Skinner, a passionate skier and lover of the great outdoors, has spent the last 14 years bringing exciting upgrades to Granite Peak which has not only reinvigorated skiing at Rib Mountain, but has helped turn around winter tourism.
Since 2000, $26 million has been invested here spawning new hotels, restaurants and businesses that support vacationing skiers. “This is a beautiful location with great opportunities for local and destination skiers alike,” Skinner said
With its 3,500 season pass holders, Granite Peak needs to do more to attract the destination skiers—middle income families—that generate the most sales and economic impact. The expansion project is expected to grow skier visits from 110,000 annually to 200,000.
Skinner explained that as many as 300 destination ski areas in the United States have gone out of business in recent decades because they failed to grow and upgrade. The iconic Telemark Resort in Bayfield County is just one to suer this fate, and Rib Mountain itself was close to this point until the improvements that began in 2000 started to take hold.
“Granite Peak has too much going for it to let this happen,” Skinner said. “The next phase of the development will put this area right on target and supply families, local businesses and visitor groups with an extremely captivating attraction.”
The requested leased area will attract more vacation families from major markets, including Chicago and the Twin Cities, and increase annual impact from $30 million to $53 million, while increasing full and part-time jobs to 380. Additionally, the project will give a $20 million boost to local construction.
Another benefit of the expansion will be an increase in the width and scale of crowded runs on busy days. Granite Peak now has 149 acres of ski runs compared to 215 to 306 acres of its four peers in mid-North America that have similar vertical slopes. The addition will increase Granite Peak to 223 acres.
“Granite Peak and Rib Mountain State Park is an exceptional part of this community’s heritage. I want to help preserve this legacy of healthy outdoor recreation in central Wisconsin,” Skinner said.
Public land use for ski areas is relatively common in Wisconsin as about a dozen of the state’s ski parks are located on them. One-half of the U.S. ski areas and at least three-quarters of destination areas are on public land. “Almost all of the largest ones are on public land including Vail, Aspen, Sun Valley and Jackson Hole,” Skinner said.
One of the ways Skinner intends to lessen impact on the State Park environment is by using the smallest amount of land possible. The project will utilize minimal impact clearing methods to minimize habitat and soil disruption. Storm water best management practices will be employed to eliminate impacts to other land or bodies of water.
“The land doesn’t contain any known endangered or sensitive species, nor is it a cultural site,” Skinner said.
Energy conservation will also be the focus of upgrading and constructing new facilities as they incorporate LEED certification and green building practices. The use of solar power is a consideration.
If this proposed lease expansion is approved by this summer, Granite Peak may begin construction in 2016. “We understand that the DNR approval process may take some time to assess the impacted area,” Skinner said. “During this time, we encourage the public to approach us for more information. It’s our intent to strike a balance that’s right for the community and Granite Peak.”