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Upper Peninsula ski hills work to stand out and attract customers with unique experiences
UPPER PENINSULA - Ski season might be coming to a close, but Kelly Guay and her crew are getting a spring break ski trip in before the snow melts. 

"We brought our tribe of ten of us," said Guay.

Guay and her group came up to Big Snow Resort from Stevens Point, something they've been doing all season. 

The Upper Peninsula is a popular spot for downhill skiers to get out on the slopes. 

But with a total population of fewer than 350,000 people and nearly 10 ski hills, those businesses have to draw in customers from elsewhere to stay afloat. 

Skiers coming from Chicago, Milwaukee, or Green Bay have a lot of options. So how do they choose?

"We really enjoy the snow conditions at both Blackjack and Indianhead," said Guay. 

Five years ago, Big Snow's two ski hills in Wakefield and Bessemer, Indianhead and Blackjack, came under one ownership.

"There was the same number of people who still ski [in the U.P.] and we were all fighting over that piece of that pie and we realized that two hills together kind of gave us a little more energy, a little bit of a better product," said Big Snow General Manager Tim Moon. 

The merger took away some of the competition between two very close hills.

But Moon says a lot of the competition actually comes from hills in Wisconsin, where people might be driving up from southern Wisconsin or Illinois. 

"Any of those hills that stop the traffic coming from those metro city areas," said Moon.

That's why it's important to create an experience that you can't get anywhere but the U.P.

"We want them up in the Northland. We really feel like it's a different experience up here," said Moon.
Nicole Pienkos and her family visit Ski Brule in Iron River for the same reason.

"It's just nice to get away and be in the peace and quiet of north," said Pienkos. 

They come up from Mequon once a year to get the full northern experience.

"The U.P. is blessed with a number of different areas for people to enjoy," said Ski Brule Operations Manager Jessica Polich. 

Like Big Snow, Ski Brule works to provide an experience guests can't get anywhere else.

As long as the snow keeps falling, people will keep traveling from far away to ski some of the best hills to Midwest has to offer. 

Story By: Rose McBride


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