe, and a few jumps. The grade of the park's slope is weak, however, so take note.
Apres ski at Giant's Ridge is poor as well. There's one small bar area with a few domestics on tap. They also serve a very limited cafe-style menu of food. My recommendation would be to pack up at the end of the day and head into neighboring Biwabik and hit up the Whistling Bird--a Jamican restaurant with a full bar.
Giant's Ridge has come leaps and bounds from it's heydays being a race-training hill. It's opened up it's arms (slowly) to embrace everyone, and understands its place as a medicore ski resort with little in the surrounding area to offer. However, a day at Giant's Ridge isn't exactly a boring day, and well worth the commute if you crave groomers with a bit more vertical than nearby Spirit Mountain. The groomers are also wider than Spirits, so this may draw some hardcore groomer fans (AKA "racers"). The price is right--at $42 for a day of skiing (until 8pm)--so Giant's Ridge has it's draws. On the slopes, it can definitely keep a family entertained for a weekend.
I can't speak to lodging or local activities as I haven't experienced them. Check out Giant's web site (www.giantsridge.com) for more information about that. Giant's is hugely popular during the summer for as a top golf destination, so lodging and local activities may abound more than I am aware. See for yourself, but just know that Giant's Ridge won't disappoint you if you want to make the trip.