Indianhead is one of the ski resorts in the area known as Big Snow Country. Big Snow Country is downwind from Lake Superior and usually benefits from generous dumpings of lake-effect snow.
We arrived on the later side of Saturday. We parked our vehicle close to the lodge to unload and did so. It was definitely lunch time when we arrived and we had to hunt around for a place to sit down to change into our ski gear.
Obviously, the most important aspect of a ski resort is the skiing. How was the skiing? The skiing at Indianhead last Saturday was interesting. I am mostly a packed snow skier (i.e. groomed runs) and the whole region had experienced a large snow-dump the week before ending on Friday or early Saturday. The runs, by the time we arrived were cut up powder and skiing was bumpy.
However, the terrain at Indianhead is varied so I was able to start with easy slopes and work my way up to more challenging slopes. We started on Voyager’s Highway which is a broad and gently sloped run (however, there is a short headwall you may choose to take at the top of the run). The snow on the run though made this one a tedious experience (for experienced skiers) and the wind blowing up the run took even more speed out of the trail. So, we moved over to other runs.
In the middle of the area are a series of blue runs and even those trails seemed to be unable to overcome the slow snow, we then moved over further and started to ski the black-diamond rated Leelinaw. That was better and better yet the sun was finally starting to show itself as we started skiing this run. With the sun showing (and Rachmaninoff’s 3rd movement of his 3rd piano concerto on my MP3 player) I loosened up and skied more aggressively. I stayed closer to the fall line and occasionally traversed (especially when approaching other skiers) across the fall line.
I have skied Indianhead before under different conditions and I like Indianhead. Indianhead skiing is typically gradual to mid grade slopes till the last portion of the run which usually end at a headwall with a gentle slope (in the case of the green circles) to double-black-diamond headwalls, and with the exception of the greens you should easily carry enough speed to get to the chairlifts.
I have never skied the runs they mark as double-black diamonds but have seen them. They appear to be very steep and ungroomed, but they are short.
I think most Midwestern skiers can find a trail they can handle and have a good time on.
By ornaments I mean all other aspects of a ski resort. Dining, beverages, atmosphere, decor, staff, etc.
I have had discussions on this and some skiers could care less they are there only for the skiing, but for many people the rest of the resort is important as well.
The lodge sits on top of the ski hill and this is different as most sit at the bottom. This means the views outside the front of the lodge are breathtaking. You can see the Copper Peak ski jump from the lodge. I can not recall if you can spot Lake Superior from the lodge (riding up some of the chairs you can spot the biggest of the Great Lakes).
With the exception of the lodge’s bar and the shop downstairs the main lodge is in need of a makeover. It looks very dated and while it is not rundown it is just blah.
The bar however is good and fairly new. The Indianhead lodge used to have two bars. One, upstairs and one downstairs. The upstairs bar is now closed, but they had bottles of beer on display so I thought there was a chance they may have sold bottled beer up there but it really did not look like anything was being sold from that old bar. I do remember drinking beers from this bar the first time I visited Indianhead.
I went downstairs to the “old bar” and it was not there. I had yet to discover the bar on the main level and concluded they didn’t have a main-lodge bar. I was thinking of testy headlines for this article. Fortunately, a sharper eyed brother found the main level bar.
This new bar was good. Its decor was on the lighter side, had lots of windows to gaze outside (as I have said before it is a very worthy gaze). A two-man band was setup and playing, nothing real spectacular but some decent guitar picking was heard. They had just enough TVs for those of us paying attention to the NCAA games going on at the moment, but they should think about getting some additional TVs, this way the crowd can spread out a bit rather than sitting around the bar.
The Base Place
What is it about the Indianhead base-place called Smileys and the bar they call the Red Dog Saloon that every time I wander into the place I hear Johnny Cash? Not complaining, mind you, just wondering. That is what greeted us this last time. The base place has an good sized bar and is also well lit, they have a large family section as well. The cafeteria there offers plain cafeteria fare and while I was hungry we were there after lunch so what was left did not appeal.
The lift attendants did their job and I do not recall any banter with them. The only exchange I had with any of them or the ski patrollers was the notice of last run and then the last ride up (remember, the base is at the top of the hill here) we were slowing down to a near crawl at just about every riblet. I told the patroller at the top they needed to look into the bearings.
I like Indianhead and I think most people will have no problems with Indianhead. The only problem I think people will have are the usual ones we have when it comes to skiing in the Midwest, the hills are smaller, the runs shorter and less steep. Still, Indianhead deserves to be on any Midwestern skier’s annual destination list.