Driving from Downers Grove out towards Chestnut Mountain Resort, I was a tad apprehensive, as the weather was a balmy 55 degrees when I started. Every half hour or so, though, I noticed that the temperature was dropping pretty consistently and a mix of snow and sleet was coming down (the snow part was probably wishful thinking).
By the time I got to the resort, it was around 7 degrees and everything looked as if it had a layer of ice on it. The slopes were even closed early due to the nastiness of the weather. It made me wonder whether skiing the next day was going to be any good.
I needn’t have worried – Chestnut has snow making capability to make sure your trip out there is not wasted. 70 snow guns use 5,000 gallons of water per minute when running at full capacity, totaling about 50 – 70 million gallons of water each year.
Skiing at Chestnut Mountain Resort has long been on my list of things to do in the Midwest, so an invitation to take part in a media visit had me grinning with anticipation.
Chestnut Mountain has 10 lifts or tows operating across 19 named ski runs and a couple of terrain parks. The 4 Beginner, 11 Intermediate, and 3 Advanced runs drop 475 vertical feet, with views of the Mississippi River most of the way down.
The ski center at the resort houses a ticket area, rental area for skis and snowboards, as well as a gift shop/outdoors store (where I snagged a beanie after realizing I had left all mine at home, duh.)
There’s also a Pro Shop, home of the ski school, first aid, and a tuning shop. Chestnut Mountain also boasts a Ski Patrol, great people you hope you never, ever need.
Being onsite from the night before meant I could just walk out of the lodge, down a walkway, and into the ski center. The first stop for many will be the ticket center, where options are available for slope passes and rental options.
Then it’s on to boots, either snowboard or ski, before giving your rental slip and grabbing skis or a snowboard. I went with poles this time, but I’d say they are probably not necessary at this resort and two less pieces of equipment to keep track of.
Rentals were quick and easy, mostly young people who were cheerful and seemed to know what questions to ask to get the right set up for the individual skier or rider. With Elan skis and Dalbello boots, the equipment seemed of good quality and worked great.
I really enjoyed skiing at Chestnut Mountain Resort, as it has a good variety of terrain that alternated between easy and hard. I’m neither the best nor the most confident of skiers, but as the day went on I really enjoyed my progression.
Because the vertical drop is not huge, the many lifts get you back up the mountain quickly and ready to go again. Many of the slopes end with enough slope that you can ride your speed right into the lift lines.
I took a look but did not partake of the Farside terrain park. It looked pretty fun but sliding on rails and jumping off ramps are not in my comfort zone. At 7 acres, it looks like someone like my son could spend all day here with new lines and tricks each time.
Besides the aforementioned Ski Center and Pro Shop, the resort offers dining options such as The Sunset Grille (main dining room, great views), The Summit (bar and grill, really good food), and The Mountain Top Café (restrooms, plenty of seating, decent food, but get the homemade cookies if available). If you’re staying at the resort there is an indoor pool, sauna, and game room as well (maybe that’s open to non-staying folks as well).
All in all, I would say that this is definitely the best ski area I’ve been to in the Midwest, and, because of its close proximity to Chicago and much of Iowa, is definitely a place to add to your Winter plans. It’s especially good for families due to its ability to keep everyone from the youngest to the oldest busy and happy.
Directions to Chestnut Mountain Resort: