By Trent Jonas
In spite of its Midwest location, Minnesota is graced with plenty of terrain primed for downhill skiing and snowboarding. In winter, families flock to the slopes and local ski areas to spend the day, or even a whole vacation, enjoying the rush of outdoor recreation in the winter. Here are our favorite ski destinations in the state.
Lutsen, on Minnesota’s North Shore is one of the Midwest’s largest ski resorts. It spans four mountains in the Sawbill range and boasts more vertical feet and longer runs than any other ski area in the state. Nearly 100 runs, serviced by lifts and gondolas, multiple lodging and dining options, and sweeping Lake Superior views make Lutsen an awesome spot for a family getaway.
Families from the Twin Cities who want a great day—or even a few hours—of skiing don’t have to go very far. Hyland Hills, in Hyland Lake Park Reserve, offers the best skiing in the inner metro. Hyland’s runs may not be the longest or tallest, but the area offers excellent grooming and challenging terrain, as well as lighted slopes for night skiing.
Spirit Mountain is two hours closer to the Twin Cities than Lutsen but offers almost as much vertical, as well as the Midwest’s largest terrain park. Snow tubing, fat tire mountain biking—accessible by lift—and 22 runs will keep a family busy all day or all weekend long.
Afton Alps, a Vail Resorts property, is the largest ski area within 50 miles of the Twin Cities. It’s 300 acres of rolling St. Croix Valley bluffs are home to four terrain parks, 18 lifts, and almost 50 runs. Frequent weekend entertainment, lesson, rentals, and night skiing are all available.
Giants Ridge is located on the Iron Range, on the edge of both the Chippewa and Superior National Forests. This family-friendly resort boasts a handful of terrain parks, ski-in, ski-out lodging, snow tubing, and 35 lift-serviced runs. Rentals and lessons are available.
Wild Mountain is located just north of Taylors Falls, about 45 minutes from St. Paul, in the St. Croix River Valley. More than 25 runs, a snow tubing hill, and four terrain parks are spread across more than 100 acres of river bluffs. A chalet with regular entertainment, night skiing, lessons, and equipment rentals will make sure the whole family is having fun.
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One of the few bowls in Minnesota, Coffe Mill packs 10 runs and three lifts into 28 mostly-vertical acres on the shoulders of a coulee. The 425 vertical feet and spectacular Mississippi River views make for an exciting day on the slopes for families in Southeastern Minnesota. Snow tubing, lessons, and if it’s your thing, race training are all available at Coffee Mill.
For families who head up to the Brainerd Lakes Area during the winter months, Mt. Ski Gull’s 10 runs and four terrain parks make for a great way to get outside and enjoy the weather. Close to all the major Gull Lake Resorts, as well as Breezy Point, it’s hard to argue with Mount Ski Gull’s location.
Welch Village is located equidistant from both Rochester and the Twin Cities, along 140 acres of Cannon River valley bluffs. Two chalets, two terrain parks and nine chair lifts service the ski areas 60 runs and 360 feet of vertical. Regular entertainment, lessons, and rentals will help enhance your family’s enjoyment.
Families in south-central Minnesota can get their snow on at Mount Kato in Mankato. All of its 19 runs are serviced by snowmaking and eight chair lifts. In addition to a snow tubing hill, there are four terrain parks, a chalet with food and a bar, and a full-service rental shop.