Generally speaking, Chicago is SOL when it comes to the slopes.
Directions to the nearest powder? Go west. About 15 hours. To Colorado.
Not so anymore.
Because the new and improved Wilmot Mountain — recently purchased by Vail Resorts and renovated to the tune of $13 million — is now open for your winter sporting pleasure.
We talked to General Manager Taylor Ogilvie, a Vail Resorts veteran who is equal parts skier and snowboarder, about how that money was used to revitalize the mountain of his childhood.
Here are five reasons you’ll see us there this year (and all snowy seasons to come).
1. Vail standards, Midwest setting.
Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, Ogilvie spent his winters at Wilmot. What he remembers are the “old clanky chairlifts” and eating in the car because the lodge was too crowded for his family to sit. The millions that went into this project paid for three new high-speed, four-person chairlifts, a reconfiguration of the lodge to accommodate 400 more seats and Colorado-grade snowmaking. And if you need some real mountains, you can pick up Vail’s Epic pass, which gets access to Wilmot as well as Vail, Beaver Creek, Heavenly, British Columbia’s Whistler Blackcomb and even resorts in Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland.
2. Didn’t leave the womb on skis? Wilmot is now the best place to learn.
Whether you’re bringing the kids for a full-day lesson while you bomb black diamonds or are the odd-man out in a group of seasoned snowboarders, Wilmot now has the facilities to teach beginners of all ages. The new children’s ski school provides kids with, as Ogilvie says, a “secure space, so that when we’ve got someone’s kid for five or six hours, we have a place [on the mountain] that’s only employees.” And there are new magic carpet-aided green runs right at the base, so you don’t have to fall on your face just to get to the top.
3. Even seasoned pros will be surprised.
As a Vail Resorts employee since 2001, and long-time skier and snowboarder, Ogilvie has been around his share of snow mounds. “Skiing, my favorite run is Superior ... just because it’s got these huge rolls, and it’s steep.” There are four other black diamonds to rip and roll through, as well as a terrain park with two high-speed tow ropes and 50 new features. “My park manager came from Vail Mountain and … was involved in the builds for Burton US Open,” he says. In other words: go in overconfident and you might leave with a broken board (or bone).
4. More worried about the lodge food than the lifts? You’re all set.
“There are a lot of people who come up here, put their kids in ski school and, for whatever reason, they’re choosing not to ski, but they’re looking for something to do.” Enter Walt’s Tavern. No, seriously, enter, grab a seat by the fire and order a bison burger with black cherry jam and a coveted Wisconsin-only New Glarus. Both Spotted Cow and Moon Man are on the revamped restaurant’s draft list. (Fun fact: it’s named after Walter Stopa who founded Wilmot back in 1938.) And if you’re coming up for a weekend, Wilmot is only 25 minutes from Lake Geneva, which is worth the extra 10 minutes from the highway for the dining and accommodation options.
5. Wilmot always had the magic, it just needed a makeover.
“I think the runs are part of what makes Wilmot really unique ... that rolling glacial terrain,” Ogilvie points out. “This is the terminal moraine of the Wisconsin ice sheet.” What he’s trying to say is this is a She’s All That mountain. Vail Resorts met up with Wilmot, replaced its decrepit snowmaking infrastructure, updated the vintage chairlifts and classed up the lodge. But when you’re cruising down Walter’s Folly on fresh powder, you’re going to realize Wilmot had that spark all along.
It just took a little spit-shine — and $13 million — for the world to notice.