Skip to main content

Boreal Community Media

Ready to downhill-ski and snowboard? Top Minnesota hills are opening this weekend

Nov 15, 2018 06:36AM ● By Editor
Grooming equipment sits in front of freshly groomed trails at Afton Alps ski hill in Hastings, Minnesota, in November 2018. An early blast of cold has allowed round-the-clock snow-making and grooming for many downhill ski destinations, allowing a pre-Thanksgiving start to the season. (Courtesy Afton Alps)

By Dave Orrick of - November 15, 2018

Minnesota’s ski and snowboard season has arrived.

Thanks to a burst of chilly October air, all the major ski and snowboarding hills are open or will open this weekend, with many offering discounted “pre-season” rates.

No, there hasn’t been much natural snow, but the cold temps — especially the low daytime highs — have allowed 24-hour snowmaking.

“I’ve been smiling ear-to-ear since it got cold and started snowing,” said Chris Sorensen, general manager for Afton Alps in Washington County, which will open Friday afternoon. “The snow quality is unbelievable with the natural snow we’ve received mixed in with the snow we’ve made.”

Afton Alps is offering $30 lift tickets over the weekend and enticing all comers with s’mores at 4 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday “until they run out,” Sorensen said.

NOTE: Early season conditions can vary and are sometimes not the best for young kids or first-time skiers. Check the websites or social media for details on which lifts and trails — and their difficulty levels — will be open. Also, early season hours are often reduced, and ski lessons are generally not available yet. Check before heading out.

Here’s a summary.


Afton Alps: The metro’s largest facility in Hastings will open Friday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. with its “biggest-ever opening”: five chairlifts and 13 runs, including a terrain park for tricksters.

Buck Hill: The Burnsville park where Lindsay Vonn carved her chops opened Saturday with four lifts and five runs, including terrain, but that number is expanding daily. Tubing is closed; opening for that: TBD.

Welch Village: The ridgetop hill overlooking the Cannon River Valley some 45 minutes south of St. Paul will open Saturday with at least three lifts, three runs and parts of the terrain park.

Wild Mountain: The Taylors Falls slopes opened earlier this week with several lifts and runs, and more expected for the weekend.

Hyland Hills: The Bloomington slopes operated by Three Rivers Park District are slated to open Friday at 3 p.m.

Trollhaugen: The Dresser, Wis., ski area about an hour northeast of St. Paul opened this week and reported four lifts and eight trails open Wednesday.

Lutsen: Minnesota’s largest ski resort along Lake Superior’s North Shore is projecting a Saturday opening with two lifts and four to five runs.

Como Park: CLOSED. The small-but-convenient St. Paul area site has limited snow-making ability. Officials are hoping for a mid-December opening.

A good general resource for finding Minnesota Alpine skiing options is Explore Minnesota’s Minnesota Slopes page.


Cross-country skiing is just getting started around the state, primarily only at places with snow-making locally.

Across northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, some trails are open. In the metro, Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolisopened one loop Monday.

Your best online resource for Nordic trail reports is at

Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here