Going Further Afield: Ski Snowstar 3
Author thumbnail By Robbie Allen, DCSki Columnist

I didn’t want to like this hill. Unfortunately most of my winter has been spent in the Midwest. Thus I have about had about my fill of small places and short hills. Ski Snowstar near Moline, Illinois seemed like more of the same. Illinois is known for farm land, presidential candidates and being flat as a pancake. It is not known for skiing. As I pulled into the parking lot at this place, Cartwright was more prevalent than Columbia as the primary attire. There was even a country barn with horses visible next to the lift house. This is going to be a quick visit, I thought. I am going to have a “never going to last here.” Surprisingly I was wrong.

This little progressive ski area opened near Moline, Illinois in 1981. It has been adding trails and lifts ever since. At first it only had 3 runs off one lift, but now boasts 15 named runs off 3 lifts. The result is a ski area that is little bit more than a local ski hill but not yet truly a ski destination.

The layout is typical Midwestern “upside down.” The trails fall away into a valley that eventually leads to the nearby Mississippi River. The ski area tries hard to make the best of what nature has provided. The trails for the most part are wide and well groomed. One small mogul area named “Ozone” provided some nice bump challenges. The area’s short drop of all of 228 feet meant that most trails were only single or at most double pitched. The quality of those pitches however allowed for some excellent, although short, runs.

In the past, small short ski areas have turned to ski racing to drive the local interest. This trend has been solidly replaced by terrain parks and tubing areas. Although Ski Snowstar does have a tubing park it is the terrain park that is the draw.

A local flying down “Cosmos.” Photo provided by Ski Snowstar.

One whole side of the trailmap is the terrain area. One trail, “Pluto’s Revenge,” is a creek ravine that has been turned into a playland. The sides of the ravine provide a natural half pipe. The trees and bushes on top provide excellent obstacles. Additionally the snowmaking crew had blown features into the trail. The terrain crew had also added rails and a table top. To call it a terrain park underplays the effort the resort has put into this and the nearby “Cosmos” trail. These are more ski trails with terrain features. Open to all, this area provided numerous well-marked and maintained features and hits, with a level of quality and quantity that proves the management takes terrain features seriously. Even the beginner area had two jumps and a practice rail off the rope tow!

Some nice hits. Photo provided by Ski Snowstar.

The day of my visit, recent snows added to an outstanding coverage. The day was a perfect clear 19 degrees at slope opening and warmed to a pleasant 27 degrees by mid afternoon. The snow loosened up nicely and was the best quality I have found all year.

After the first couple of runs the thoughts of returning to my car began to fade. Ski Snowstar puts on such a strong effort that it grows on you. The lifts are slow but the ride up is so short that you hardly notice being on the lift. As a result you make many more runs per day than at a larger ski area. I easily broke the dollar per run barrier; of course another advantage to the Midwest is the pricing - my all-day ticket was only $26!

Those folks in Cartrights I saw when I came in? Well they where the same folks I saw throwing helicopters and pulling big air in the terrain area. All goes to show most things are not what you expected. Ski Snowstar is a small area that tries hard and that is all you can ask for.

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About Robbie Allen

Robbie Allen is an avid small hill skier. He has written several articles on the many small hills he has sought out.

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Reader Comments

johnny joe
March 25, 2007
you are the plainsman of skiing. hook up those horses and have them tow you!
Kerstin
September 13, 2007
Believe it or not, I've actually been here. It's appalingly small, but when you're in the "Quad Cities," what else can you get? At least they get a lot of natural snow. It was fine when my son was 3 and was happy with a rope-tow...
robbie a
December 25, 2007
The seasonal holiday found me in the flatlands once again. Itching to get out of the in-laws farm house I sprinted the boys up the road to Ski SnowStar. I had been here in my travels before and enjoyed my day skiing so I had high hopes. I was not disappointed.

Snowstar near Moline, IL is what you want a local hill in this area of the country to be. A nice friendly place to spend a day sliding on snow. It was a nice bonus that lift tickets were all of SIX dollars with a can good (all of 13 w/o).

With my sons in two we arrived at the resort at opening bell the day before Xmas. The artic 50 mph winds that had been plaguing the Midwest were gone. The day was a cloudy but nice 24 degrees. The winds had cleaned most of the surrounding area of any visible snow. However 4 inches of natural that fell the day before and aggressive snow making made 100% of SnowStars 14 trails to be open with solid coverage.

On arrival I placed my 5 year old in ski school and took my 7 year old out on the slopes. Snowstar has 14 named trails but there really are only 5 ways down. The resorts upside down layout mean the trail drop down into a small valley. The runs are short single pitch affairs. With the light pre Christmas crowds we saw zero lift lines all day. The hill is so small that the lifts only have 4-5 towers. But it is a fun place none the less.

The Outback the terrain area is a ravine that doubles as a half pipe and extreme area- was lots of fun for both my 7 year old and I. Snowstar does make the effort to set up some nice features rails, boxes and steps. Air is encouraged at this small hill. It was a blast.

Once my 5 year old was free from ski school I spent the afternoon with him. Snowstar was a nice size to teach him to ride the big slopes. By the closing bell (1500 this Xmas eve) he was riding the lifts and traversing the blue slopes.

Snow Star once again proves the local hill is still a nice place to spend a day. I wish economics and global warming would enable more of these types of areas to survive.

Ski and Tell

Snowcat got your tongue?

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