Two Ways to Ski
The woods are quieter outside the town of Spearfish. Except for pines sighing in the wind, the only sound may be the shush-shush-shush of another cross-country skier passing. The Big Hill cross-country area's series of ever-widening loops wanders through stands of evergreens, birch and aspen, leading nearly to the dizzying 1,000-foot drop at the rim of Spearfish Canyon.
For rental gear and lessons, skiers visit a house-turned-ski-shop one block south of the Spearfish Pizza Hut. Here retired professor Ev Follette runs Ski Cross Country with his wife, Joann. They’ve been skiing the trails in winter and picking berries along them in summer for more than 30 years, ever since, Ev says, "we decided that before we died, we should try skiing."
For advice on trail conditions and a loop that fits your skills, Ev has long been the man to ask.
On clear days, the view alone is worth riding a chair lift to 7,052-foot Terry Peak, the Midwest’s highest downhill ski area. The Black Hills roll to the south; Bear Butte rises to the east, shouldering into view on the endless prairie's shore. Terry Peak, about 20 miles south of Spearfish, offers multiple runs and lifts and enough snowboarding terrain to satisfy the Mountain Dew-swigging crowd. Nearby, Deer Mountain is known for family-friendly tubing runs and lighted nighttime skiing.
When I turn from the view and head down Terry Peak’s busy slopes, skiers zip by in stylish coats and goggles that appear fresh off the pro shop’s rack. They’re quickly followed by bearded guys wearing camouflage coveralls that look like they’re leftover from deer season. For a low intimidation factor, these are the slopes to visit.