Rarely do people equate skiing with Indiana. Yet the state boasts 2 different ski resorts within its borders, and both are close enough to Indianapolis that they can be an easy day trip. Each provides a slightly different experience, but both are perfect for beginning skiers or those who need a refresher.
The two ski areas are generally open between mid-December and mid-March, depending on the weather. Because of Indiana’s relative lack of consistent snow, both ski areas rely upon man-made snow for their base.
Despite this, both can still get rather icy at times. But if the snow isn’t perfect for skiing, the two resorts each have special amenities and other activities that make a day entertaining no matter what the conditions.
Perfect North – Lawrenceburg: 92 miles | 1.5 hours
Just west of Cincinnati lies Perfect North Slopes. The ski area has a nice mixture of 23 trails for all levels of skiing. Three primary lifts take skiers to the highest points leading to a mixture of runs. Eight smaller lifts cater to beginning skiers and primarily green runs.
The resort even boasts one double black diamond for those ready for something more challenging. The resort is an excellent option to learn and improve on ski skills. It even lays claim to 2 Olympians who learned to ski at the resort: Nick Goepper, who won a bronze medal in 2014 and two silver medals in 2018, and Justin Schoenefeld, who won a gold medal in 2022.
Beyond skiing, Perfect North has an additional area dedicated to snow tubing. Separate tickets may be purchased for a 2-hour window. Tubing can be a nice break from the slopes, or as an added bonus to start or end the day.
Those who aren’t skiing can sit by the fire in the lodge or find a spot on the deck, which serves a grilled menu on weekends, and watch family members come down the hill. There are also 2 on-site restaurants.
No matter what you need for skiing, Perfect North has it available at their rental shop. They stock helmets, snow bibs, boots, skis and snowboards. Those wishing to rent should ensure they arrive early, as the shop has been known to run out of highly requested items.
Making skiing enjoyable is part of the goal at Perfect North Slopes, that’s why they make lessons affordable for new skiers. For as little as $10, the Snow Sports School Staff are available for a 50-minute group lesson every hour on the hour.
The sports staff teaches the basics of skiing and share tips and tricks for making the most out of a skiing experience. Adults and children also have the option to participate in a smaller group or private lesson for more focused attention.
19074 Perfect Lane, Lawrenceburg, ID 47025 (Map) | (812) 537-3754
Paoli Peaks Resort – Paoli: 99 miles | 2 hours
At the edge of the Hoosier National Forest and just a short distance from French Lick lies Paoli Peaks Mountain Resort. The resort is primarily geared toward beginners, with gentle hills and one black diamond run along the lift line. There are plenty of blue and green runs, so new skiers can progress on any of the 17 total runs.
The entire resort is on 65 acres, with most runs at an easy slope, ideal for beginners. The lodge is located at the top of the mountain, which has its pros and cons. While non-skiers can’t sit in the lodge and watch skiers descend the hill, they can enjoy ending their day with a ride on the lift versus taking an exhausting final run.
Paoli Peaks has two freestyle terrain parks for different skill levels. The Bonk is designed for beginners and features lower and smaller obstacles, while Pioneer Park has more than 40 different jumps and rails that are continually being added and adapted throughout the season.
Lessons are available at Paoli Peaks for all levels of snowboarding and skiing, but they should be reserved well in advance. Options are sparse at the end of the season. The ski area boasts its own Arctic Blast Tubing Park with a nearby concession stand and firepit.
The ski area is owned by Vail Resorts, which means many extra perks are available, including the Epic Ski Pass, which provides access and discounts to other member resorts.
2798 W County Rd 25 S, Paoli, IN 47454 (Map) | (812) 723-4696
Beyond the Borders
There are other skiing options that are 3 or more hours away, which might not be ideal for a day trip but are certainly fun for a long weekend.
Three hours from Indianapolis is Mad River Mountain. At 1,460 feet and 144 skiable acres, it’s Ohio’s largest ski area. The resort has 11 lifts, 20 trails and a terrain park.
Lessons and programs abound at this ski area, with special camps designed for kids at all levels of downhill experience and a weekly program for women. Mad River Mountain is also owned by Vail Resorts, and is part of the Epic Pass program.
Swiss Valley Ski and Snowboard Area in Michigan is just over 3 hours from downtown Indianapolis. The independently owned and operated resort has 11 runs and primarily focuses on beginners, but the two black diamond slopes allow more advanced skiers to have an enjoyable experience. The ski area also has plenty of options for lessons, a newly added beer garden and 2 spots for dining.
Downhill skiing in Indiana isn’t quite like skiing in other states. Runs are often shorter than its western counterparts and conditions aren’t always ideal. Since both resorts rely upon consistently cold weather to make snow, the resorts can face unexpected cancellations or delays to ensure safe and enjoyable skiing.
Check directly with the resorts for last minute changes to the schedule. For anyone craving a quick day on the slopes, or for those who simply want to try skiing, any of these resorts are worth exploring.