Equidistant from Cleveland and Columbus, just outside of Mansfield, Ohio lies a little piece of Bavaria: Snow Trails Ski Resort. This Tyrolean-looking resort provides a taste of the Alps in the highlands of Mid Ohio.
Heading north from Columbus the plains of southern Ohio give way to a more gently rolling terrain. The land changes from farms to forest. The trees become denser and more “alpine” looking. You have just entered Ohio’s snow country.
Snow Trail’s Ski Resort is the oldest ski area in Ohio. It takes full advantage of this snow country location and the over 50 inches of snowfall annually. It boasts 16 trails on 50 skiable acres from a mere 300 feet of vertical drop. The resort is set in an idyllic little valley location. A creek flows by the resort’s small village that houses the lodge and ski services. The buildings are trimmed with heavy timber and arranged around a village clock tower. Many of the services are available through outside windows, keeping the patrons milling around outside. There is also a large lake with fountain along the base area. The bottom of the ski area is lined with tall pines. Add in all the hustle and bustle, and if you try real hard, you might just feel a bit like you are in Bavarian ski town.
The ski trails are spread across a low ridge dropping down to the village. The layout is a bit deceiving as the slopes spread away from the lodge and back into the forest. Thus all the slopes are not visible from the lodge or the parking lot due to the layout. The slopes are served by six chairs - three doubles and three triples - almost a chair for every major trail. The chairlift wheel houses keep the euro theme as well.
Once seated on one of the rustic chairs and heading up the hill, these European illusions quickly fade as you are returned to the Midwest. The runs are mostly short straight up and down affairs spreading wide off the chairs. Surprisingly, the resort seems to have an open glade policy, as the wooded areas spread about the hill were solidly tracked. If this was an official policy or just the status quo I didn’t find out, but it was good to see and provided variety to the somewhat ho-hum terrain.
The snowmakers had done a good job the night I was there as the coverage was solid side to side. However, given the heavy skier traffic, it was pretty much played out. The snowmakers had also blown several whales into what was one of the better advanced slopes, “Competition.” So the run was entertaining. Sadly, according to several people I spoke to, the resort cut in half one of the better expert trails this past summer to make way for the new tubing area.
The tubing area probably provides a better draw than the expert trail. Snow Trails should be given credit for knowing its market well. The night I stopped by I found the parking lot about half full with cars and a good number of school buses. To meet the school bus demand the resort boasts two terrain parks and a halfpipe welcoming all takers. Also, one trail has been converted to the “SoBe No-Fear Terrain Park.” This trail provided multiple rails, tabletops, jumps, etc.
I ventured down the terrain park but felt a bit out of place without a snow board or at least twin tip skis. But it sure was fun! This area was served by a nearby triple and provided most of my evening’s entertainment.
Snow Trails tries hard to be not just another “run of the mill” ski hill. Its marketing campaign this year is “Distinctly Different.” Given the location and the effort the resort puts in to provide a unique product both on the slopes and around the resort, it truly is different.
Robbie Allen is an avid small hill skier. He has written several articles on the many small hills he has sought out.