(First published in the August 9, 2018 issue of City Pages)
Granite Peak’s new summer sunset chairlift rides are part of a bigger plan to attract people outside of ski season
Granite Peak’s new summer sunset rides begin Aug. 17.
After nine years, the fall color chairlift rides at Granite Peak Ski Area are still wildly popular, says Chris Pingel, director of services at Granite Peak. They’re so popular that the facility is extending the concept with summer sunset chairlift rides and an outdoor patio bar starting this week.
The new sunset rides, which start Aug. 17 on Fridays and Saturdays, are part of a broad plan to draw more people to the facilities year round. That could eventually include mountain biking and alpine coasters (like a roller coaster down the hill of Rib Mountain State Park). To attract non-skiers, Granite Peak already launched a concert series that brought regional and national acts to the chalet stage during ski season, which typically runs late November to April.
Around 10,000 people ride up and down Rib Mountain during the fall ride event, ranging from 100 to 1,000 people per day.
After arriving at the top, riders have the option to either stay on and return back down, or get off the lift and look around the state park, take a hike or relax, and then take the lift back down.
Both the fall colors and sunset rides use the high-speed Comet lift, which holds up to six people on one chair and is run at a much slower speed than it does to transport skiers. Pingel says during the recreational ride events, the lift takes roughly 10 minutes to get from the bottom to the top. This gives customers more time to enjoy the ride and take in the expansive scenery of the Wausau area.
During the sunset rides, Granite Peak plans on offering acoustic music, depending on the turn out, with drinks and food available at the outdoor patio, which will be open to the public.
Granite Peak has two large chalets, each with food and beverage service, that offer great potential for public use outside of ski season. “Right now we do mostly weddings in the summer but there is a lot of opportunity,” Pingel says.
The new sunset rides run 3–8 pm Fri.–Sat. between Aug. 17 and Sept. 15, with a Sunday ride on Sept. 2. Tickets must be purchased at the office at the base of the hill: Free for ages 3-5, $8 ages 6-12, $12 ages 13 and older.
The fall chairlift rides this year run 11 am–5 pm Thurs.-Sun. starting Sept. 20. The outdoor patio bar also will be open during the fall rides. See Granite Peak’s Facebook page for details or call 715-845-2846.