None compared to other local skiing
What a delightful surprise! An easy drive from Chicago (3hrs) or Madison (<45mins), Cascade provided a great skiing experience from the moment we drove into the parking lot. Lots of staff on hand to make it easy and quick to get on the slopes; well organized parking lot, barrier-free walkway to the lift ticket window and base. Just pop your skis on and you can be riding the hi-speed quad in minutes. The longest lift line was less than 5 minutes- courtesy of staff keeping the line moving and filling every chair. The hi-speed quad takes skiers to the top in about 5 minutes, while another triple chair serves the same runs in about double the time (so that's why there was NO lift line...)
A great feature of the mountain is the beginners trails which run the entire elevation, rather than just the lower portions of the resort. Experts will enjoy the more challenging trails on the east portion of the slope, with intermediate trails on the west. All trails were meticulously groomed, despite deteriorating condition when we visited. Lifts were in great shape, with little to no mechanical problems, and almost no stops.
Snowboarders seem to coexist happily with skiers on all trails, but terrrain areas were very well marked to avoid unintentional entry. I'm not a boarder, so I can't really comment, but it did look like there were some pretty complicated structures in the terrain areas. The beginner area was well contained, with a blissful lack of rope tows, and three dedicated chair lifts. The "magic carpet" was being worked on when I passed by, but was located in a secure area preventing new skiers from wandering away, or other skiers from disturbing them. I was easily able to give my ski buddy some pointers and we moved on.
A quaint coffee shop provides warm beverages and lite snack with an amazing view and a very toasty fireplace. (Starbuck's for those of you who are wondering.) The main lodge is bright and airy, with somewhat limited seating upstairs. The cafeteria selections were not many, but along with the typical burgers/chili/chicken tenders, salads, a deli sandwich and wraps were available for more health conscious skiers. A small, but open bar area has dibs on the two-story floor to ceiling views, although the scenery is well viewed from anywhere in the vaulted room. Numerous flat-screens were available for sport fans to follow any number of games. Downstairs in the main lodge was a small snack counter and ample area of BYO; and one group took advantage by bringing a large crock pot of chili and another of rice. Multiple vending machines offered fast and easy access to snacks and beverages. There are also two mid-mountain restaurants which we did not even have time to visit, Daisy's features a large ski in/out outdoor patio area that would be amazing on a sunny day!
Clean lockers were easily accesible (.50) with a compact area including 3 dressing rooms, making it comfortable and easy to get ready and gear up in the lodge before heading out. There is not a huge amount of room, so with a couple of large groups, it has the potential of being uncomfortably crowded.
Located in the rental building, the ski shop has all the essentials to make up for any forgotten or failed gear, with a suprisingly good selection of equipment and accessories. The prices were quite fair as well. Although we did not need to rent gear, the rental area was as clean and well organized as the rest of the resort.
Skiers taking Far Out can view the snow tubing runs (requires an additional ticket), with two magic carpet type lifts. While I didn't see any "tubers", the resort makes it look like a lot of fun!
There are several options for lift tickets (flex-ticket) which offer what I felt were a great value for what Cascade has to offer ($44-49 adult/day/weekend). We took advantage of one of the local odging packages: 2 all day adult lift tickets, 1 night lodging, including continental breakfast for $149 + tax, which I thought was a fabulous deal. It was a little difficult to sift through the info on Cascade's website, but well-worth it.
My ski buddy was a first timer, and was able to get his ski legs quickly, and access all areas of the resort. While I am a long-time skier, we still enjoyed (almost) every run together. I would especially recommend Cascade for new skiers. I can't wait to go back, and look forward to bringing the kids this time.