PAOLI PEAKS PROVIDES AMAZING EXPERIENCES FOR SKIERS AND SNOWBOARDERS OF ALL
BY REMY SISK
PHOTOS BY CHRISTIAN WATSON
“WINTERTIME ACTIVITIES in the Midwest are limited,” said Tom Nash, ski instructor at Paoli Peaks. “Coming up here, you can get out on the snow, make some turns and have some fun when it’s cold outside.”
Indeed, Paoli Peaks – a veritable ski resort located in Paoli, Indiana – is one of Southern Indiana’s most unique treasures as it makes the adventures of hitting the slopes easily accessible.
On a recent Saturday, I made the short trip up to Paoli with my boyfriend and some friends, all of whom were at different levels of ability. Let me emphasize this now: As a seasoned skier, not only did Paoli Peaks not disappoint, but it proved to be an absolutely spectacular retreat where all five of us in my party had plenty of fun while also enjoying a vigorous workout and discovering new skills and abilities.
The first thing you need to know is that, the drive is quick and easy wherever you are in Southern Indiana and takes you through the quaint roundabouts of downtown Paoli. Conversation and coffee made the drive fly by, and as we pulled up after less than an hour of travel from New Albany (our starting point), I was ready to see just what Paoli had to offer for the five of us.
As I mentioned, I grew up skiing. My dad would take a ski trip over a beach trip any day.
My friend, Michael, also is a practiced skier, so he and I knew we’d be able to get in some good runs while the others were getting acquainted with the admittedly strange sensation of having two long objects attached to your feet and using them to slide down snow.
My boyfriend, Charlie, and my friend, Whitten, started working with ski instructor Tom Nash while another friend, Sara, started to familiarize herself with snowboarding, an activity she last enjoyed five years ago.
Fortunately for Charlie and Whitten, Paoli is fairly geared toward beginners with several options for those who aren’t yet comfortable with the more advanced slopes.
“Paoli Peaks has a great variety of terrain to accommodate everyone, from the first time slider to the experienced skier to those who enjoy the thrill of terrain parks,” said General Manager Rick McMullen. “Our terrain is largely beginner-focused, but we also have two terrain parks, a glade and several runs with steeper pitches.”
After going through the extraordinarily easy process of getting our rental boots and skis (or snowboard), it was time to get on the snow.
While Charlie and Whitten stuck with the instructor and Sara took some easy hills on her snowboard, Michael and I decided to seek out the tougher slopes. We started in Pioneer Park, a steep descent with various ramps and jumps. While neither of us were quite ready to take to the air, we watched as several other skiers and snowboarders leapt with confidence off the jumps, proving that even the most advanced winter sportsman can find nonstop thrills at Paoli Peaks.
After more than an hour of checking out the different runs and choosing favorites we’d return to later, we met back up with Charlie and Whitten, who were just about ready to try a “real” hill out for the first time. Education is clearly a priority at Paoli, and, as we saw with Charlie and Whitten, the team is sure to provide adequate expertise so that no one feels in danger when they give it a shot.
“Our ski school offers many different lesson offerings, whether it be a group or private setting, child-focused or senior-focused, or racing or adaptive specific,” McMullen said. “Our staff of instructors is highly trained and passionate about teaching and does a fantastic job of getting everyone willing to learn sliding down the slopes in no time.”
The five of us set out on Family Trails, a green (or least difficult) level hill. While there were definitely some spills, the falls didn’t compete with the excitement of learning something new and exploring it with friends for the first time.
“I mean, I fell a lot,” Whitten laughed, looking back on the experience. “But it never really hurt, and once I started going a little bit and gaining more confidence, I didn’t really worry about falling, which I guess made me fall less.”
It took us about 30 minutes to get down the green slope with Charlie and Whitten, and once we rode one of the chairlifts back to the top, they and Sara were ready to take a break and head in to the ski lodge where they could get a bite to eat and relax.
Michael and I, however, were just getting started. We told them we’d meet up with them later, and as the sun set, Michael and I sought out the most difficult runs Paoli had to offer.
We hit a couple blue (intermediate) level runs – our favorite being Powerline – before taking a chance on the black diamond (difficult) Graber’s Express. After peering down the ferociously steep incline, Michael and I flew down it in less than 30 seconds and immediately took the lift back up to do it again.
Though it was dark at this point in our adventure, Paoli is known for its night skiing, which features bright lights across the slopes that provide full illumination. In fact, McMullen pointed out that Paoli Peaks offers several events based around night skiing: “Definitely be sure to check out our Midnight Madness, where we are open until 3 a.m. on select Friday and Saturday nights throughout the season,” he said. “Night skiing is a great thrill for people of all ages.”
A thrill it certainly was.
And to get the greatest thrill we could, we decided to end our day on the double black diamond (most difficult) Bobcat.
On an ordinary ski slope, a double black diamond can often imply moguls, steepness and ice, but Paoli’s double black diamond was even more intimidating: it runs through a patch of trees.
Michael and I looked ahead onto the supremely steep slope dotted with trees, ice patches and roots. We decided we could turn back, but what kind of story would that be later?
In we went, dodging branches and ice the whole way down. It was by far the most challenging part of our day, but as we emerged from the trees a minute later, there was also a tremendous sense of accomplishment. We headed back inside and returned our gear – a painlessly quick process – before meeting up with our crew at the Bully Barn, a cozy bar in the lodge.
Over IPAs and chicken wings, we discussed the day and even started making plans to come back. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, Paoli offers snow-tubing for those seeking a less intense thrill, and we committed to checking that out on our next visit.
On the sleepy drive home, I reflected on how grateful I was to have such an amazingly unique place in our community as Paoli Peaks. From Charlie and Whitten who had never skied to Sara who needed to familiarize herself and to me and Michael who were total thrill-seekers, there truly was something for everyone.
We all got exactly what we wanted out of our day, which is another great aspect to Paoli: Your experience can be anything you want it to be.
The staff is friendly and kind, and the whole complex is easily navigable to be sure you get to focus on the activities and not the rental and chairlift process. And on top of all the fun, it’s also a great workout.
As the Louisville skyline came back into view, I remember thinking, “Man, my legs are going to be sore tomorrow.” And I smiled at the thought. I’d earned that at Paoli Peaks.
2798 West County Road, Rt. 25 South
10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday; noon-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 10 a.m.-3 a.m. Fridays; 9 a.m.-3 a.m. Saturday; and 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. (After February 24, Paoli Peaks closes Fridays and Saturdays at 10 p.m.)
Lift tickets for adults range in price from $30 to $42 depending on the day and time, and kids and seniors range from $30 to $36. Ski and snowboard rental is always $30.
Stay up to date with latest happenings on their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages. For more information, visit paolipeaks.com.
BEFORE YOU GO:
Paoli is ready to provide you with ski and snowboard equipment, but be sure to bring a few things with you:
• Gloves, mittens, liner gloves
• Hat or headband
• Neck gaiter/face mask/bandana
• Water and wind resistant snow clothes (jacket and pants)
• Layering items like vests, tank tops, long sleeve shirts, long underwear, sweatshirts
• Wool or polyester socks (not cotton), light to medium thickness
• Ski goggles or sunglasses
• Sunscreen and lip balm with SPF
• Credit cards, IDs, phone, camera with a safe and secure place to store them
Forget something? The Paoli Pro Shop, located inside the ski lodge, has you covered with anything you may have mistakenly left at home. If you still have any questions about hitting the slopes for the first time, Paoli’s website has a page dedicated to first-timers at paolipeaks.com/your-first-visit.
IF YOU GET HUNGRY:
Fortunately, a picnic basket isn’t one of the things you need to bring to Paoli. Peaks Pizzeria and Grill, located inside the lodge, is outfitted with enough options to please even the pickiest eater, and the ample seating is the perfect setting to take a break after your first few runs or relax after a long day on the snow. Thirsty? The Waffle and Coffee Bar will get you good and caffeinated for either your first outing or for the drive home. Meanwhile, the Bully Barn – open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays – offers a full bar along with TVs and a fireplace to really give the grown-ups the true ski lodge experience.