Yes, you read that right. Illinois. Those who have grown up skiing a proper mountain are likely to take a look at this hill and laugh. But for us that grew up in the midwest dreaming of skiing in the West, it is a place to let one’s imagination run wild.
The slope at Chestnut Mountain is west-facing and boasts quite possibly the best view of the Mississippi River in the country. It has 475 feet of vert spread out over 225 acres that form the 19 different trails. On the opposite side of the hill, there is an east-facing slope that is home to The Farside. I think The Farside is the most progressive, best maintained, and most perfectly shaped park in the Midwest. There are six lifts, two conveyor lifts, and one rope tow across the hill to keep the crowds lapping all day.
To most seasoned skiers, this amount of terrain seems like it would get extremely repetitive after about 45 min. But if you know how to ski this hill, it will keep you coming back for more season after season. The lifts start spinning at 9:00, and, to start the day, I typically ski down Moser to Fox and hop on the Apache Quad on skiers’ left of the hill. This is the best place to be early in the mornings to get away from any particularly rowdy church groups from the Chicago suburbs. Then take a hard left off the chair and shoot down Apache for some long turns on clean corduroy. After a few laps, I go right off the Apache chair and alternate between Crazy Horse and Warpath. In my experience, Warpath has possibly the steepest pitch in the Midwest.
After a couple of hours, I’ll head over to The Farside to pretend that I’m a halfway decent park skier. Then after I take a particularly hard spill, I ski over to my favorite thing to ski. Bumps. The bumps at Chestnut barely get skied. They typically get shaped in late January and immediately turn into bullet-proof ice domes on top of Teflon-covered concrete. So to really rip ’em, you got to let them soften up a bit. Which, sometimes means that you’re not skiing them till late February or March. Eagle is the name of mogul run and it ends about halfway down the hill. From there, shoot over to Mineshaft, which is actually steep enough that if you go into it with enough speed, you can get some daylight under your skis. Mineshaft is right in front of Village Quad, and it’s the Midwest equivalent of The Fingers in front of KT-22 at Squaw Valley. Air off the top of Mineshaft, and suburban moms will think you’re Bode Miller.
If you can make it through all that, it means the lights are about to come on, and the real fun starts. Night skiing is a vibe unlike any other in skiing. It’s frigid cold temps, boilerplate snow, and plenty of shenanigans with the squad. The lights shut off at 10 on the weekends, which means skiing bell-to-bell is 13 hours. No wonder why my legs feel so fresh after a trip out west. This is my only chance to throw shade as a Midwest skier, and I’m gonna take it.
For those looking to keep the dream alive of one day skiing bigger mountains, Chestnut Mountain is the place to keep you hungry. It is where I developed my obsession for skiing and a place where many others look to prove that Midwest skiing is here to stay.
- Location: Galena IL
- Vertical: 475 ft.
- Top elevation: 1,020 ft.
- Base elevation: 600 ft.
- Skiable area: 225 acres
- Runs: 19
- Longest run: 0.66 miles (1.06 km)
- Lift system: 9
- 2 Quad, 4 Triple chairlifts
- 3 Surface
- Terrain parks: 1 “The Far Side”
- Snowfall: 34 inches
- Website: http://www.chestnutmtn.com/