Podcast #39: Granite Peak, Wisconsin GM & Marketing Director Greg Fisher
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Greg Fisher, General Manager and Marketing Director of Granite Peak, Wisconsin
Feb. 22, 2021
Why I interviewed him
Because in the ski snob chain of dismissiveness, the West looks down on the East, the East looks down on the Midwest, and the Midwest ignores them all. They’re too busy skiing. The Upper Midwest is home to one of the most well-defined, ingrained, and passionate ski cultures in the world. The sheer volume and variety of ski areas in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota is a testament to this, and among them are some of the most unique ski areas in the country. Mount Bohemia, perched at the top of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, delivers one of the wildest ungroomed lift-served ski experiences in the nation. Minnesota’s Lutsen is big, cold, and endless, with the region’s only gondola – which connects two peaks and rises all of 308 vertical feet. And while the Midwest is dotted with 200-foot bumps with nine chairlifts and an impossible anthill of frenetic youngsters, Granite Peak is not one of them. It has 700 vertical feet of terrain set on a broad ridge and served by three high-speed lifts that barrel up the mountain. And it’s not done growing yet. To learn more about this regional gem and see where it may be headed next, I wanted to talk to the person in charge of it all.
What we talked about
Mount Snow in the ASC and early Peak Resorts days; bringing $17 St. Patty’s Day lift tickets to the Northeast; beer fixes everything; Ohio skiing; Midwest night-skiing culture; opening the bar and the slopes until well after midnight for college students; North Conway is the Northeast’s best ski town; the Peak Pass lands and it was kind of a big deal; how the pass fared against the Epic and Ikon passes; the brilliance of the Drifter Pass, the now-defunct Peak Resorts pass for broke-ass twentysomethings; reaction to Vail buying Peak in 2019; moving back to the Midwest to take the top job at Granite Peak; the ski area’s supercharged lift and snowmaking infrastructure; Charles Skinner, the owner of the largest ski areas in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and his track record of building Midwest monsters; the rabid Upper Midwest ski culture; Granite Peak’s 7-year-old snow reporter; the skibum life of a general manager’s son; what’s up with all the reindeer?; the vision and status of Granite Peak’s expansion; MTB trail development; why a gondola would make sense on a 700-vertical-foot hill; why the glades from Granite Peak’s old trailmaps disappeared from their current one; future night skiing expansion; an update on the Indy Pass partnership and how the pass is growing aggressively in the Midwest; base lodge modifications; Midwest boot-up culture; and Covid ops modifications that may stick around after the virus fades.
Why I thought that now was a good time for this interview
Because Fisher is in his first year as head of the ski area, guiding it through Covid and setting it up for what should be a booming future. The resort’s expansion plans appear to be gaining momentum after a previous effort dead-ended. This ambitious project would further anchor Granite Peak as a flagship Midwest destination, a ski area that can legitimately eat several days of skiing and substitute for a trip to the Rockies. The ski area is also wrapping up its first year as an Indy Pass partner, a huge win for the pass and one that helped establish it as the Midwest’s go-to ski frequency product. This was a good time to confirm that that partnership would continue, discuss expansion, and look toward the end of pandemic skiing and start to imagine what that could look like.
Why you should go there
If you only hit one ski area in Wisconsin, this should be the one. Among the forest of kinda small and kinda underwhelming and kinda outdated hills poking out of the state’s countryside, Granite Peak soars, big and modern and fast, flush with glades and the kind of interesting and varied terrain alien to so many Midwest hills. While 700 vertical feet is small in most regions, it is titanic in the Midwest. After Granite Peak, the next largest vertical drop in the state is Mount La Crosse, at 516 feet. Vail’s Wilmot is just 230 feet. The ski area is one of five in Wisconsin on the Indy Pass, making it a no-brainer stop on an upper Midwest ski tour. Along with sister ski area Lutsen, in neighboring Minnesota, this is one of the finest ski areas in the region, and with three high-speed lifts – all of them less than 20 years old - accessing 100 percent of its terrain, the resort is one of the most well-appointed in the nation.
Lift Blog’s inventory and history of Granite Peak’s lift fleet
One of the best ways to track Granite Peak’s evolution is via these historic trailmaps
The latest Ronan Report:
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