There are a number of small, Midwestern ski lodges a short (or not so short) drive north of Chicago that jockey for our lift-ticket money. Cascade Mountain, close to the Wisconsin Dells, has successfully made itself the best destination for families, particularly those with young kids.
It might seem like a sort of "no-duh" idea that ski lodges should be family friendly, and should work hard to make the sports of snowboarding and skiing fun and easy to learn for the next generation. But if that's true, then why do some lodges struggle with it so profoundly.
At Indian Head ski lodge, one of the most popular ski lodges in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the children's ski programs have been so atrocious in recent years that when parents pull their kids from the middle of classes the instructors barely notice the students entrusted to their care are leaving. This is even more unnerving for parents than watching the instructors ignoring their children for the half hour before they decided to give up on the class. (Here's a hint, if you have a class of kids so large that you need to have to have two instructors, they shouldn't spend the entire class immersed in conversations and arguments with one another.)
Cascade makes itself a destination for families by making lift tickets for young kid free, but it truly earns this designation by offering plenty of bunny hill options, including two lifts that do nothing but deliver young skiers to the bunny hill areas and teach young kids how to ride a lift. Even better, the lessons for children are well-run and comfortable. Instructors watch the kids as the class progresses, take them in for regular snack and bathroom breaks, and advance the students at their own levels to harder slopes when they're ready. What this accomplishes is pretty remarkable, kids learn to ski in pretty short order.
For kids that are slightly older, preteens, the lessons (adult lessons) are just as good and ridiculously inexpensive, $20 for 90 minutes. These group lessons are often small in class size, and again the instructors pace the classes to the student's abilities. What's more, the instructors are just plain cordial. That goes a long way.
Cascade isn't a perfect ski lodge. The main, four-man lift often has long lines, and and getting into line for this lift can be an aerobic workout. Customer service reps can be a little too laid back (slow) and the slopes get crowded during the afternoon, so come early, stay late, or both (they have night skiing). But the overall experience at Cascade is good.
If you're planning to ski trip to Colorado with kids that have never skied before, stop in for a weekend at Cascade to save time and money on expensive ski lessons in the Rocky Mountains. Located so close to the Wisconsin Dells, there are plenty of attractions, restaurants, hotels and Wisconsin cheese, beer and fudge to make a two-day overnight at Cascade a nice weekend diversion.
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