2002 Number 9 Resort in the Midwest: Indianhead, Mich.

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After a year's absence from the Midwest Top 10, Indianhead-the UP's Big Chief-is back with new owners and a new attitude. This timeworn resort still gets praise for its skiing, but its 40-year-old lodging raises reader's ire. "Cramped and dark," is how one describes the day lodge. "Hodge-podge lodge," grumbles another. Slow lifts also draw complaints. "Enough time to take a nap," a reader says. Take heart, the new owners have hired Eco Sign of Whistler/ Blackcomb, B.C., to develop a master plan to redesign and upgrade Indianhead. The first phase should be complete for the 2002-03 season. Implementation of the entire plan, which may include high-speed lifts, new lodging facilities and many more upgrades, is expected to take about five years. Readers still give Indianhead high marks for its Snow, Terrain and Grooming. "Bring carving boards and rip up the rolling cruisers," suggests a reader. With the second highest vertical drop in the state (638 feet), it offers 22 runs (nearly half rated most difficult) five chairlifts and four surface tows. "Super cruisers; best experience in the Midwest," praises a reader. The upside-down resort, with its lodge located on top, is easy to navigate, making it "a great family area." Since all the lifts returning to the compact base area at the summit, you can turn the kids loose without fear of losing them. With the new owners on site daily, look for good things at Indianhead over the next few years.

WHAT'S NEW Continued improvement and expansion of the new Palmer Terrain Park and the addition of a new Pisten Bully's Park Bully to groom the park are on tap for this coming season.

A GOOD DEAL Advance purchase lift tickets for $23 and used anytime during the season, including holiday periods. Purchase online at www.indianheadmtn.com, or call 800-346-3426.

HIGH/LOW RANK Snow (3), Grooming (3), Value (5); Service (12), Lifts (13), On-Mountain Food (13).

DON'T MISS Indianhead's annual Demo Days weekend, Dec. 8-9, when lift tickets are half-price. Gear reps will be on hand with the season's hottest skis.

READER REMARKS (+) "Great deals pre- and post-season; best layout in the UP." (-) "Nothing steep or sustained; no high-speed lifts."