Guide to South Dakota’s 3 Ski Resorts
South Dakota’s 3 ski downhill ski areas can be best described as small, large, and a mystery. One lies outside the state’s most populous city and another is at one of the tallest peaks, each on completely opposite sides of South Dakota. The third, scheduled to open in December 2022, only hints at what will be available.
Despite two-thirds of the state being made up of the Great Plains, the Black Hills to the west rise steadily above Rapid City. These heights create a great place to ski for those ready for a bigger challenge. The ski season generally lasts from early December through March.
South Dakota’s cold weather is beneficial for ensuring there’s enough snow, but as quickly as snow is made it can melt. Spearfish in the Northern Black Hills has the distinction of having the largest and fastest temperature change. In 1943, the temperature rose from minus 4 degrees to 45 degrees Fahrenheit in just 2 minutes.
The wide variation is often due to Chinook winds which increase in warmth as they travel down the eastern side of a mountain. The dry wind can make snow evaporate in a few hours without even melting.
A Tale of 2 Ski Areas
Terry Peak Ski Area in the Black Hills of Lead is the state’s largest ski area. At a summit of 7,100 feet, it boasts the highest lift service east of the Rockies. The resort is benefited from 150 inches of snowfall on average each year. Terry Peak has 600 skiable acres with 25 trails, most of which are intermediate and advanced but a handful are easy.
There is a terrain park that includes boxes, rails, jibs, and a half-pipe. Skinning is allowed by season pass holders on dedicated trails before the lifts open and visitors to Terry Peak can enjoy plenty of lodging and dining options on site.
Great Bear Ski Valley is a city-owned recreation park with downhill, snowshoeing, cross country, and tubing to round out its wintertime activities. Located in Northeast Sioux Falls, the resort aims to keep skiing and snowboarding affordable, so everyone can enjoy them.
As a way to introduce the sport to younger skiers at an attractive price, a special program for 5th graders on Tuesdays and Fridays allows students to ski for only $10. They can also receive a lesson for $20. The lodge and bar at the bottom of the hill have plenty of windows to watch skiers and tubers.
There are 14 trails with night skiing and snowmaking on each slope. While most runs are marked blue or black, the ski area also has a long beginner slope from the summit and a separate beginner’s area with a dedicated magic carpet.
The Unknown Contender
Deer Mountain Village is scheduled to reopen in December 2022 with a 150-acre winter sports complex, but developers have announced very little else. The resort was previously known as Mystic Miner Mountain Resort and Deer Mountain Ski Area before that.
The ski area will be part of private residential development on 680 acres in the Black Hills, and trails will be left ungroomed but accessible through the 2 existing lifts. One of the longest tubing runs in the country will be here and accessible to the public.
South Dakota’s existing ski areas may not be abundant, but what they offer has enough to satisfy all levels of ability. Despite the possibility of Chinooks making snow disappear, ski resorts are quick enough to remedy that issue, so a South Dakota ski visit is sure to still be enjoyable.