9 Great Hills to Ski Near the Fox Valley + Tips for Skiing with Kids

skiing with kids

If you love downhill skiing, it’s natural to want to share that joy with your kids. Skiing is a great way to keep family members connected and exploring nature together.

Taking young kids skiing for the first time doesn’t need to feel overwhelming. Planning and realistic expectations are key. Here are some been-there-done-that tips from an experienced ski mom. Guest blogger, Kristen Stankewicz, shares her wisdom from years of being a Northeast WI ski mom to help families have a great day skiing on the hills.

Tips to Prepare your First Ski Adventure

  • Aim for good weather and snow conditions – Try to pick a day that’s comfortable, rather than cold and windy. Keep in mind that even if there’s not much snow in town, ski hills may have great snow. Check ski hill websites for current conditions.
  • Bundle up – Layer your kids up like an onion. They’ll get cold. They’ll get hot. Layering lets you keep them comfortable. Otherwise, you’ll wind up with a grumpy kiddo who wants to stop.
  • Get the right gear 
    • Skis or snowboards, boots and helmets can be rented at the hill or from an independent ski shop ahead of time. They’ll ensure gear is in proper condition, sizing is correct and bindings are adjusted safely.
    • Renting at the hill saves car space and eases the walk from the parking lot. (Arrive early to avoid rental lines.) Renting from an outside shop, like Play It Again Sports in Appleton or Zeller’s Ski & Sports in Green Bay, means once you get to the hill, all you need is a lift ticket. Either way, the gearing-up process can take time, especially the first time. Expect some, “Mommy, these boots feel funny!”
    • Always have kids wear a helmet and goggles to keep little heads protected and eyes free from snow and wind.
  • SchleppingStash hats, gloves and other gear in a duffle bag or a backpack for each grownup to carry from the parking lot to the lodge. Little kids may not be able to carry much of their own stuff, especially if they’re wearing ski boots.

Learn to Ski Tools

  • Trainer harness (such as the Racer Chaser or Lucky Bums): A vest with straps for parents to hold onto. The harness gives kids the feeling of independence, yet lets parents control speed. If you use a harness, make sure kids still learn how to properly slow down, turn and stop, so they can ski safely once the vest comes off.
  • Ski wedge (such as the Edgie Wedgie or Wedgease): Secures ski tips together, prevent skis from crossing or spreading too far apart. It’s useful for kids who may not have the leg strength to make a stopping wedge or keep skis together.
  • Lessons: A good skier does not necessarily make a good ski teacher, so consider lessons to help your kids learn the right way. Instructors are trained in teaching techniques to help kids enjoy the sport. Private, semi-private or group lessons typically run $30-60, plus tip. Combination lesson/rental packages are often available. Call the hill ahead of time for reservations.

Tips for the Slopes

  • Start on the bunny hill.
  • A “magic carpet” conveyor lift is easiest for little feet to navigate.
  • Once your child feels comfortable and knows how to slow down, turn and stop, move on to green runs.
  • Typically, chairlift operators will see you coming and slow the lift down. You can carry your little one off at the end.
  • Let your child dictate the day’s pace, even if it’s slow. Take lots of breaks for bathroom, food, water and playtime.  The more kids feel comfortable and enjoy the day, the more they’ll want to do it again.
skiing with kids - lift

9 Great Ski Mountains Near the Fox Valley

There are many ski hills located within a few hours of the Valley! These are 2 hours or less from Appleton and the Fox Cities. You can find more with a longer drive time on WiscoFam!

1. Nordic Mountain, Wild Rose

A relatively short drive from the Fox Cities, Nordic Mountain in Wild Rose is a great place to start for a family skiing adventure! You can enjoy skiing, boarding, or snow tubing here with your family. In fact, being just an hour’s drive, these would be the ideal spot to get a season pass!

  • Travel Specs: 54 minutes | 49.5 miles from the Fox Cities
  • Address: W5806 County Road W, Wild Rose, Wisconsin
  • Phone: 920-787-3324
  • nordicmountain.com/
  • Hours:
    • Monday – Thursday: CLOSED
    • Friday: 4:30 – 10 pm
    • Saturday & Sunday: Opens at 10 am
  • Admission & Lift Tickets:
    • Various packages available. See website for current prices.
    • Children 6 and under get a FREE lift ticket!
    • Season passes available.

2. Sunburst Ski Hill, Kewaskum

Just about an hour away, come enjoy the slopes at Sunburst Ski Hill in Kewaskum. Check out the Sunburst Ski School while you’re here! They offer ski and snowboard lessons for all levels of experience. They claim to have the steepest hills and best snow around–with 50 feet more vertical!

  • Travel Specs: 1 hour, 7 minutes | 68.9 miles from the Fox Cities
  • Address: 8355 Prospect Drive, Kewaskum, Wisconsin
  • Phone: 262-626-8404
  • Hours: See website. Varies daily
  • Admission & Lift Tickets: See website for current prices.
    • Kids 10 and under ski FREE with a paid adult!
    • 20% discount Friday-Sunday for Active Duty Military.

3. Little Switzerland Ski Area, Slinger

Start your ski season off right with a trip to Little Switzerland Ski Area in Slinger! And, if you like the great skiing Nordic Mountain has to offer, you’re sure to like this ski resort as well, as it is managed by the same company.

Like many of the ski venues on our list, this one offers FREE lift tickets for children (6 and under) with a paid adult!

  • Travel Specs: 1 hour, 8 minutes | 73.2 miles from the Fox Cities
  • Address: 105 Cedar Creek Road, Slinger, Wisconsin
  • Phone: 262-297-9621
  • Hours:
    • Monday – Thursday: Opens at 4 pm
    • Friday – Sunday opens at 10 am
  • Admission & Lift Tickets:
    • Various packages available. See website for current prices.
    • Children 6 and under get a FREE lift ticket with a paid adult!
    • Season passes available.

4. Ausblick, Sussex

With plans to open in early December, a trip to Ausblick ski resort in Sussex is sure to be a crowd-pleaser! This ski club is likely one of the longest-running in Wisconsin and dates back to the 1940s. This ski resort does require a membership to use its ski hill and facilities.

  • Travel Specs: 1 hour, 25 minutes | 89.9 miles from the Fox Cities
  • Address: W260N6395 Maryhill Road, Sussex, Wisconsin
  • Phone: 262-246-3090
  • Hours:
    • Monday CLOSED
    • Tuesday – Friday: Hours vary
    • Saturday & Sunday: Opens at 10 am, open late on Saturdays.
  • Admission & Lift Tickets: Membership required: see website for rates.

5. Granite Peak Ski Area, Wausau

Located at beautiful Rib Mountain State Park in the town of Wausau, Granite Peak Ski Area affords you some of the most spectacular skiing views in all of Wisconsin as it’s situated at the highest point around! It is Wisconsin’s premiere and biggest ski resort with an impressive 700 feet of vertical height and over 50 trails, and a fun magic carpet-style ski lift.

The great thing about Granite Peak, Wisconsin’s highest ski resort, is that you can enjoy skiing and visiting an amazing state park at the top of the mountain all in one. Make sure you put Granite Peak on your family’s winter bucket list!

  • Travel Specs: 1 hour, 32 minutes | 100 miles from the Fox Cities
  • Address: Rib Mountain State Park, 227200 Snowbird Avenue, Wausau, Wisconsin
  • Phone: 715-845-2846
  • Hours: Change by the stage in the season. Check their website for current hours.
  • Admission & Lift Tickets: See website for current prices.
    • Night skiing offers the most economical value at $39.
    • Season passes available.
  • Other fun things to do in Wausau

6. Paul Bunyan Ski Hill, Lakewood

Enjoy the beauty of Northern Wisconsin at Paul Bunyan Ski Hill in Lakewood! Dubbed ‘The Biggest Little Ski Hill in the Midwest’, this one is worth the drive. While you’re in the area, make a side trip over to Governor Thompson State Park for some breathtaking winter hiking or snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or even a fun sledding hill for the kids!

  • Travel Specs: 1 hour, 32 minutes | 79.1 miles from the Fox Cities
  • Address: 15360 Ski Hill Lane, Lakewood, Wisconsin
  • Phone: 715-850-1129
  • Hours:
    • Wednesday & Friday: 9 am – 5 pm
    • Saturday & Sunday: 10 am
  • Admission & Lift Tickets:

7. Kettlebowl Ski Area, Bryant

If you’re looking for affordable prices and plenty of small ski area fun in Wisconsin’s north woods, then be sure to check out Kettlebowl Ski Area, located 17 miles northeast of Antigo on Highway 52! They offer both downhill skiing and cross-country skiing. Enjoy a day on the slopes or on the cross-country ski trails of your choice! This ski hill is run by local volunteers and is truly a community effort. The rope tow (no chair lift) will help you get back up to the top of the ski hill. They offer a warm chalet and a handful of warm foods & snacks for you to enjoy while visiting.

  • Travel Specs: 1 hour, 47 minutes | 91.7 miles from the Fox Cities
  • Address: N6875 State Highway 52, Bryant, Wisconsin
  • Hours:
    • Saturday & Sunday noon to 4 pm throughout the winter
  • Admission & Lift Tickets: 
    • Note: CASH ONLY
    • Lift Tickets: 
      • $5 for children under age 18
      • $10 for adults
    • Ski & Snowboard rentals: 
      • $15 for children 5 and under
      • $20 for ages 6 to adult

8. Cascade Mountain, Portage

Head north of Madison, and you’ll find yourself at Cascade Mountain in Portage! Located just 20 minutes from the iconic Wisconsin Dells, this ski hill is hard to miss–you’ve got a clear view of it from the interstate! From the highest elevation, enjoy spectacular views of the Wisconsin River. With acres of skiable terrain, multiple ski lifts, some epicly long runs, and some amazing snow tubing, you and your family will have plenty of winter fun while you’re visiting!

  • Travel Specs: 1 hour, 48 minutes | 97.1 miles from the Fox Cities
  • Address: W10441 Cascade Mountain Road, Portage, Wisconsin
  • Phone: 608-742-5588
  • Hours:
    • Monday through Thursday: 10 am – 8 pm
    • Friday & Saturday: 9 am – 10 pm
    • Sunday: 9 am – 8 pm
  • Admission & Lift Tickets: Check website for current rates.
    • Note: They are a CASHLESS venue.
    • Pre-purchase required Friday, Saturday, and Peak Days
    • Kids 12 and under ski FREE!

9. Devil’s Head Resort, Merrimac

Nestled in the beautiful Baraboo Hills and just beyond Wisconsin’s favorite Devil’s Lake State Park, Devil’s Head Resort is one to put on your winter bucket list! It’s listed as one of the ‘Midwest’s 10 Best Ski Resorts’ and for good reason. This full-service ski resort offers lodging with amazing views, an indoor pool with hot tub, a game room, golf seasonally, and even winter cross-country skiing. The kids will find plenty to do here!

  • Travel Specs: 1 hour, 59 minutes | 107 miles from the Fox Cities
  • Address: S6330 Bluff Rd, Merrimac, Wisconsin
  • Phone: 608-493-2204
  • Lift Hours: 
    • Monday – Friday: Opens at 10 am
    • Saturday & Sunday: Opens at 9 am
  • Admission & Lift Tickets: See website for current pricing.
    • They do offer a family pass.
    • Children 5 and under ski for FREE! 

Reader Suggestion: “I would also add Whitecap Mountain near Hurley, Camp 10 in the Rhinelander area, and Winter Park in Kewaunee to the list of awesome places to take kids. Granite Peak is close, but not the best hill for beginners.”

Bring Your Patience and Embrace the Adventure

There will be mishaps. There will (hopefully) be lots of laughter. The more calm, positive and patient you can be, the more fun your kiddos will have. Keep your sense of humor and your temper, and everything will be just fine.

Skiing can open kids up to a lifetime of fun, an appreciation of nature, and a world of adventure. Let’s hit the slopes!


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