The third of a four-part series exploring remarkable ski destinations
Winter is in full swing, and with it comes some of the best skiing opportunities in the eastern half of the United States. And while the west does have its fair share of top-notch ski resorts, nothing beats the family-friendly ski resorts that make themselves at home in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky—cold weather gems covered in both natural and manmade powder that makes for the perfect winter escape. Places where the weather is chilly, the hot chocolate is warm, and there’s something for everyone to enjoy, whether you’re a ski bunny looking to hit the slopes or just someone looking for a relaxing getaway to a lovely winter wonderland surrounded by nature’s beauty.
An Ohio River Gem: Cool Runnings In Cincinnati
The third-largest city in Ohio and the state’s largest metropolitan area, there’s no shortage of wonderful things to see and do in this scenic city by the aptly named Ohio River—perhaps one of the many reasons why Cincy was named one of Travel + Leisure’s Top 50 Places to Travel in 2021. A bustling hub in Southwestern Ohio, Cincinnati is full of cultural and historical attractions that wow—and it has its share of outdoor adventures, too, many of which come to life during the winter season. WalletHub even named Cincy one of 2021’s Best Winter Holiday Destinations as the city’s cool winter temps make for some of the best outdoor activities and adventures around.
Skiing In Cincinnati
Despite the city’s famous seven hills (often called “The City of Seven Hills”), many of which have Mount in their title, Cincinnati is not located in a predominantly mountainous region—but don’t let that fool you. There are still plenty of places to get outside and hit the slopes that a just a short drive away from the Queen City; making it the perfect place to set up camp and enjoy the perfect vacation that combines the sights and sounds of the city with an epic winter getaway that’s just a short car ride away.
The following resorts are two of the best places to hit the slopes near Cincinnati; both are approximately an hour’s drive away. They’re some of the best family-friendly day trips for those who want to get away from the city for an epic winter adventure.
Though Perfect North Slopes is located in Indiana, it’s still only about a half-hour away from Cincinnati, making it an incredibly convenient (and fun!) way to spend a day outside the city. Complete with 23 trails that offer both beginner and intermediate skill ratings, the small, family-owned resort also offers snowboarding and tubing too. The mix of trails for all skill levels and the relatively low elevation (400-feet), combined with an excellent ski school and a cozy lodge where tired boarders, skiers, and tubers can grab a bite, make Perfect North Slopes a superb place for beginners—and incredibly family-friendly.
Distance From Cincinnati: 30 miles (35 minutes)
How To Get There: I-71 S to I-275 W, take Exit 16 to IN-1 N (Ohio Scenic Highway) to destination
Mad River Mountain is one of Ohio’s largest ski resorts and is just a short two-hour drive from the Queen City. Opened in 1962, Mad River truly has something for everyone—20 trails that range from beginner to expert; the resort is also home to Bubly Tubing Park for those who want a break from those skis and boards. With fast, epic lanes that offer fun for all ages, Bubly also has the distinction of being the biggest tubing park in the state. Mad River also has a terrain park for freestyle lovers, including Capital Park, which has been consistently rated one of the best in Ohio. Also home to one of the largest ski lodges around, complete with a bar, cafe, and retail space, Mad River is a fantastic place to spend a couple of days outside of Cincy. Though there are no accommodations on-site, there are plenty of nearby lodgings where visitors can play and stay at Mad River.
Distance From Cincinnati: 112 miles (about 2 hours)
How To Get There: I-75 N to OH-4 E towards Columbus; then OH-245 E to Country Road 29
Side Trips: Indianapolis, Indiana and Louisville, Kentucky
Perfect North Slopes and Mad River Mountain are not just close to Cincinnati. They’re also some of the best winter resorts near the fun city of Indianapolis too. The state capital of Indiana, the city, known affectionately as ‘Indy’ has no shortage of things to do—consisting of several distinct and diverse communities and neighborhoods that bustling with cultural and historical attractions—not to mention a thriving culinary scene and a reputation for warm hospitality and friendly people. Fast cars, fun events, great times—all can be found in Indianapolis, and lucky for fans of winter adventures, the city is just a stone’s throw away from numerous outdoor activities and family-friendly vacation destinations.
While Perfect North Slopes and Mad River Mountain are the closest ski resorts to Indianapolis (like Cincinnati, both are less than two hours away), there are a number of other ski resorts that are between two and four hours from the city for those who don’t mind a bit of a drive. These spots are ideal for travelers who want to sojourn in Indy, Cincy, or both—then head out for a day trip or weekend away at one of these unforgettable resorts.
Resorts Near Indy And Cincy (Within 2 hours)
Another amazing nearby city is Kentucky’s largest, Louisville. Located along the Kentucky-Indiana border and the Ohio River, Louisville is the third city in a three-state radius that visitors can stop at when visiting the above popular resorts. The Bourbon City has plenty to see and do in its own right—overflowing with Southern hospitality; fun and exciting attractions; and a distinctive heritage that perfectly honors the past while creating a vibrant future; Louisville is also a great place to stay when visiting the nearby ski resorts in Indiana and Ohio. just a short drive away from both Cincy and Indy (less than two hours from both!), it’s possible for visitors to ski, stay, and play all while exploring three of the most exciting cities in the Eastern U.S.
Rock, Roll, and Ski-In Cleveland
Cincinnati is not the only spot in Ohio that offers some epic winter activities—the bustling city of Cleveland has its fair share, too. Located on the southern shore of Lake Erie, Cleveland is known as being the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—but that’s just one of many exciting historical and cultural destinations to explore while visiting the Forest City.
However, unlike Cincinnati, Cleveland has a fun ski area right in their own backyard. Boston Mills/Brandywine Ski Resort has 88 acres of downhill fun right in Cleveland. Situated in the heart of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Boston Mills/Brandywine (BMBW) offers skiing, snowboarding, and tubing opportunities for adventurers of all ages looking to get a taste of the CLE great outdoors. Although two separate resorts owned by Vail Resorts, Boston Mills and Brandywine are only five minutes apart, making them the best 2-in1 winter destination in the area. With twenty lanes of snow tubing at their Polar Blast Snow Tubing Park, terrain parks at each resort, and ample skiing and snowboarding trails for all skill levels, BSBW is one of the best family-friendly spots for winter activities in Ohio.
Steel City Winter Adventure In Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh is located in Western Pennsylvania; this bustling burg is located at the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers and is the Keystone State’s second-largest city. Known as a center of industry, culture, history, and education, the Steel City also has plenty of all-year-round outdoor adventures (both inside and outside) made famous by its scenic river location and abundance of parks that offer fun activities for the entire family.
Seven Springs Mountain Resort
Distance From Pittsburgh: 60.1 miles (1 hour, 8 minutes)
How To Get There: I 376 E to I-76/PA-31 E in Donegal Township, take exit 91, and continue on PA-31 to destination in Seven Springs
Though the city may not be synonymous with mountainous regions known for their skiing, there is a ski area just outside Pittsburgh where visitors can escape to a winter wonderland. Seven Springs Mountain Resort is less than an hour and a half Southeast of Pittsburgh in the small town of Champion, Pa. Just a short drive away from the iconic city; it’s the perfect place for those who want a fun day trip on the slopes or a weekend getaway that’s both scenic and adventurous. With a whopping 33 slopes and trails for those of all skill levels; seven terrain parks; 10 lifts; a slalom course; and opportunities for tubing, snowmobile tours, and horseback riding, Seven Springs truly has it all with its fun winter activities for the entire family.
Seven Springs Slope And Trail Guide
Seven Springs isn’t only a great place to ski, board, and tubs—it’s also a fantastic place to stay and play, too. Enjoy the scenic mountain views while staying at the resort’s Slopeside Hotel, just steps away from the main lodge and other nearby amenities; Slopeside is a great place to stay while enjoying a day (or weekend!) away at Seven Springs. The resort also offers plenty of winter packages as well for those who want to pair their lodgings with an epic outdoor adventure. Don’t want to stay at the resort? There are a myriad of nearby cottages and chalets run by the resort that are just a short drive (or walk away); lovely accommodations that are just a bit off the beaten track for those who want a little privacy.
Stay and play takes on a whole new meaning at Seven Springs, as the resort doesn’t just offer an unforgettable outdoor experience—there’s plenty to keep visitors busy indoors, too. From family-friendly activities like miniature golf and bowling; to relaxing recreation in the indoor pool or hot tubs, there’s a ton of things to keep travelers of all ages busy when not out on the slopes.
Where To Dine At Seven Springs
For those who don’t want to venture too far outside of the Pittsburgh city limits, Boyce Park is ideal for a day trip from the city. Located less than a half-hour away from downtown, Boyce Park has skiing, snowboarding, and tubing; cross country skiing; and ice skating/hockey opportunities for all skill levels. While not a large and flashy ski resort, Boyce is an ideal spot for casual outdoor enthusiasts looking for a bit of winter weather adventure while not being too far from the exciting city of Pittsburgh.
Distance From Pittsburgh: 15.7 miles (45 minutes)
How To Get There: I-579 S to I-376 E, follow I-376 E to Haymaker Rd.; take exit 84B and continue to destination in Plum
It’s time to get outside and enjoy the brisk air and snow-covered hills and mountains in the Eastern half of the U.S.—whether that means strapping on those skis (or boards) or simply cozying up by the fire with a warm mug of hot chocolate while watching the flakes come down, there are plenty of epic cities—most within less than two hours from each other—who offer not only amazing city getaways but access to some of the best winter weather destinations around. So hit the road this winter and head out on an epic week (or two!) of outdoor activities and recreational opportunities that are perfect for the entire family—city lights, snowy slopes, and family fun; all a road trip away between the four lovely states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky.
Read next: Part two of Remarkable East Coast Ski Destinations: The Poconos, Pennsylvania
Explore eastern Pennsylvania’s fabulous ski resorts in the Poconos.