The Crystal Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area is a very unique ski hill in Milwaukee County.
Crystal Ridge is located in Franklin, WI.
While definitely not a large ski hill, Crystal Ridge may be the only ski hill located in Milwaukee County. Just a minute or two south of the Southridge Mall in Greendale, it makes downhill skiing and snowboarding just a few minutes away from much of the southern part of Milwaukee County. It’s location right at the intersection of Hwy. 36 (also known as Loomis Rd) and 76th Street makes it easy to find.
Why is Crystal Ridge Ski Hill the area’s best kept secret?
Maybe if you’re like me, you have driven past the ski hill on 76th St. many times. From that point of view, only the top of the hill is really visible. It does not look like too much. Even if you drive over to the ski hill itself and to the front of the lodge, you may not realize how that the hill extends much farther down the hill into the valley from the lodge. One of the unique things about Crystal Ridge is the lodge is nearly at the top of the hill.
The Crystal Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area is privately owned.
The land is leased from Milwaukee County. The ski hill operation is owned by the man who owned the Hales Corners Speedway (gone for many years now). He created the ski hill to give something to the community. You will find a real community and family spirit at Crystal Ridge. Much of the operation is managed by family members and a few close employees.
It was fun to see people who really enjoyed their work. It’s something that becomes very obvious even if you just call. They are always eager to help and have an excitement about what they do.
Terry is one of those close employees I mentioned.
She sat down and told me about Crystal Ridge (I noticed that she was actually on her out but that she still took the time to answer my questions). Terry has worked at Crystal Ridge for a long time. She shared with my how she has met kids she saw grow up skiing later in their lives. She is proud that many parents feel good enough about the ski hill they drop the kids off and pick them up later. Something I actually noticed while I was there taking photos. I also noticed a mother leaving with the remains of a birthday cake.
I enjoyed watching as another worker help another child look for a hat:
“It’s blue! It’s got stripes?” as he held out one hat.
As it was not the right blue hat with stripes they moved on through the lodge looking for the hat.
What if there has not been much snow, can you still ski?
Terry told me that snow can be a problem because Crystal Ridge is so close to Lake Michigan. Of course, they make snow if there is not enough natural snow. Ideally, they need low humidity and temperatures below 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Lake Michigan both increases the humidity and often keeps temperatures a bit warmer then at the ski hills farther away from the lake.
Still they create piles of snow and then move it to the right spot on the slopes and groom it. Each day about 4:30pm the hill is closed briefly while they groom the hill for the evening. As I write this on an abnormally warm January evening, the temperature is 48 degrees and they still have plenty of snow to ski on the slopes. You can always check their snow report online or call the snow report phone number.
You can take skiing or snowboarding lessons at Crystal Ridge too.
Private and semi-private lessons are offered for both skiing and snowboarding. They suggest making a reservation for lessons. There is also a special starter ski program just for kids 4-7 that includes the lesson, equipment, lift ticket, and even lunch and hot chocolate.
Lift Tickets and Ski and Snowboard Rentals.
If you have your own ski or snowboarding equipment, all you’ll need is a lift ticket. Weekday tickets are good for the whole evening of skiing. On weekends, the lift tickets are divided into daytime and evening sessions. They have ski rentals and snowboard rental too. There are group discounts available to for large groups.
The ski hill.
Crystal Ridge has several different runs. It has a vertical drop of 245 feet. The beginner’s slope starts just out the door of the lodge and has a two rope to get back up to the lodge. There are two chair lifts for the more advanced slopes. There is a small jump where you’ll find the snowboarders doing their jumps and tricks.
Crystal Ridge doesn’t just close at the end of the winter ski season.
When there is no snow a golf driving range is offered. It’s a little deceptive as you can hit a ball very far as it goes downhill. Crystal Ridge is also know for some mountain bike trails. The lodge is also available for wedding and receptions.
Imagine leaving work at 5:oo and finding yourself on the slope skiing 25 minutes later.
This is possible for many people in Milwaukee at Crystal Ridge. It’s just a few minutes from I-94 on 76th St which makes it just minutes away from much of Milwaukee. You can strap your boots on, step out of the lodge, and you are going downhill. Not too many ski hills can say that. If you’re visiting Milwaukee, it’s about 20 minutes from the Mitchell International Airport area and you can rent skis or snowboards if you didn’t bring your own.