PAOLI, Ind. — Indiana is full of incredible places waiting to be explored, so Chuck's latest Big Adventure has him checking out great destinations close to home!
For decades, Paoli Peaks has busted the myth of Indiana being a flat prairie landscape with no winter activities.
Now owned by Vail Resorts, it's not Sundance or Park City, but the ski area is a lot of fun.
Paoli Peaks is really a 900-foot hill with a 300-foot drop. Because of its location north of the Hoosier National Forest and the Ohio River, it doesn't get a lot of natural snow — only 16 inches annually — but when we were there a few weeks ago, part of Paoli Peaks had 10-12 feet of snow packed hard and groomed well.
Barry Walls grew up here, is part of the community and has a legacy of family fun at Paoli Peaks. He started skiing here when he was just 5 years old and is now in charge of grooming of the courses. For him, this is a vital job, because Paoli Peaks' claim to fame is the pristine quality of the snow for skiers — the lines in the snow make up a corduroy pattern.
"The corduroy that we talk about is the grooves in the snow that you see. That comes from the comb or the tiller," Walls said. "Once everything's churned to the tiller and it comes out to the comb, that leaves that corduroy. It's that pattern that skiers love because it makes their runs smoother, faster and more fun."
Keeping Paoli fun is very important to the management at Paoli Peaks. Post-COVID-19, outdoor lovers need a true outlet and something to put smiles on their faces. Chris Shadid, who runs Paoli Peaks, knows that for many first-timers, the expectations are real low.
"I’ve got family in Arkansas, and they were a little shocked by the fact that there was snow in Indiana," Shadid said. "The second question was, 'There's a hill that the snow was on?' To be able to say 'yes' to that and to be able to take a couple runs here, I’m in southern Indiana skiing and having fun."
Like most businesses, Paoli Peaks has been hit by staffing issues. Their popular, all-generation tubing run is not open now. It has been a source of extra revenue and a source of exposing more generations of non-skiers to the fun of winter. They hope to reopen it next season.
It is vital to keep the sport of skiing growing to maintain the long-term viability of Paoli Peaks. They have lessons available for children from ski instructors on the beginner's slopes. They also have a ski patrol from the National Ski Patrol System. I met three of these men, ranging in age from the early 50s to nearly 70. They love Paoli Peaks and the skiers and drive as much as an hour and a half just to be a part of the experience — and many of these patrol workers are volunteers.
Paoli Peaks is open after dark on most nights and allow skiers an almost other-worldly nighttime experience under the lights.
It's a great idea to get online before you leave so you can plan your trip and know what to expect.
Paoli Peaks has a mask-on policy in the clubhouse, but by all means, go and check out the pizza, the peaks, the memories and the fun.
I think Paoli Peaks is one of Indiana's great winter treasures and a place every Hoosier should experience.
The Super Burger
Have you ever gone somewhere, met someone, experienced something, and once you got into the process, you discovered there is much more than meets the eye?
Such was the case in Paoli when we visited local burger restaurant, The Super Burger. We knew the local eatery was part of the Indiana Burger Trail and was a well known and well- oved place. What we didn't know was the fascinating backstory.
Cory and Miya Scott are a lovely couple. They also are part of the teaching fabric at Paoli Jr. and Sr. High School. The Scotts fell in love when they were teenagers, and after they married, talked often about buying a restaurant — maybe when they were old and gray.
Cory said that idea changed quickly.
"I lost all my grandparents very, very quickly, and [that] kind of got us to thinking if we're gonna do this, we really want to accomplish a goal like that, then why wait? Let's do it while we're young, and we've got the energy and the passion to do that," Cory said. "It just so happens, The Super Burger came up for sale, and you know, we jumped on that."
The realities of life sometimes do that. Those realities can also trigger feelings that maybe we can do more than we think we can.
The Scotts went all out. Cory teaches agriculture at the high school and employs several students at the restaurant. He decided to incorporate the restaurant into his agriculture program.
The Super Burger's farm-to-table setup
Starting slowly with one, then two pigs, gradually, his efforts grew into a full-working barn with the money coming from hardworking fundraising by the agriculture students and donations from the community.
The barn is like nothing I have ever seen at any high school, and it provides pork products to The Super Burger — a real farm-to-table idea that works.
Taking a look inside The Super Burger
Head into the dining room at The Super Burger and you will see photos on the walls honoring past and present Paoli student-athletes and teams. To the Scotts, this is a key connection point with the town.
"When we bought the place, I said, 'There's a lot of old pictures.' If you look around, you'll see but when we bought it, we also wanted to incorporate current students and current activities that are going on. Every month, every sports season, we go through and change out our different pictures," Miya said. "We have a lot of kids and a lot of families that are here that live in the community. When they come in, they'll walk around and look and see if their child or their grandchild made the wall, so it's kind of neat for people to come in and just look around at those pictures."
The Super Burger is a testament to a small-town business connecting on multiple levels with their clientele.
Oh, and here's more about that "Super Burger": It's called the Newk, named after Cory's friend, and it is massive, with three layers of beef, bacon and cheese. I didn't eat it, but next time I visit, I will — with the help of three or four friends!
The Super Burger is more than meets the eye. It encompasses everything we would love to see in every Big Adventure in Indiana.