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Dave Matonich at Sunburst, courtesy Wisconsin Shred Project
State since: 1848
Total Resorts: 30 (no, seriously)
State of Shred? In the state of Wisconsin? I know the editors expected me to come out and shit all over this state, but really I can’t. The people who eat, sleep and breathe snowboarding in Wisconsin are rare, but they are also some of the most committed riders you’ll ever meet. It’s really a lifestyle built around what’s lacking. Wisconsin doesn’t get the amount snow of a mountain state, it doesn’t have over 700 vertical feet anywhere, and we can’t even count on a four-month season. Yet for some reason people do choose to live here and consider themselves snowboarders.
THE QUICKFAST ON WISCONSIN
To better explain the places these people ride I’ve broken the state into quadrants.
This is the zone I grew up in. In fact, a lot of snowboarders grew up here. And it might be arguable that this is the birthplace of modern jibbery. Chad Schnacky, Dale Rehberg and Roan Rodgers all got there early turns in this part of the state. Around here you can ride beautiful Mt. Hardscrabble. Nestled in the northwoods it features a chairlift, two t-bars, a tow-rope, and a ton of locals skiing in jeans. Another northwest Wisco hill is Christie Mountain. Not to be outdone Christie Mountain feature a chairlift, a t-bar, two tow-ropes, the Blue Hills Beast (a blue gorilla-like mascot) and the vaguely racist slogan, “Christie Mountain, You’re all white!”
Wisconsin is also home to the fine little hill, Trollhaugen, which kicks out some strong riders. Ethan Deiss is from around here, so we’re going to assume he rode Troll a few times. But the strength of riders probably owes more to the fact that it’s mere minutes from Minnesota. The riding here is fun. I always remember the parks being in good shape. And it seems there is always a church group there to bum cupcakes and ham sandwiches from. I did this a few times growing up with a friend of mine. A couple years ago he recorded one of the New York Times Albums of the Year. I got a free tee shirt from Yobeat.
Of course the elephant in the room of snowboarding in this part of Wisconsin is that you should really just go to Minnesota. There are like 50 places to ride within minutes of the border. And with modern bridges, travel between the two states is safer than ever. Seriously, just go to Minnesota. Or at least to Trollhaugen.
The main thing to remember about the southwestern part of the state is Tyrol Basin. This little hill earned it place in snowboarding history in the 1990s and to this day they stay committed to riders. Tyrol caters heavily to shreddery with tons of features and a proper bar just off-hill. Plus they have $12 lift tickets. There are some other places around here but they have sketchy histories like not allowing snowboarding, or chairlift disasters, or being pretty incredibly boring.
Devil’s Head. The Southwest Wisco home of Rock n Ride (and one time the chairlift rolled back.)
The Southeastern corner of Wisconsin has around 95% of the population and roughly 5% of the ride-able terrain. They’ve essentially covered some landfills, tossed up chairlifts and overpriced their tickets. It cracks me up that these trash heaps draw in crowds. I should note that a lot of people come out of Chicago to ride these places. I can’t blame them. Any opportunity to get out of Chicago is one worth taking. That place sucks. I heard even Nick Lipton has been weekending up here. Though I have yet to see him, or his free cigarettes.
Lastly we’ve got the great northeastern quadrant of Wisconsin, featuring four resorts along the disputed border territory with the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. You’ve got Indianhead, Blackjack, Whitecap, and Powderhorn. Some of those are in Michigan but at least one of them is in Wisconsin. Lines get blurry up there. There are a few really great things about this area. First off they get more snow than anywhere else in the state, averaging about 300 inches a year. And the lift tickets at these resorts of ridiculously inexpensive. You won’t find high-end resorts connected to any of these places but you do get good riding, fun parks, a lot of pleasant people who tend to shoot guns, and then you’ve got this place called Hurley. It’s not to say you can’t go there, but the chances of your flashy snowboarder ways getting you some menacing glances greatly increases. Hurley has a population of roughly 300 and about 7 strip clubs on one block. All of these places they are filled with sled crowds. Last winter I was up in this area conducting some research for this piece and a 75-year-old man yelled to me, “You don’t want to go in that place. All you’re going to see is a pregnant fucking rhino.” And he was right. It’s kind of like Mexico except that when you finish seeing some shit you’re never going to forget , you stumble outside and you’re still among God’s people.
That pretty much wraps up Wisconsin. If I left anyplace off, it’s probably because it’s not worth mentioning. Or I’ve never been there. Or they have “skier only” runs. Please come visit, it may not be amazing but it will at least be fun.