Seven Reasons Why An Expansion of Granite Peak Ski Area Is Important!

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WAUSAU, WI. Alpine skiing was in the absolute forefront of Wausau civic leaders’ thinking when they acquired lands that created Rib Mountain State Park way back in the 1920s. This was the era before ski lifts when alpine enthusiasts hiked up Rib Mountain, and nearby Midwest communities (Duluth and Minneapolis) were vying for the 1932 Winter Olympics ultimately held at Lake Placid. Following Lake Placid’s example of creating a “winter sports complex” on State land, skiing began at Rib Mountain State Park in 1937 after the CCC cleared ski runs and constructed a historic ski chalet at the base, and the nation’s longest ski tow was installed at Rib Mountain. Today, with skiing having been continuous for nearly 85 years, Rib Mountain State Park and its current ski hill operator, Granite Peak Ski Area, are preparing for the next 50 years of winter and summer fun.

Today Granite Peak Ski Area is the largest – and tallest! – downhill ski area in Wisconsin. Over the last 20 years, and with investments totaling more than $30 million, Granite Peak Ski Area has grown to become the finest Midwest ski area for visiting snow enthusiasts. Yet, while the last twenty years have been great, with the emergence of two large ski conglomerates controlling a majority of U.S. skier visits, there is a now a clear and urgent need to broaden and diversify the recreational experiences and services at Granite Peak Ski Area.

The recreation experiences and services that will become available in future decades will be decided upon in the next 12 months. In 2020, the Wisconsin DNR, which manages and oversees recreational activities at Rib Mountain State Park, will complete a revision of the park and ski area master plan while considering a variety of expanded and new recreation experiences.

Here are the seven reasons why an expansion of Granite Peak Ski Area should be considered during the 2020 planning process for Rib Mountain State Park:

1. More Ski Terrain, Please! Ski areas with too little ski terrain are not compelling places to spend a several-day vacation. In the vast region between the Appalachians and the Rockies, only a handful of destination areas still remain with the size to be economically viable. These peer ski areas have between 215 and 306 skiable acres compared to Granite Peak Ski Area’s existing 150 acres. After an expansion of ski terrain, Granite Peak Ski Area would expand to approximately 210 skiable acres.

2. Additional Terrain for Beginners and Novice Skiers. As a family oriented destination ski attraction, Granite Peak Ski Area needs additional easier terrain for children, teens and adults who are beginners or novice skiers. And that addition needs to be balanced with enough low intermediate-to-advanced terrain to satisfy other members of the family.

3. More Ski Time. Less Time in Lines. While Granite Peak Ski Area has taken a strong leap forward in quickly moving skiers up the mountain and onto the slopes, it’s a reality that the current base area is at capacity on busier days. An expansion would allow for increased skier service buildings, increased food, beverage and other amenities, and increased parking. And more space means easier ticket procurement, larger ski rental areas, expanded seating and entertainment areas, more lockers, a ski school and a new children’s center.

4. Ski-in/Ski-out Lodging is in Demand. Granite Peak Ski Area does not currently offer ski-in/ski-out lodging. Yet years of customer input and data from other Midwest destinations reveals that approximately 1/3 of skiers travelling to destination ski areas will only consider a destination where ski-in/ski-out lodging is available: the convenience is ski-in/ski-out lodging is particularly important to familes with younger children. Granite Peak’s Ski Area expansion would include the development of high quality, sustainable lodging on 25 acres at the base of Rib Mountain Ski Area on lands owned privately. The lodging will include a mix of multi-family townhomes, lodge rooms, and single-family units.

5. The National Conglomerates Continue to Grow, Putting Stress on Locally Owned Ski Areas. More than 300 ski areas nationwide have gone out of business in recent decades because they were too small and/or outdated, and found they could not compete with the draw being established by the Western ski conglomerates with their huge scale, modern infrastructure and nationwide season passes. Today, these two ski conglomerates (Vail and Alterra/Aspen) and their mega pass affiliates, control 55% of all of the ski visits in the United States. And the number continues to grow. The goal for Granite Peak Ski Area is to provide winter visitors the sufficient size and scale to continue its proud skiing heritage and remain economically viable for future generations of Midwest families.

6. It’s Not Just for Winter Anymore. Four-season outdoor fun has become the standard worldwide at modern ski destinations with plenty to do for all family members. With expansion, Granite Peak Ski Area would do its part by providing lands for a variety of non-winter activities, which could include downhill and enduro mountain bike trails, more ski lift and gondola rides, forest canopy tours, a mountain coaster, and space for adventure and endurance bicycling and running events.

7. Helping the Community Grow and Stay Healthy! Wausau, Wisconsin has gained a reputation as a bustling Ski Town. The civic leaders in the Greater Wausau Area are now expanding that brand to remake the area into one of the Midwest’s strongest destinations for four-season outdoor recreation. Places for families to live, work and play as well as for visitors to come, recreate and stay. As more young families choose to live and enjoy what the visitors come to cherish, a well-planned expansion at Granite Peak can provide tremendous benefits for the Greater Wausau Area. The growth of outdoor recreation venues, and related services, not only creates healthier minds and bodies, but also builds economies that can remain strong well into the future.

Show your Support!

Where to Start! Go to https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Lands/propertyPlanning/RibMtn/ to understand background and subscribe and receive Rib Mountain State Park plan revision news. You can also visit www.skigranitepeak.com/granite-peak-expansion. an email, letter or phone call to the Wisconsin DNR to show support for expanded recreation in 2020!

Make Yourself Present! The Wisconsin DNR expects to hold at least three open houses in the Wausau community in 2020 on the plan revision. Please attend, ask questions, and show your support for increasing winter and summer recreation at the park! If you cannot attend, send an email, letter, or call the contact person listed on the DNR website to show your support for more outdoor recreation and an expansion of Granite Peak Ski Area!

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