For many in Illinois winter can be a dreary time. Temperatures dip below freezing, sunlight is pretty much absent and leaving the house can be an all-out survivalist expedition. We all need some way to survive the winter blues, which is where ski lodges and resorts come in. We rounded up a few in Illinois (and one across the border) that have myriad activities that take advantage of the snowfall, and plenty of meeting and event space for when it’s time to come inside.
Grand Geneva Resort & Spa
LAKE GENEVA, WISCONSIN
You can’t talk about winter resorts without mentioning this 1,300-acre property, just 80 miles from Chicago in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018, the award-winning resort and spa has 355 guest rooms and 29 brand-new villas, plus the pièce de résistance: The Mountain Top. The 30-acre facility has a three-chair lift and 20 ski and snowboard runs with elevations that peak at 1,086 feet. Other winter activities on property include sleigh rides and ice skating.
“The resort is a great place to come to during the winter with a variety of special seasonal activities that create a great place for guests and community members to stop in and enjoy the season,” says Brad Lyles, director of sales and marketing.
Meeting space is also expansive at the resort. A grand total of 62,000 square feet can accommodate 10-1,500 guests. Options include 35 meeting rooms, a 7,680-squarefoot Grand Ballroom, a 13,500-square-foot convention center, 5,400-square-foot outdoor pavilion, 12,000-square-foot conference center and a number of outdoor spaces. Three unique dining options are located on the property as well.
Annual events include the Winter Carnival (Feb. 3) at the Mountain Top—a day filled with skiing, snowboarding and other activities, plus a Ski Season Opener Celebration and Toy Drive (Dec. 16), which includes a costume contest, beer tent and drink specials. This year, a new event called the Abominable Snow Race (Jan. 27) will see participants competing in an obstacle course of up to six miles, ending in Yeti’s Lodge with beer, music, games and more.
Four Lakes Alpine Snowsports
Spacious doesn’t nearly describe Four Lakes Alpine Snowsports in Lisle. Just 30 minutes outside Chicago, the 56-year-old resort sits on close to 200 acres.
“The best part of Four Lakes Alpine Snowsports is the small-town feel and the friendly people,” says Christopher Buehler, director. “You get to know the people who come out regularly and they become our family.”
At Four Lakes, you can ski seven days a week, even if there’s no snow on the ground. With the ability to make its own snow, Four Lakes can be a winter wonderland at any time.
There is no lodging on the property, but the facility has a number of relationships with nearby hotels, many of which have shuttle service around town and to the ski area.
Four Lakes also has a large full-service restaurant and outdoor seating area available for rent that can accommodate close to 2,000 guests. Two separate rooms are available for meetings and events. The cafeteria can host 150 guests while the annex can accommodate up to 45 people.
When you add in the hill space, it adds up to a total of 10,000 guests at one time.
“I started skiing here when I was 4 years old and haven’t left since,” says Buehler. “I’m now the area director and try to keep that feeling going every year.”
Situated just a few miles from the charming town of Galena on the Mississippi River, Chestnut Mountain has more than enough winter activities to keep your group entertained. There are 19 ski trails, a 7-acre terrain park, four triple chairlifts, two quad lifts and so much more. Plus, with so many trails, there’s something for everyone—novice skier to expert. And, if winter’s not your thing, an indoor pool, sauna, Jacuzzi and three restaurants are also available.
There is a 100-room resort on-site that also has dedicated conference space to host up to 250 people. Spaces include the 1,247-square-foot Mississippi Courtside, the 1,334-square-foot Mississippi Riverside, the 1,046-square foot Board Room and two large guest rooms that can accommodate groups of up 20 people. An outdoor tent area can fit up to 250 guests in more temperate weather.
While Chestnut Mountain may be located in its own small-town bubble, it’s no different than any other big-name resort, says Stewart Stoffregen, marketing director: “Chestnut Mountain has all the amenities you’ve come to expect in a premier resort destination. Its Midwestern roots and small-town charm make folks feel welcome and keeps them coming back for more.”
If you’re looking for some of the best skiing in the area, coupled with a year-round golf course and gorgeous views, you’ll want to check out Villa Olivia.
“Our views are outstanding,” says Peter Pope, superintendent. “It’s definitely not like being in a hotel conference room.”
Villa Olivia is owned by the Bartlett Park District, which acquired the facility in 2010. After the purchase, the property underwent a major renovation of its clubhouse, added in a number of new amenities and a chairlift and built a ski lodge. In total, the renovation cost $6 million.
Tubing, skiing and snowboarding are all popular activities at the resort. Tubing has its own hill with a Magic Carpet—a conveyor lift that brings guests from the bottom to the top without having to carry their heavy tubes. The tubing hill can host around 100 people, while the skiing and snowboarding hill can accommodate around 50 . However, if guests have their own equipment, the number can be much higher.
Inside Villa Olivia are four meeting rooms. The Crystal Room is the largest at 3,375 square feet and can accommodate 320 guests while the 2,100-square-foot Emerald Room can hold 170 people. Two smaller rooms—the Sapphire Room (900 square feet with a fireplace) and the Ruby Room (720 square feet)—can hold 60 and 45, respectively.
While the views are outstanding, the people and catering options also help Villa Olivia stand out from the rest.
“We really pride ourselves on customer service and the quality of our food” says Pope. “We receive a lot of rave reviews.”
Chicago’s Own Bunny Slope
Downtown Chicago might not have any ski slopes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t spend the day in a lodge, pretending you’ve just walked in from a long day of skiing. Bunny Slope, which opened in early 2017 and is located inside the ACME Hotel in River North, features ski-themed cocktails, wood-paneled walls, a fireplace and even a hot tub. The private bar can be rented out for $150 for groups up to 18 with a minimum drink tab. bunnyslopechicago.com