Big Snow Resort acquisition closes; names to be phased out

BESSEMER & WAKEFIELD, Mich. (WLUC) – The purchase of the Big Snow Resort in Gogebic County by a Minnesota family has been finalized. The Skinner family bought the resort, which includes Indianhead and Blackjack hills.

The resort will be re-branded over the next few months to Snowriver Mountain Resort. Blackjack will be renamed to Black River Basin and Indianhead will be renamed to Jackson Creek Summit.

The base area names will be changed to remain sensitive to Native American cultures, and the new names are for the two rivers running between the resort. Big Snow Resort will be renamed to eliminate confusion since Big Snow Resort is used at another ski operation elsewhere.

“For us, it was in a location that enabled us to see a nice circle of resorts between Lutsen, Granite Peak, and Big Snow Resort property,” said Greg Fisher, Midwest Family Ski Resort chief marketing officer.

Fisher said almost all full-time staff will be retained. The resort will undergo capital improvements and re-branding but will be fully operational this winter.

Two western UP ski areas officially have new owners.

Charles Skinner, Jr. has completed the acquisition of the Big Snow Resort from Art Dumke, according to a press release. The purchase includes the two historic UP ski areas of Indianhead and Blackjack, plus restaurants, a hotel, and numerous guest service buildings.

The resort name will transition to a new resort brand of Snowriver Mountain Resort, and the Blackjack and Indianhead base areas will be named after the two rivers flowing through the resort, Black River Basin (Blackjack) and Jackson Creek Summit (Indianhead).

“There are two motivating factors for the coming name changes,” stated Skinner in a press release. “The first is a sensitivity to co-opting Native American culture. And the second is to eliminate confusion as the name Big Snow is used by another ski operation. We also feel the name changes help signal a new era of capital investment at Snowriver.”

The Granite Peak team says it is super excited to work with the team members in the UP

“Over the last few months we have been working behind the scenes to get to this point and now the real work begins,” said Greg Fisher, current GM & Marketing Director at Granite Peak who has been named Chief Marketing Officer. “Over the next few weeks, you’ll see a transition of brand, tactics, products and a social media approach as we lead into the season. I know this is exciting for not only our staff but for our season passholders and guests as the synergies are endless.”

Snowriver will continue to offer a single lift ticket for the entire resort and provide shuttle transportation until a connecting lift is constructed.

“Our mission is to provide healthy, outdoor recreation of the highest quality to Midwesterners, especially families,” added Skinner. “Indianhead was the first ski area in the UP, and staff and previous ownership did a great job combining two ski areas into one and improving operations. Our team is excited to welcome the resort’s staff to our family of resorts.”

With the acquisition, Skinner and his daughter Charlotte Skinner have created a cross-company team of managers called Midwest Family Ski Resorts, which will manage the properties under their ownership. Charlotte, with an MBA from Columbia University and finance experience at public technology companies, will take on the Chief of Staff and Chief Financial Officer role and report to her father, the President, and CEO.

Jim Vick, current GM & Marketing Director at Lutsen, will take on the Chief of Ski Terrain role. Vic will ensure excellence in grooming, snow quality, and varied terrain across the resorts. Fisher will direct all marketing, communications, and advertising for the properties. Vick and Fisher will maintain their General Manager roles and be based at Lutsen Mountains and Granite Peak, respectively.

In addition, Amanda Plummer has been named Chief Data Officer, and Caitlin Eisch, Chief Employee Experience Officer, and several other key managers have been named to cross-company roles.

“By adding the Michigan resort to our team, we identified programming, policy, and direction efficiencies. In addition, elevating veterans from each property will help our company perform better for our customers and employees,” stated Chief of Staff Charlotte Skinner.

One of the first tasks of the new multi-mountain team will be to transition the new property to a new point of sales system as well as a pass structure. The Midwest Family Ski Resorts’ Legendary Pass product which includes unlimited skiing and riding to Granite Peak, as well as Lutsen Mountains, will ow include Snowriver Mountain Resort for the 22-23 season. Sales of the product have been paused across all properties while the resorts transition to this new product. Legendary Pass sales are slated to resume on September 9th the opportunity to upgrade from our gold or silver passes to the legendary pass prior to the end of our fall pass sale.

About Lutsen Mountains. Lutsen Mountains was the first ski area in Minnesota in 1948. The ski area is Minnesota’s largest with its highest vertical (800′) and most trails (95), served by eight lifts including the Midwest’s only Gondola and a high-speed chairlift. A second high-speed chairlift will be installed next summer. Straddling four peaks of the ancient Sawtooth Mountain range, the ski area is blessed with unique 180-degree blue water views of the World’s largest lake, Lake Superior. The ski area is the winter anchor of a 5,000-person county that is almost entirely dependent on tourism. Lutsen Mountains has been family-owned and operated for 74 years. Lutsen’s management team is led by Lutsen’s 35-year veteran, General Manager Jim Vick.

About Granite Peak. The ski area was the first ski area in Wisconsin in 1937. Granite Peak is Wisconsin’s largest ski area with its highest vertical (700′) and most trails (54), served by seven lifts, including three high-speed lifts. Located in the Rib Mountain State Park, the ski area is the most popular winter recreational venue for Wausau residents and is the primary winter draw for Wausau’s tourism economy. The Granite Peak team is led by 20-year ski area veteran General Manager Greg Fisher.

About Snowriver. Snowriver is the new name for the resort previously called Big Snow Resort, located in the “Big Snow Country” area of ​​Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, so named because of its 20 feet of annual snowfall. Snowriver consists of two base areas about 1 mile apart, Black River Basin (previously Blackjack), and Jackson Creek Summit (previously Indianhead, the UP’s first ski area, founded in 1959). Total skiable acreage is over 400 acres, making Snowriver one of the largest in the Midwest, and can be expanded to 500 acres.

About Midwest Family Ski Resorts: The Skinner Family began operating ski areas in 1962 when Charlie Skinner, Sr. founded Sugar Hills, in Grand Rapids, MN. Charlie purchased Lutsen Mountains in 1980 from founder George Nelson. Charles operated Lutsen with his brother-in-law Tom Rider until January 2022 when Charles purchased full ownership. Charles has been owner and president of Granite Peak since 2000. Its mission is to provide healthy outdoor recreation of the highest quality to Midwesterners, especially families.