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These 5 Race to Open Bracket Match-Ups are SOOOO Close!

Updated: Nov 9, 2022

Well, folks, the Midwest's second major snowmaking push is on the horizon, so I wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of my top match-ups in my race-to-open bracket.

If this is your first year following, welcome, and we hope you enjoy the content! Every fall, we announce a 36-ski area bracket where ski areas are seeded based on the date they opened last season. So, for example, if a ski area opened first in the Midwest, it would receive the number one seed.

This bracket is published, and I spend about an hour reseasoning through each match. Although the overall winners tend to be similar each year, I feel the fun comes from the lower-seed match-ups, as there is much more variability. That said, let's dive into my top 5 match-ups while filling out my bracket for the 2022/23 race to open.

Welch Village (31) and Perfect North (34.)

Last Season's Stats:

Welch Village: Opened on 12/3/21

Perfect North: Opened on 12/9/21

This one is much closer than it looks because Perfect North runs such a fantastic operation in a location that many would be quick to overlook. Being just outside of Cincinnati, Perfect North is much further south, but they have a great team, snowmaking system, and get a cold pocket of air that moves through their area.

Despite this, I have to go with Welch Village. Not only do I think Welch will get the cold air a little sooner, but they have also spent over half a million dollars on snowmaking guns this season, with the addition of 14 new TechnoAlpin fan guns.

Who I'm Taking: Welch Village
Spirit Mountain (15) vs. Little Switzerland (18)

Last Season's Stats:

Spirit: Opened on 11/26/21

Lil Switz: Opened on 11/26/21

This match-up is so close that they tied in last season's race to open, making this choice even harder! On the one hand, you have the more north Spirit Mountain. On the other hand, with Lake Superior not being frozen yet, this can create a lake effect warming and potential for higher humidity. Spirit has also mentioned that they are not fully staffed for the season, which can always be a factor when snowmaking season hits.

Over at Little Switzerland, they are much further south - meaning the air temperature will likely be significantly warmer. Both ski hills have great snowmaking systems, but I think Lil Switz's fully automated system makes the difference in this match-up.

Who I'm going with: Lil Switz
Nordic Mountain (16) vs. Seven Oaks (17)

Last Season's Stats:

Nordic: Opened on 11/26/21

Seven Oaks: Opened on 11/26/21

Do not sleep on Iowa! I repeat, do not sleep on Iowa! Last season, Seven Oaks seemed to come out of nowhere and place their name alongside the big boys, such as Granite Peak, Tyrol Basin, and Afton Alps. But, believe it or not, Seven Oaks opened just a couple of days behind those names, and I think they are hungry after last season's success.

Despite Nordic's fantastic staff and automated snowmaking system, I think Seven Oaks gets the system a couple of hours earlier and doesn't mess around, barely sneaking a victory under Nordic's feet.

Who I'm taking: Seven Oaks
Hyland Hills (12) vs. Tyrol Basin (5)

Last Season's Stats:

Hyland: Opened on 11/26/21

Tyrol: Opened on 11/20/21

If you want to talk about hills that I have the most fun visiting, these are certainly at the top of this list. Hyland is such a unique hill that plays into its demographic exceptionally well. Watching the kids on the hill throwing down things you could only dream of is well worth the experience by itself.

On the other hand, Tyrol has a soft spot for me, as I was a pass holder there for many years. They have one of the coolest bars in the Midwest, and the locals are always a blast to hang with.

From the snowmaking side, both are aggressive and not scared to fire up whenever the temps are there. I think the difference here is that Hyland will focus on opening with a little more terrain, and being closer to the city doesn't get as cold as other ski areas. Tyrol's temperature inversion is the real deal and is the difference in this match-up.

Who I'm taking: Tyrol Basin
Granite Peak (7) vs. Lutsen Mountains (10)

Last Season's Stats:

Granite Peak: Opened on 11/24/21

Lutsen Mtns: Opened on 11/25/21

The family showdown! The Skinner family now owns both ski areas, and their snowmaking systems are very similar, meaning this match-up is close on so many levels. Lutsen Mountains, being much further North, will likely get colder air temperatures compared to Granite Peak. But, given that Lake Superior has not frozen yet, the temperatures will probably be filled with moisture - something no snowmaker wants to deal with when making snow.

Granite Peak will have slightly higher air temperatures, but that humidity will likely be lower, allowing them to produce more snow in a shorter period. This match-up will be close, but at the end of the day, Lutsen's larger footprint and the early season humidity of Lake Superior will come to bite Lutsen, meaning Granite Peak opens just ahead of its bigger brother.

Who I'm Taking: Granite Peak

Well, I hope you guys enjoyed some preseason hype - if you want to print out your bracket, head over to

We'll be posting a weather breakdown video later this week where I'll go through the forecast and give you some insights on what this cold front could mean for skiing and snowboarding in the Midwest as soon this week.

But until next time, I hope all of you have a great week, pray for snow, and I'll see you guys out there!

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