Branson’s entertainment options abound, and a trip to its surrounding ski areas can be part of the fun. Those living in the city can enjoy a weekend ski trip, and those visiting can tack it onto their vacation from nearly any direction to and from the southern Missouri city.
Skiing isn’t plentiful in this area of the Midwest, so skiers and snowboarders may have to cross the border to sample different choices. In addition to Missouri’s 2 ski areas, there are places to ski in Iowa, Oklahoma, Illinois, and Indiana, all within a day’s drive of Branson.
Hidden Valley – Eureka: 228 miles | 3.5 hours
Northwest of Branson, outside of St. Louis, is Hidden Valley Ski Resort. It has only 12 trails on 25 acres, but it’s an opportunity to learn to ski or practice skills on a mellow mountain with a 310-foot vertical drop. The resort has 100 percent snowmaking to ensure slopes are ready almost any time during the winter. There are 2 terrain parks and night skiing every evening.
Hidden Valley has ski school for adults and children, plus an adaptive program to empower athletes of all abilities to learn skiing and snowboarding. Both lessons and equipment rental should be scheduled in advance to ensure availability, which also ensures a discounted rate. Hidden Valley is owned by Vail Resorts and is part of the EPIC Pass, which gives skiers and snowboarders access to a variety of resorts around the world at a discounted price.
Snow Creek – Weston: 248 mi | 4 hours
North of Branson, Snow Creek Mountain Resort, outside of Kansas City, is the largest ski area in Missouri, with 60 skiable acres. The resort has 2 terrain parks and 12 trails, primarily for intermediate and beginner skiers. The base lodge includes a walk-up window for grab-and-go dining, and a food truck visits the resort daily for additional choices.
Snow Creek has a 300-foot vertical drop and 2 terrain parks, one for beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders, and the other for experts. The resort is spread out, so there’s plenty of room for wide turns. This resort is also owned by Vail Resorts and is part of the EPIC Pass.
Ski OKC – Oklahoma City, OK: 323 miles | 4.75 hours
Southwest of Branson lies Oklahoma’s only place for indoor alpine skiing. The infinite ski slope of Riversport OKC rotates like a treadmill and is covered with low-friction artificial ski grass misted with water to create the sensation of snow. The incline of the slope can be adjusted to suit beginners up to expert riders.
All equipment is provided, and skiers and snowboarders can take private lessons or sign up for a group class for up to 4 people. Sessions are available for a full day or in 1- or 2-hour increments. The indoor slopes can be found in Riversport’s McClendon Whitewater Center in Oklahoma City.
Mount Crescent – Honey Creek, IA: 401 miles | 6 hours
Just over the Iowa border, skiers and snowboarders can discover Mount Crescent Ski Area. The resort has a 300-foot vertical drop on 50 acres. Many of Mount Crescent’s 10 trails are blue, with a beginner’s route from the top of the mountain to its base. The difficult trails are sprinkled on both sides of the mountain, most of which are narrow with tree skiing.
Lessons start as early as age 5 and can be taken as a group or privately. Equipment rental and lift tickets can be purchased in advance, but arrive early to ensure availability.
Seven Oaks – Boone, IA: 428 miles | 6.5 hours
In the center of Iowa lies Seven Oaks, a recreational area with skiing and snowboarding during the winter months. The ski area’s 11 trails are primarily blue and green, with the sole expert slope parallel to an expert terrain park running along a lift line. Seven Oaks has a 276-foot vertical drop and 30 acres of skiable terrain. With each lift ticket, skiers and snowboarders can participate in free mini-lessons throughout the day.
Seven Oaks is a member of Indy Pass, which provides access and discounted lift tickets to more than 100 resorts in the United States, Canada, and Japan. The resort has a cafeteria on site but allows visitors to bring their homemade food and snacks into the lodge.
Snowstar Park – Andalusia, IL: 430 miles | 7 hours
A bit further north, you’ll find Snowstar Winter Park, which has a 262-foot vertical drop on 28 acres. The resort’s 6 lifts lead to 14 trails for all abilities.
Snowstar’s beginner trails are outside of the welcome center, and its expert and advanced slopes are further downhill. The terrain park has jumps, rails, and boxes for all levels of skiers and snowboarders.
The welcome center includes a cafeteria, bar, and outdoor dining area for warmer days. Regular lessons are scheduled throughout the day and don’t require a reservation. Snowstar’s low-priced lift ticket and rental price make skiing affordable, and with inexpensive lessons, anyone can learn to ski or snowboard.
Paoli Peaks – Paoli, IN: 492 miles | 7 hours
Paoli Peaks Mountain Resort, in southern Indiana, is great for beginners and has a few surprises for more advanced skiers. The resort’s 17 runs are mostly blue and black, with 1 black diamond on the lift line. There are also 2 progressive terrain parks to practice skiing and snowboarding tricks.
The resort has 65 skiable acres with the lodge at the top of the mountain, so skiers can start immediately day racing down the hill instead of taking a lift to the top. Paoli Peaks is owned by Vail Resorts and is part of the EPIC Pass program.
Those coming from Branson should remember that Paoli Peaks is in a different time zone.
Although skiing near Branson requires a greater time commitment than a day trip, the opportunities to take a break from city life to enjoy some time on the slopes are well worth it.