I lived in Wausau for 17 years. We all knew of Rib Mountain. I could see it from my deck. It is visible from 18 miles away, coming down Hwy 29 toward Wausau.
It stands over the southwestern part of the city. Rib Mountain State Park and the Granite Peak Ski Area are there. Much has been written about Rib Mountain’s geology and history. Most of that, while enormously interesting, is above my pay grade, so I can only provide a glimpse of it.
Rib Mountain is not a mountain. It is a ridge. It is a four-mile-long chunk of very old quartzite, one of the hardest rocks known to humankind. The land around it has worn down faster than this quartzite ridge. That’s why Rib Mountain stands out so much.
Hardwood hill (I think)
There are two other areas of quartzite nearby, known as Hardwood Hill and Mosinee Hill. I drove out searching for them. Mosinee Hill was easy to find. I think I have Hardwood Hill right.
I’ll add that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says it is a “billion-year-old hill (and) one of the oldest geological formations on earth.” That summarizes my knowledge of the geology.
To be sure, Rib Mountain is a beautiful area. In the winter, it is clear why it was named Rib Mountain.
Rib Mountain State Park was established in 1929. A road was built in 1931 to the summit. The first ski runs opened in 1939. Today this park encompasses 1,600 acres and receives some 400,000 visitors annually. While the park uses much land, most of the facilities available to the public occupy only 60 acres.
There is an amphitheater at the top and a tower if you wish to climb higher. This is a view of Wausau and its surroundings from the amphitheater.
In the summer, Rib Mountain is lush. This is a view of part of it from the nine-hole golf course at its base.
While at the top, you get good access to the quartzite rock that underpins Rib Mountain. Here are two more shots.
I do not ski. But those of you who do, keep these rocks in mind! Of course, none of the ones I’ve shown you are on the slopes, but they are under your skis somewhere!
The skiing area is known as Granite Peak, an understandable name.
It advertises as the oldest ski resort in Wisconsin, “kicking around since 1937.” A relative of the famous Pabst family, but a local man, Fred Pabst, a ski industry pioneer, ran the ski operation until 1947. There has been a succession of ownership and leasing arrangements since. If that subject piques your interest, I recommend you visit the History section of Granite Peak’s website.
Granite Peak’s longest run is almost a mile. It has more than 60 runs, “the state’s only high-speed six pack with two additional high-speed quad chairlifts, 7 in total!” It also is open for night skiing.
Here are a few shots of the lifts taken in the summer.
I believe this is the Comet Express Lift building at the top. It is the only such building up there. Later, I’ll show you what this looks like during the ski season.
This gives you an idea of what awaits you when using the other lifts.
Let’s switch to winter. It’s worth noting that Granite Peak has melded in with Wausau city, Marathon County, and surrounding areas regarding lodging and restaurants. It is a total package.
As I said earlier, I do not ski. I did go out on a bright winter day to watch the skiers. I got a kick out of it, especially watching the skiers get aboard the lift. It took some care and attention to detail to climb on!
Once on the lift, it looked like great fun. After watching this for a while, I could see this is no fly-by-night operation. This is a first-class, professional undertaking.
I confess I was enamored with the lifts and the whole process. After watching the lifts, I turned my attention to the troops coming down. Skis and snowboards were plentiful on the day I watched.
I should direct you to Granite Peak’s website again, this time to the Terrain Parks section. You skiers will know what is offered in technical terms, once again, above my pay grade.