Legendary ski areas in the U.S. include names such as Vail, Jackson Hole, and Squaw Valley, but guess what? Granite Peak Ski Area has something on them: History. The Wisconsin resort dates back to 1937, making it one of the oldest ski areas in the U.S.
Much has changed at Granite Peak since the ‘30s, especially in the last decade since it’s been under new ownership. The stuff that attracts the Chicago-area tourists, and keeps them in town a few extra days: New lifts, new trails, and new base lodge amenities.
But the mainstay at Granite Peak is still the Historic Stone Chalet, where long-time locals are kept happy. It doesn’t have a fancy name, nor has the outside been touched much throughout its history. But it has been warming skiers before, during and after a day of skiing for more than seven decades.
It should be featured in a Warren Miller flick.
The stone and cedar lodge has been standing since 1939, and little has changed over the years save for some modest refreshing.
“We’re always doing something new (around the ski area), but we keep that old look with the chalet,” says Vicki Baumann, the GM and employee of the resort for nearly three decades.
The old look translates into a warm, cozy and historic hangout. It’s simply the way a ski lodge should be. Its mix of history and atmosphere also make the chalet the place to finish off a day (or night) of skiing at Granite.
The lounge upstairs is the main bar area, and it stays lively on weekends until 10 p.m. or later, which means true après is available even for those making turns until the lifts close at 9 p.m.
Several Wausau-area breweries lead the drink menu, including selections from Bull Falls Brewery, Great Dane Brewery and Red Eye Brewing Co.
The menu features Wisconsin staples all the way, as well. Where else are you going to ski and finish off with an order of deep-fried cheese curds (which make a rock star pair alongside a dark winter ale)? The food service also includes pizza, a variety of bar fare options, and a homemade pasta bar to go alongside of the popular house made rotating soups.
The outside features an expansive patio looking up to the mountain with plenty of portable heaters and a huge fire pit for warmth. The Saturday evening live solo guitar acts from Minneapolis and Madison often pop outdoors in the spring when the weather warms enough.
It’s all rather charming, and while the “new” ownership might point to high-speed quads, a built up town with great restaurants and attractions, and other shiny new things when trying to lure tourists, the best carrot for visitors remains the one that has been standing at the base of Granite since 1939.
“I’ve been here a long time, as long as many of our skiers,” Baumann says. “We certainly have put ourselves on the map in the last 12 years. It’s a whole new ski area. But it’s still just really cozy.”