Ask any Minnesotan about the worst parts of winter and you’ll be quick to hear a chorus of gripes about everything from shoveling sidewalks to scraping windshields to wearing layers on layers of clothing. But for all the not-so-fun parts of Minnesota winters, there are an equal number of awesome ways to spend a snowy day.
One prime example? Downhill skiing! Combining adventure and adrenaline, this wintertime workout simply wouldn’t be possible without the state’s cooler temps and exorbitant amounts of snow — a fair trade, if you ask us!
So next time the winter blues have you wondering why you chose to live in an arctic tundra, head to one of these destinations to remind yourself exactly why you love (or at least tolerate) the North Star State.
Want to fly down the same slopes that Minnesota legend (and Olympic gold medalist) Lindsey Vonn got her start on? Just hop on 35 and head half an hour south to Burnsville’s Buck Hill! With a 300-foot vertical rise and 16 runs for ski bunnies of all levels, this slope may be small, but it’s mighty fun. The excitement isn’t just limited to winter, though! Thanks to Neveplast, an artificial snow substitute, skiers (and tubers!) can shred straight through the summer months.
This popular ski destination may only be an hour southeast of the metro, but Welch Village’s small-town charm and 60 killer trails allow it to hold its own against the competition further west. Beginner and intermediate skiers will enjoy the blue and green trails on the front slopes while those with a bit more experience can put their skills to the test at the Back Bowl’s black diamond runs. After a long day hitting the powder, refuel with a bite to eat at Base Lodge or—if you’re feeling festive—head to the east slope for a drink at Madd Jaxx Chalet.
It’s admittedly a bit of a hike to get to Lutsen Mountains, but we promise it’s well worth the four-hour road trip. The largest ski resort in the state—and the Midwest—Lutsen has it all: four mountains with a 825-foot vertical rise, 95 runs ranging from bunny hill to double black diamond, killer Lake Superior views, and an average 10-foot snowfall. What more could you ask for? How do live music, on-site lodging and dining, and even a gondola sound? Our recommendation? Make a weekend of it!
Giants Ridge is an oasis for outdoor activity enthusiasts. An hour and 15 minutes north of Duluth, this resort’s snowy winters make it the perfect place to catch some fresh powder. The 35 runs and a 500-foot vertical rise offer plenty of variety for every level of skier, but if you’re looking to mix things up even more, you can also partake in other wintertime faves like tubing, snowshoeing, and even snowmobiling — all without leaving the property!
With a slogan like ‘where Epic begins’, how could you resist Afton Alps? Plus, with 48 runs, 300 skiable acres, and four terrain parks, this slope is well worth the 40-minute drive from Downtown Minneapolis. Make sure to check out Afton’s Landing Zone where you can warm up, watch skiers and snowboarders take on the terrain park, and enjoy a bite to eat at the on-site food truck. Fancy yourself a regular? With Afton’s Epic Pass program, you can score a full season of unlimited skiing and get half-price passes at some of the nation’s most highly-acclaimed ski spots like Breckenridge and Park City.
Looking to escape the metro but don’t want to blow a full tank of gas? Taylors Falls is your answer. An hour from the Twin Cities, Wild Mountain in Taylors Falls boasts 26 runs and a 300-foot vertical drop. But what really sets this ski destination apart from the other slopes in the area is Night Moves. Every Friday from 8pm to 1am, night owls can step into their skis and hit the slopes. Après-ski, warm up around the fire and score drink specials at the chateau’s Eagle Nest. Yep, this is one activity that should make every Minnesotan’s bucket list.
Hyland Hills Ski Area
Did you know that there’s a ski slope in your very own backyard? It’s true! But just because Bloomington’s Hyland Hills is nearby doesn’t mean you are trading quality for convenience. Au contraire! In fact, Hyland is known for keeping its 14 runs in peak (no pun intended) condition thanks to frequent snow-making and meticulous grooming. While there are runs for all levels, Hyland’s SnowSports Academy makes it an especially solid choice for beginners or those who want to brush up on their ski skills.
Spirit Mountain was originally created to boost Duluth’s tourism and, well… it worked. A favorite among locals and Twin Cities slickers alike, Spirit Mountain isn’t a true mountain, but with a 700-foot vertical drop, it does have some of the steepest runs in the state. And the longest. (One run comes in at just over a mile!) Looking to catch some air? Spirit Mountain has got you covered with four freestyle terrain areas offering challenges like jumps, jibs, and boxes. Once it’s time to warm up, head to either of the park’s two chalets: one at the bottom of the slopes and the other at the top.