Granite Peak, Lutsen Owner Closes on Big Snow, Michigan; Changes Name to 'Snowriver Mountain Resort'
Indianhead, Blackjack also renamed; connector lift coming; all properties consolidated under ‘Midwest Family Ski Resorts’ and will join one season pass, with local passes still available
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Charles Skinner Jr., the owner of Granite Peak, Wisconsin and Lutsen Mountains, Minnesota, took ownership of Big Snow Resort, Michigan on Tuesday and immediately began integrating the property into his growing Midwest empire. All three resorts now live under the “Midwest Family Ski Resorts” brand. The company has renamed Big Snow “Snowriver Mountain Resort.” The side-by-side ski areas of Indianhead and Blackjack – which together form Snowriver – also have new designations: Jackson Creek Summit and Black River Basin, respectively.
“There are two motivating factors for the coming name changes,” said Skinner. “The first is a sensitivity to Native American culture. And the second is to eliminate confusion, as the name ‘Big Snow’ is used by another ski operation [Big Snow American Dream, the indoor ski area in New Jersey]. We also feel the name changes help signal a new era of capital investment at Snowriver.”
One of the confirmed priorities for investment is a long-awaited connector lift. The two Michigan ski areas sit about a mile apart, and Midwest Family Ski Resorts signaled that such a project is already in the planning stages, stating that Snowriver will continue to run shuttles between the two ski areas “until a connecting lift is constructed.” A company spokesman declined to provide a timeline or speculate on the type of lift Midwest Family Resorts was considering.
Snowriver will join Granite Peak and Lutsen on the resorts’ combined season pass, known as the Legendary Pass, for the 2022-23 ski season. All three resorts will also continue to offer their own passes for the coming season, and all previously purchased products will remain valid (Snowriver passholders will need to pick up a new pass). Existing passholders will be able to upgrade to a Legendary Pass at a yet-to-be-determined rate. All Snowriver pass products, including daily lift tickets, will continue to provide access to both Michigan ski areas.
Both Granite Peak and Lutsen are members of the Indy Pass, and Snowriver would fit neatly into the pass’ extensive Upper Midwest network. Most multi-mountain ownership groups affiliated with the Indy Pass add all of their properties to the product, and I expect Midwest Family Ski Resorts to add Snowriver prior to the start of next ski season, though the company declined to confirm whether such an announcement was forthcoming.
Skinner is one of the most aggressive ski area operators in the country, continually expanding his ski areas and upgrading the infrastructure at a pace with few contemporary equals. Snowriver is likely on the cusp of enormous transformation. The place is a time machine, served by a dozen lifts, mostly Riblets, mostly from the ‘60s and ‘70s, serving a trail network that lacks the extensive marked glades that are a hallmark of Skinner’s other properties. Over the course of two decades, Skinner transformed Granite Peak from a rustic, uninspired backwater into one of the largest and best ski areas in the Midwest, with one of the most modern lift fleets in the country – Snowriver is likely to follow the same blueprint, creating the sort of modern, family-friendly resort experience that Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (the UP), currently lacks.
Here’s a deeper look at Snowriver Mountain Resort and what its coming transformation will mean for its two ski areas, Midwest skiers, the Indy Pass, and the UP ski scene:
Below the paid subscriber jump: a complete breakdown of Midwest Family Ski Resorts, how Snowriver could transform in the coming years, what a joint pass will mean, whether Snowriver will join the Indy Pass, and what it means to change a name.