SkiFest: Devil’s Head in Merrimac

My brother-in-law started a tradition many years back called SkiFest.  After a hiatus, we brought it back this year to celebrate Stephen’s birthday.  Basically, it’s a weekend-long party with some skiing involved.   Skifest is based at Devil’s Head Resort in Merrimac, Wisconsin, where Stephen & his friends (the numbers eventually swelled as both my sisters’ social groups joined the cause) traditionally reserved an entire floor on the far wing of the lodge. Let the party commence.  Friday night is the progressive.  Rooms are decorated and themes are encouraged:


For instance, my sister Meg decorated her room in honor of the legendary (and-now-closed-but-being-re-imagined-and-rebuilt-in-a-new-location-but-will-never-be-quite-the-same-without-that-puke/urine-smell) Champaign bar Kam’s.

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Themed shots or cocktails are usually offered during the progressive – at Meg’s Kam’s – you got plastic cups of Bud Light.  Just like the real Kam’s- Home of the Drinking Illini.

The hotel hallway morphs into a party zone:



But Devil’s Head welcomes Stephen back year-after-year, despite the occasional disturbances and incidents.  Probably because we bring in so much business – both in room bookings…and bar tabs.  Friday night after the progressive, it’s on to the Devil’s Den.

The lodge bar gets wild on Friday night, with drinks, dancing and carrying on.  The SkiFest group rolls in pretty hot after the progressive.  So any energy missing from the Devil’s Den is instantly injected.  Bar closes at 2 – so it’s back to the hallway for late-night hijinks.  In the past, a slip-n-slide has been set-up in the hotel hallway.  Amazing as it was, hotel management wasn’t thrilled.  This year it was karaoke, which didn’t seem to bother anyone.  They’ve learned not to put any randoms on our floor.  Money Mike and I decided to crack into his bottle of Maker’s Mark at about 3am and drink that until 4:30am or so.  Not the wisest decision, but also not the worst I’ve ever made.  The hangover was assuaged somewhat by my Pizza Pizzazz


The plug-in pizza cooker works in any outlet.  I stopped at a gas station in Merrimac where they gouged me for 1 DiGiorno and 2 Jack’s pizzas – $23.  That’s no more than $12 at a downtown Jewel.  But I guess if you’re the only act in a small town, you know people will pay a premium for frozen pizzas.  I kept ’em in the car as a de facto freezer until after the bar.  Plugged that sucker in and cooked up the DiGiorno.  Dummy that I am, I forgot a pizza cutter.  Meg came to the rescue with a pair of scissors to cut in into imperfect slices.  Got something in our stomachs late night.

Day Two of SkiFest:

Woke up around 10 but stayed in bed til almost 11.  Popped a couple aspirin and wandered into the hallway.  Those who chose to ski that weekend were out conquering the mountain.  I’ve skied in the past, but gave it up in recent years.  Loved skiing as a kid in the UP or Wisconsin.  But never grew into a high-achiever.  Preferred the blue or green to the black diamonds.  As an adult at SkiFest, I had some ski-heavy years, but recently I’d spend more time trying not to get hurt than I did enjoying the run.  Plus, it gets pretty icy.  So, until something inspires me again – I’m a non-skier.  Less than half the group gets out on the trails.  The rest post-up in the Devil’s Den for the day.  I found my sister Bridge in her friend Betty’s room when I emerged on Saturday morning.  I chugged a Frappucino and a bottle of water.  Betty made me a Bloody Mary with topped with cheese & salami.  Set me right for a day of drinking.  I ambled over to the Devil’s Den, where the deer and moose heads greeted me (although that deer on the right refused to look at me.  Maybe I was rude the night before.)


Money Mike and Miles, Stephen’s best buddies, were also at the bar – as luck would have it.  The birthday boy himself opted to ski.  We bellied up for a full day of drinking Wisconsin-style and occasionally turning to see people ski.


Our friend Salemi ordered some curds, as is the custom in the great state of Wisconsin. Served with packets of ranch, which I don’t see often.  Usually, I receive my ranch in cup form.



Solid curds.  Good burgers and pizza at the Devil’s Den, too.  But we had to save some room for chili.  Because around 5:30pm, the chili contest kicked off back in the lodge hallway.  Only three entrants this year, down from the usual 7 or so.


Cups served, silent votes cast and the winner was Stephen.  You might think it was rigged, but dude made the superior chili.  Yes, there’s an engraved trophy.  Yes, it’s miniature toilet.



There’s another bar out by the fire pit at Devil’s Head.  It’s called the Avalanche.  And on Saturday night of SkiFest, we take it by storm.  The ‘Lanche allows shenanigans to go unchecked for the most part – including tables set up for 10-on-10 games of Flippy Cup – the world’s most inclusive drinking game.  Saturday devolved into a haze, as Wisconsin weekend nights often do – then it was the 3-hour drive home to the city the next day.  It was good to see SkiFest again.  If my liver has a vote, however, we might put the event back on hiatus.


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