Little Switzerland
Popular Slinger resort is again welcoming skiers

By Eileen Mozinski Schmidt - Special to Conley Media

Jan. 16, 2019

A snowboarder on a recent day at Little Switzerland. The recreation area underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation and reopened for the 2012-13 season, said co-owner Rick Schmitz.
Submitted photo

SLINGER — Little Switzerland is again welcoming visitors to the slopes, now boasting nearly a decade of operation under its current management.

The ski resort is one of the oldest in the Midwest, having originally opened in 1941, according to Rick Schmitz, one of the co-owners.

In 2011, Schmitz Brothers LLC purchased the resort, which had closed in 2007. It reopened for the 2012-13 ski season.

“We grew up skiing at Little Switzerland. We knew it had real potential,” said Schmitz. “We looked at it and decided that we were going to take a run at reopening.”

Schmitz had previous experience in the business, having purchased and run Nordic Mountain in central Wisconsin.

The new owners bought the land of the ski hill and leased other parts of the property from former Slinger Super Speedway owner Wayne Erickson, who Schmitz said had bought the property with plans to renovate the lodge. A year later the Schmitz brothers bought the property in full.

The project leading to reopening was a multimillion-dollar effort, between the Schmitz brothers and the interim owner, according to Schmitz, who said when Little Switzerland had closed the building’s infrastructure in particular needed updating.

He said the time between the 2007 closure and the reopening offered a necessary reset for those who knew of the updates needed at the park. And the reception to the renovated and reopened park has been “better than I ever could have dreamed.”

“People love that place. There was so much good will,” Schmitz said.

The park currently draws visitors primarily from southeast Wisconsin, in particular the northwest side of Milwaukee. It features 18 runs of all ability levels, including a beginner’s area which hosts a ski school and lesson program.

“That’s one of our core things. We walk around and hear people say, ‘I learned to ski here,” said Schmitz.

“It’s a huge part of what we do,” he said, adding that Little Switzerland also includes a terrain park popular with the teenage demographic.

Although this winter has unseasonably warm and lacking in snow, Schmitz stressed that Little Switzerland has an advanced snow-making system. He said most customers are now aware that the park has the technology to stay open despite the weather.

“Our customers are realizing we always have really good conditions,” Schmitz said. “We are starting to reap the benefits of all that investment. We are always 100 percent open with good quality snow.”

But Schmitz added that some more seasonably winter weather would still be welcome.

“There’s no better marketing than a little bit of natural snow,” he said.

Purchase of Franklin park

In 2017, the Little Switzerland owners expanded their reach by purchasing the Rock Snow Park in Franklin.

A purchase agreement and long-term lease between ROC Ventures, owner and developer of The Rock Sports Complex, and Schmitz Brothers LLC was announced in summer of 2017.

Michael Zimmerman, owner of ROC Ventures, said in a press release that the business was looking for “proven operators to solidify our ski hill offerings” and that Rick, Mike, and Dave Schmitz fit this description.

“After seeing them turn around Little Switzerland so dramatically, we knew we’d found the folks we wanted to work with,” Zimmerman said, in the release.

This is the second season the Schmitz brothers are operating the Rock.

“It’s a full ski hill with something for everyone,” said Schmitz, who said season passes purchased at either park can be used at both locations. “It is a little smaller than Little Switzerland as far as the number of runs but a little bit more vertical drop.”

Going forward, Schmitz said the focus will be on improvements at the properties.

“Our strategy has always been to reinvest in our properties. We have a lot of ideas,” he said.