One thing that surprised me the most when I moved to Iowa, was that there was actually a ski resort! I’m sure I’m not the only one that would assume that Iowa equalled flat and all corn fields…how wrong was I! Sundown Mountain Dubuque has 21 ski runs (green, blue and black diamond) and 2 terrain parks. When it doesn’t snow, the resort is maintained by 150 snow guns (believe me, it’s cold enough for the snow not to melt once it is there!) and the runs are groomed daily!
When you think of ski resorts, they are often associated with being expensive, especially when it comes to lift passes! An adult weekday unlimited lift pass is $38 ($46 at weekends), ski and snowboard rentals are $32 for a day, making it an affordable option compared to some of the bigger resorts, putting this into perspective, a ONE day lift pass in Aspen Colorado is $164! OK, so Sundown Mountain is not quite in the mountains, it’s actually in a valley and there aren’t a million runs.
The lodge and carpark is at the top of the slopes which means you can get stuck right in and not have to start by riding a chair lift to get to the top!
Learning to Ski at Sundown Dubuque
It’s kinda crazy, back in 2008 I failed miserably at water skiing so became a wake boarder, I automatically assumed that because I could wake board I’d be able to snowboard…definitely got that wrong. So before considering all snow sports as a complete write off, I wanted to try skiing. I signed up to a one hour private lesson for $48.
There is a teeny tiny, almost flat run, that I started off on to just practise going in a straight line…it was so flat my instructor beat me to the top just by skiing uphill while I took the magic carpet up!
Then it was straight on to the bunny hill where we practised how to turn. I pretty much had the whole slope to myself yet still managed to plough down a small child that was standing under a tree…it’s like my skis had a mind of their own! Thankfully he didn’t get hurt…and then continued to mock me for the rest of my lesson while he whizzed by asking if I wanted his help to go faster…
Accident number 2 = I brought the bunny hill chair lift to a standstill after I managed to get my skis tangled up with my instructors! Thankfully those 2 situations were my only accidents!
I found it ridiculously easy to turn left but struggled to turn right. I think part of my problem was that I was over thinking what I had to do too much… “right leg does this, left leg does that”…I just couldn’t seem to put the two techniques together. But after 30 minutes of practising, something seems to click (no, not my bones or joints…something in my head!) and things just started to come naturally and I’m not even sure exactly what I was doing…I JUST STOPPED THINKING ABOUT IT. My legs didn’t feel like they were splitting apart anymore and I started to get a little confidence in myself!
At the end of my hour, I probably could have attempted to have gone down ‘Sunbowl’ green run in a wedge/snowplough position but why attempt to run before you can walk?! I stayed on the bunny hill, practising my turns by myself and improving my stance so I wasn’t locked in a wedge the whole way down. It also allowed me to practise getting on and off the chair lift without the fear of bringing the big main chair lift to a stop and having all the ‘professionals’ look down on the idiot newbie skier!
2 and a half hours was probably just about my limit as a new skier. My legs seemed to be doing OK but by the end my arms were dead and I was struggling to pull myself along on the flat with my poles!
I feel like on my next visit I’ll be able to graduate from the bunny hill after a little refresher and hit the main slope…you just might want to stay out of my way in case I can’t stop or turn the corner…
Tips for Visiting Sundown Dubuque
I’m quite lucky that with my day job I get Fridays off work. I visited at 2pm and there were no lines at the ticket windows, no wait time for boots and we could go straight up and grab our skis. The slopes were all fairly empty too. When we left at 4pm, the Friday night ‘cheap special’ was just about to kick in and it was absolutely PACKED. When I return I’ll be tempted to visit at the same time, even if it is slightly more expensive, just to avoid the crowds.
I’d also imagine that the snow quality is better the earlier you visit. As you may know, I’m not a fan of the cold so I picked a ‘warm’ day to visit Sundown Mountain. It did mean that the snow was starting to melt a little and by the time I left it was getting quite glassy and icy, making the slope faster and it harder to slow down.
If you’re a newbie and don’t think you’ll get off the bunny hill, it’s actually cheaper to get just a pass for the ‘beginners area’. I ended up paying 4 times the price for an ‘all area’ lift pass that I didn’t even use as this is what was automatically given to me, despite the fact I had bought a 1 hour first timer ski lesson. Lift passes are attached to a zip on your coat using a metal loop that the pass sticks to.
The Lodges and Mountain Center at Sundown Dubuque
I decided to stuff all my belongings into my pockets and leave anything else in the car (possibly the only good thing about a cold sport…you have plenty of clothes on with space to store things!). The Mountain Center has benches with space underneath them to store shoes. There are also a couple of vending machines in this location.
The North Lodge (walking away from the Mountain Center and the chair lifts) has a fast food restaurant selling things like burgers and sandwiches, a bar, a gift shop and seating space. It also has great views of the top of ‘Turkey Ridge’ blue run, which has a couple of rails, making it great for people watching and a little rest!
Sundown Dubuque Location
Sundown Mountain is located on the edge of Dubuque, about 20 minutes from the Downtown District. For more information, visit the Sundown Mountain website!
Sundown Mountain Resort
16991 Asbury Rd.
Dubuque, IA 52002
Other Things to do in Dubuque
As mentioned above, Sundown Mountain is on the edge of Dubuque, however there is a whole range of things to do and see in the Downtown area. Here are some ideas for things to do in Dubuque.
If you are looking for somewhere to stay in Dubuque, the Hotel Julien is a 20 minute drive from Sundown Mountain, located in the Downtown District.
Have you been skiing before? What was your experience like as a learner?!