Minnesota may conjure images of prairies and lakes, but the state is also home to the Sawtooth Mountains and many hillside skiing areas just outside of its major cities. Though you won’t find high-altitude skiing in Minnesota like in the Rockies or the Cascades, you will find high-quality snow, beautiful scenery and resorts that are perfect for beginners.
About 30 minutes south of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Buck Hill ski area offers city dwellers and vacationers quick access to the slopes. With 16 runs and 5 terrain parks, Buck Hill offers something for every member of the family, covering a range of levels. Though it is more geared towards families and beginners, there are two black diamond slopes for the more advanced skier. There is a tubing area and the freestyle terrain parks have a fantastic snow jump, complete with airbags to catch your fall.
Lutsen Mountains Ski Resort is the largest in the state with 95 runs spread across 4 mountains. The slope on Moose Mountain has the best view, with a stunning vista over the expanse of Lake Superior. With a vertical drop of 825 feet, there is a great mix of intermediate and advanced runs to challenge all levels, and the snow quality is excellent. Advanced-level skiers will be delighted with Eagle Mountain’s 3 double- black diamond runs. The resort’s lodges are based at the top of the mountain and offer breathtaking views.
Spirit Mountain is just outside Duluth in northern Minnesota and has stunning views overlooking the city. Here you can ski, snowboard and tube over 175 acres of terrain and the resort has the largest freestyle terrain in the Midwest. There are 22 runs in total with a good number of advanced-level trails to challenge you. The Spirit Park freestyle area is one of the best in the Midwest and has 7 jumps, 16 jibs and a halfpipe.
Coffee Mill Ski Area is a modest but well-proportioned resort with majestic views over the Mississippi River Valley. Though largely made up of intermediate runs, there are also some great black diamond slopes and chutes to test your nerve. The resort is very affordable with reasonably priced ski and snowboard courses for beginners.
Another fantastic resort just 40 minutes’ drive from the Twin Cities, Welch Village ski resort has 60 trails split evenly among beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. Most of the trails are set on the eastern and western slopes of the hillside and there is an area called the Back Bowl made up entirely of black diamond slopes for advanced skiers. Welch Village also has a terrain park for freestylers with rails, jibs and jumps.
With just under 300 acres of skiable terrain, Afton Alps is a popular ski destination in Minnesota. They have state of the art snowmaking facilities and a feature-packed terrain park. There are 50 runs in total, with 18 lifts and plenty of black diamond slopes for the advanced. Afton Alps is situated just a 1 hour and 30 minutes’ drive north from Rochester.