Sometimes the nicest surprises come in small packages. That's the way I would describe my discovery of tiny Christie Mountain, which is tucked away in the Blue Hills of northern Wisconsin. Located east of Rice Lake, Eau Claire, a city of a around a 100,000, is an hour or so south of the ski area, and the Twin Cities are two to three hours away. It isn't a day trip area for a large bed base.
But, beyond the fact that Christie Mountain isn't close to most skiers, it's a delightful ski area, and that alone is worth the trip. It makes the most of its 350-foot vertical drop with a nice mix of slopes, trails, and some surprising steep.
Christie Mountain boasts 20 runs, with the longest being about three-quarters-of-a-mile, one chairlift and three surface tows. Situated on a long ridge, the best skiing -- serviced by a T-bar -- is tucked away along the back of the ridge. Wildcat and Bobcat, are long rolling black-diamonds with good sustained pitch from top to bottom. A couple of double black-diamond chutes, cut through rocky bluffs along the ridge, are accessed from the double-chair. Both offer some quick, western-like steep, and there's even a cliff jump; indeed a rare occurrence in the heartland.
Blue cruisers like Whitetail, Timberpup, and Sugarbush sweep along the ridge and back down to the single chairlift offering plenty of room for carving long Giant Slalom turns. The whole lower portion of the ski area is a big green playground. Beginner skiers can follow Summit along the top of the ridge to Bearpaw for an easy way down from the top.
There's plenty of room to potentially add more lifts and ski terrain down the road.
"We just want to take it slow and build up the business," said Sue Vohs, who owns the ski area along with her husband. "The number of skiers is slowly growing each year."
The functional day lodge also serves as home for the Vohs. "We live and breathe the business," she laughs, "but, we're having fun. It's something we're doing together and our son and daughter are also involved."
Having fun at Christie is contagious. It's a delightful skiing experience.