- Overall Rating 4
- Family Friendly 5
- All-Mtn. Terrain 3
- Terrain Park 0
- Nightlife 3
Pros: Geographically convenient, provides mix of slope difficulty, little waiting
Cons: Hard to reach, limited parking, equipment rental is SLOW, no real lodge
Recommended For: Singles, Family Friendly, Empty Nesters
Date Visited: Jan 1, 2011
Somewhat limited access makes this place a little hard to reach. You have a choice of paying to ride up on a gondola from downtown G'burg for $10 (get $5 back when you show your lift ticket at the end of the day) - probably your best bet, or driving up a two-lane road to wait in traffic for a parking space (for which you'll pay $10). There will be a sign posted at the bottom of the mountain if the parking lot is full. You can have someone drop you off at the top, but you may still spend quite a long time sitting in a line of cars near the top before you get to the drop-off point. And, you'll still have to wait for the shuttle bus to come and get you at a turn-around/drop-off point - they will not allow you to walk up to the actual "lodge." Still, it's worth checking this place out if you live in the center of the country and don't want to fly somewhere to ski.
They call the main facility a "mall," not a "lodge." There is nothing resembling a traditional lodge at the ski area itself. Gift shops, ski shop, places to eat, skating rink, etc. but not what I'd call a traditional lodge "feel." I was told by a couple that the food is excellent and fairly priced, but I didn't eat on the mountain and cannot say.
DO NOT rent equipment here if you can possibly help it - at least not on weekends. I could not find a single off-site place to rent skis in the G'burg area, and the line was unbelievable over the MLK,Jr. holiday weekend. We waited 2 hours for my son to get skis. Also, they set his bindings at the loosest possible setting apparently based on his age and not his experience, so bring a screwdriver to set your own bindings if you don't want to spend half your time chasing escaped skis. You may not have to wait as long if you go on a less popular weekend, but I recommend bringing your own gear just to be safe.
All that said, once you get to the slope, the skiing is pretty good for this part of the country. Despite being there over a holiday weekend, once we got my son's skis we didn't spend much time waiting for the rest of the day. Three lifts kept things moving, and because there seem to be lots of beginners here most of the crowd seemed to stick to the short lift and tow rope near the bunny hill, leaving the two long 4-seater lifts reasonably quick to get on. (There's also a two-seat lift that serves Alpine Way and the terrain park, but we didn't get to that one.) There was a short break in the action when the lights on a couple of trails went out; they cleared and stopped the lifts for about 10 minutes to fix the lights, but that only happened the one time during our session. They will stop the lifts if someone falls and the staff doesn't yell about it. If you're one of those ski-gods who gets annoyed by that, I recommend getting out your credit card and buying plane tickets to Vail or sucking up to Sean White.
The staff is pretty helpful and friendly (and generally good-looking), but they appear to be mostly foreign exchange students, some of whom have marginal English skills. Pretend you're skiing in Europe and this will be easily overlooked. . . The crowd, too, is generally friendly and fun. You won't find a lot of wannabe ski-gods here.
They claim to make snow when weather conditions permit, but they didn't make any while we were there so I'm not sure how they determine when to fire up the snowmakers. Trails were groomed and - despite a heavy volume of snowboarders plowing the slopes - there were still some patches of loose powder and very little ice. Frankly, I was hoping the snowboard crowd woud stay in the terrain park. They don't. Be prepared to deal with lots of snowboarders and lots of first-time skiers. Again, if that's a problem for you, pull out your wallet and go elsewhere.
Grizzly, one of two Black Diamond trails here, closes at dusk and we didn't even get a shot at it. The other BD trail - Mogul Ridge - was OK; pretty steep but very short and not really very "mogul-ly." Our favorite run was Ober Chute (very top) to Bear (Upper and Lower) which totals nearly a mile and starts with a decent drop-off at Ober. You can mix it up a little - starting with Ober and turning off to Mogul instead of Upper Bear or to Cub instead of Lower Bear. Castle is pretty much just the bottom section of Mogul and not really a separate trail. When I was there you could not get from Upper Bear across to Castle, which would be a nice option. They say there are 9 trails but Ober (6) and Castle (3) are really just parts of other trails, and Ski School (1) is really just the bottom of every other trail. It's really more like 4 trails with one mid-trail cut-over (Cub Way from Bear to the bunny hill).
(There is a separate "scenic" chair lift which goes waaaayyyy beyond the top of Alpine, and I can't help but wonder why they don't extend Alpine Way all the way to the top of the scenic lift . . . That looks like it would be an awesome run.)
My "star" ratings are based on comparison to other ski areas in THIS part of the country. I rated the Nightlife "fair" because there is none to speak of at the ski slope itself. However, there is PLENTY of night-life in town. We found a totally awesome place with great food, a dance floor, and karaoke where you can actually take your kids. We had a blast! I'll go back.