There’s a lot of great things about living in the Midwest (the people, the sports teams, the lack of earthquakes) but let’s face it, the winters leave a lot to be desired. Cue Four Lakes Alpine Snowsports in Lisle for some much-needed winter fun for the whole family just 45 minutes west of Chicago. From ski and snowboard lessons for beginners of all ages to a challenging terrain park for the most adventurous of boarders, Four Lakes is the close-by cure for your winter blues.

Four Lakes Lislephoto: Four Lakes via Maria Chambers

Four Lakes has been turning ordinary flatlanders into bona fide skiers and boarders through its Ski and Snowboard School programs for over fifty years. A member of the Professional Ski Instructors of America, Four Lakes’ teaching methods are up-to-the-minute, reflecting the latest technical understanding and methodologies. Their experienced instructors make learning how to ski and board fun and safe, so you can rest assured that you and your mini snow carvers are in good hands.

Why It’s Great for Budding Boarders and Skiers
Four Lakes is the perfect starter hill for kids with a budding interest in snow play. The facility itself is very small and is the perfect spot to hit when you’re just looking for a couple hours of exhilarating fun, but aren’t necessarily looking to make a weekend of it. The hill little ones learn on is small, but not so small that they’ll get bored quickly. It’ll take a couple tries to master, but the tow rope makes getting to the top easy peasy. Best of all, there’s ample parking right at the entrance of the hill, so no lugging equipment (or tired skiers) too far.

Insider tip: If you’re planning on hitting the hill regularly, we’d recommend investing in a pair of gloves with grippers on the palms. It helps little hands grip the tow rope and protects the gloves from tearing.

Ski School … Not Just a Great ‘90s Movie
Have a budding Bode Miller or mini-Lindsey Vonn on your hands? Four Lakes’ “Little Bumpers” Ski School program offers one-hour ski lessons for ages 5-8. Your kiddos will learn how to use the equipment, turn and, most importantly, stop—all taught through the use of games. Teacher-to-student ratios are typically 1:4 or 5 for this age group.

Older children and adults who are primarily concerned with not eating wood on a run (translation: coming face to bark with a tree) should check out Four Lakes’ “SkiNow” program. You’ll learn the same fundamentals of skiing and have just as much fun as the little ones. The one-hour lessons are offered in similar sessions as Little Bumpers, making it super convenient for the whole family—and a nice opportunity for parents to make it a date on the slopes!

Snowboard school is set up similarly, with a series of one-hour lessons for beginners ages 5 and up. Start times are slightly different than ski school, but dates are primarily the same, and teacher-to-student ratio is kept to 1-4 or lower. You’ll learn how to shred the gnar with steez (translation: snowboard with style and ease)—or at least make it down the mountain without wiping out.

photo: iStock

School’s Not Really My Thing
If the school session dates and times don’t work with your schedule, don’t despair! Four Lakes wants to accommodate everyone. Private and group lessons can be scheduled on weekday afternoons, evenings, weekends and even on holidays. (Insider tip: One-time “walk up” lessons are offered on most Saturdays at a lower price). Telemark Ski lessons, a technique that combines Alpine and Nordic skiing, are also available upon special request. If you live in the area, check with the Lisle, Naperville and Clarendon Hills Park Districts, which host lessons with Four Lakes on different days during the season.

Basecampphoto: Basecamp Pub & Eatery

Après Ski (or whenever you feel like taking a break)
After you and the family are done tearing it up on the hill, you’ll need tasty refreshments to refuel. Snap out of your bindings and head over to Basecamp Pub & Eatery. Have someone in your group who gets their après ski on while everyone else is out on the slopes? No problem. Basecamp has a full bar complete with dartboards and golden tee for ski bunnies and posers (translation: those who like to wear the gear but aren’t really into the cold, snow or sports involving either of those things).

Basecamp Lisle 2photo: Basecamp Pub & Eatery

I’m Kind of a Big Deal
Four Lakes isn’t just for beginners. It’s a great place to brush up on your skills before that vacation to Vermont or Vail. The entire area is open to skiers and snowboarders of any level, and they also offer race training for skiers and a terrain park with a variety of boxes, rails and pipes. Whatever your level of experience, Four Lakes can accommodate. Just ask any one of the 20,000 skiers and boarders who visited last season.

Four Lakes 2photo: Four Lakes via Amanda Ogden

Passes, Parties and More!
You can purchase a season pass for $325 and rip it up on the pow pow (translation: ski or snowboard) from mid-December until the season’s over—usually late February or early March. Can’t commit to the whole season? Buy a daily pass when you get the itch—those range from $20-$28, depending on the day.

Have a kiddo with a winter birthday and looking for an activity that doesn’t involve having 15 kids in your house? Get them outside in the fresh air and send them home exhausted. Four Lakes throws awesome birthday parties for groups of 10 or more. Choose a package that includes slope tickets, lessons and rentals or any combination of the three. Pizza and unlimited soda are an additional fee, and they’ll block out a section of the cafeteria for your celebration.

‘Tis the season, so bundle up, grab your brain buckets (translation: helmets) and head to Four Lakes for some outdoor fun this winter.  Be sure to check their website to make sure the hills are open.

Four Lakes Alpine Snowsports
5750 Lakeside Dr., Lisle

—Maria Chambers & MaryKate Hickey