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Wisconsin's Tiny Granite Peak Wants to Compete With Vail

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In an example of just how important Vail Resorts is, the tiny Wisconsin ski area Granite Peak announced this week that they want to spend $50 million to make their ski area more competitive with the industry leader. The $50 million expansion would add lodging and more than a dozen new ski runs, but let's be honest here, this is still Wisconsin, with only 700 vertical feet of skiing. The current skiable acreage at Granite Peak is 415 acres, and it would cost about $20 million to add 150 acres, mostly on the west side of the mountain. The remaining $30 million would be spent on slope-side lodging and constructed in phases. Currently, Granite Peak (which is about 4 hours from Chicago) attracts about 110,000 skiers each year, but owner Charles Skinner believes that the expansion would boost annual skier visits to 200,000.

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Mr. Skinner specifically referred to Vail's dominance in Colorado and Utah when discussing his expensive plans. The Wausau Daily Herald reports, "If you look in the Midwest, a lot of the destination ski areas that we grew up on -- we may have gone to Telemark or a whole host of other ones depending on which state we lived in -- many of those ski areas no longer exist," Skinner said. "And the reason is because they didn't keep up with the improving standard, as being set by western ski areas."

The new lodging focus will be on ski-in/ski-out accommodation. Plans are still in the early stages, but Skinner envisions condos, rental units, and a possible ice skating rink in the center. If approved, the ski area could break ground as early as summer 2016.

On the one hand, it's good to see a small, breeder ski resort in the midwest spending money on expansion. On the other, is a $50 million expansion plan the only way for local ski hills to survive? What do you think, Curbediverse?

· Granite Peak's proposed expansion could cost $50M [Wausau Daily Herald]
· Granite Peak unveils $50 million expansion plan [First Tracks]
· Mapping the 12 Best Community Ski Hills in the West [Curbed Ski]
· How to Save the Future of Skiing: Let Kids Ski For Free [Curbed Ski]
· What It Means To Ski in a Vail-Dominated World [Curbed Ski]