Giants Ridge broke into the Top 10 last year at No. 5 and continues to climb this year. This spunky northern Minnesota resort north of Duluth has parlayed good snow and great grooming into what skiers consider one of the best ski operations in the region. In fact, the resort even extends a groomer's guarantee: If you're not happy with the snow, simply tell them by 10 a.m. and trade your lift ticket for another day. How's that for confidence? The addition of the new Lodge at Giants Ridge, a ski-in/ski-out facility, has helped enhance the resort's reputation and increase its profile. Skiers also like the selection of trails, giving the resort high scores in Grooming, Terrain and Snow. "Fun, wide-open runs let you roam the slopes," says a reader. "Big vertical for the Midwest and lots of varied terrain," observes another. The 34 trails that soar off the 550-foot rocky crest are some of the most exhilarating cruisers around the Great Lakes, with varied pitches, headwalls and runs lined with aspen and birch. The north face of the ridge offers some quick, steep chutes, the only downside being a long, gentle run-out back to the lift. The top of the ski hill looks over a never-ending forest interspersed with a few lakes. One reader sums it up nicely: "This is a great, friendly, down-home resort."
(-) "Race teams close down runs on the weekends."