Feel like giving skiing a shot on your next vacation, but don’t want to spend 12-14 hours in the car (or in an airport)? Or you’re the spouse of someone who wants to ski, but you’d rather shop in cute boutiques and visit spas and salons while they schuss down the mountain?
Chestnut Mountain Resort near Galena, Illinois, might be your answer. It’s about six or seven hours to the north, driving.
Consistently rated as one of the top 10 ski resorts in the Midwest by Ski Magazine, Chestnut annually draws thousands of Chicagoans west across the top Illinois to visit the picturesque town and active ski resort. This year’s opening day for ski season was Dec. 6. This marked the start of their 60th anniversary winter season.
Conveniently located near historic Galena, and nestled among the hills overlooking the northern part of the Mississippi River, Chestnut’s 220 rolling acres and 475-foot vertical drop are home to 19 ski trails and a 7-acre terrain park, The Farside, featuring more than 25 rails and structures. With two quad lifts, four triple-chair lifts, two conveyor lifts and one surface lift, there’s seldom any waiting in line to get back to the peak.
At the end of a day’s run, visitors turn in to more than 100 slopeside rooms with a nearby indoor pool, sauna and jacuzzi. The Sunset Grille features fine dining favorites and a breathtaking view from the outside dining deck. The Summit, with 14 TVs and an extensive array of craft beer and wine, is the perfect place to catch a game and catch up with friends. Located just off the bunny slope, The Mountain Top Café is a quick and convenient stop for those seeking on-the-go, quality cuisine before returning to the resort’s activities.
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All levels of skiers, especially beginners, can take advantage of the amenities. Lessons and rentals are available, and most of the slopes cater to beginning and intermediate skiers.
When the warmer months come — the ski season generally runs from Thanksgiving to St. Patrick’s Day — visitors and guests can take a thrill ride down the Alpine Slide, cruise the mighty Mississippi River, get their adrenaline going on the Soaring Eagle zip line or ride a Segway through the scenic Chestnut hills. Bike rides on the resort’s trails let riders see the area’s unique, natural beauty up close. Putters can put their skills to the test on Chestnut’s 18-hole mini golf course, or let the Frisbees fly on their 9-hole disc golf course. Dedicated golfers can take their clubs to one or more of the 11 courses near the resort.
Nine miles to the north of Chestnut, the town of Galena, retains much of the charm of the small lead-mining town that was home to President U.S. Grant for decades. More than 85% of Galena's buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Main Street features the same narrow, two miles of sidewalks and streets as it did in the mid-1800s, and the numerous boutiques, galleries, spas, salons, restaurants and stores delight more than a million visitors a year.