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11 Best Ski Resorts in Minnesota

Written by Michael Law
Nov 13, 2020

Minnesota skiers are lucky to have decent sized ski hills within striking distance of many of the major cities. Several of the largest resorts are clustered around Duluth, making it easy to base yourself here and visit several in a ski vacation. Other resorts are clustered around Minneapolis-Saint Paul, which make them accessible for easy day trips or to do some night skiing after work.

Many of the ski hills offer free skiing to children in the 4th grade as part of the 4th Grade Passport program. Preregistration is required.

Changes for the 2020/2021 Ski Season: Be sure to check the resort website prior to your visit. Due to health and safety concerns, ski resorts in Minnesota may require that lift tickets be purchased in advance and that mask and physical distance rules be adhered to either in lift lines or inside resort facilities. Some resorts may have visitor limits in place.

For all the details on where to find great skiing, see our list of the best ski resorts in Minnesota.

1. Lutsen Mountains

Lutsen Mountains

Lutsen Mountains will surprise you with its sheer size for a Midwest ski resort. Here, you'll find not just one, but four interconnected mountains providing a wide array of skiing and boarding options.

Lutsen Mountains receives an average of 10 feet of snow each season and has a state-of-the-art snowmaking system, recently improved by a nine-million-dollar injection of capital investment. The ski hill has 95 named runs that are predominantly intermediate in nature. If you like long blue cruisers, ride the six-person Caribou Express; if steep and difficult is more your thing, head over to the Iron Mountain chair for some double black diamond runs.

The vertical drop is 825 feet, and this is serviced by eight lifts, including a six-passenger gondola. Boarders and freestylers will love the two terrain parks: Timberjack Progression Park and Mystery Mountain Boarder X. Timberjack has all kinds of bumps, humps, and other things to ride on or along. The Mystery Mountain Boarder X is full of banked corners, steep sections, and rollers.

Lusten Mountains is part of the Indy Pass program

Official site: https://www.lutsen.com/

2. Spirit Mountain

Spirit Mountain | MarLeah Cole / photo modified

Spirit Mountain is unlike many other ski hills because instead of being off in the wilderness somewhere, it's basically in the suburbs of Duluth. This handy location makes it perfect if you want to sneak off for an afternoon or morning of skiing.

Spirit Mountain has seven lifts that service a vertical drop of 700 feet. The 22 runs here are generally intermediate to beginner trails and just perfect for skiers of all abilities. The impressive lodge offers a place to warm up on a cold day, and the large windows provide wonderful views out over Spirit Lake. Five different dining options are available, from cafeteria style to table service to grab and go.

In addition to skiing, this hill is a hot spot for snowboarding and freestyling. Spirit has four different freestyle areas namely: Spirit Park, Lone Oak Tow Park, 18-Line, and Shark Park.

For non-skiers, an Alpine Coaster races down a twisty set of rails. You control the brakes, so you can be as brave or as timid as you want. A tubing hill is also available as are cross-country ski trails.

One of the most unique things to do at Spirit Mountain is lift-serviced fat biking. Through the season on Sundays, or other prime days where the weather allows, take your bike to the top and ride down specially created courses.

Need more skiing? Night skiing is available Wednesday through Sunday until 8pm.

Spirit Mountain is part of the Indy Pass program.

Official site: https://www.spiritmt.com/

3. Giants Ridge

Giants Ridge | Photo Copyright: Explore Minnesota, Giants Ridge

Just over an hour north of Duluth near the town of Biwabik is the Giants Ridge ski area. This ski hill has 35 named runs spread out across the mountain, along with an impressive base lodge.

The ski hill gets just over seven feet of snow each season and also has an extensive snowmaking system to make up any shortfalls. Nearly three quarters of the runs are classified as beginner or intermediate, but you can still find plenty of challenging terrain here. Giants Ridge also has excellent places to learn how to ski.

The vertical drop here is a respectable 500 feet and is serviced by five chairlifts. If you prefer snowboarding or freestyling to skiing, Giants Ridge has two terrain parks. The first is Placid Terrain Park, and it's targeted towards beginners; the second is Garmisch, which has larger jumps and includes extensive rails and boxes.

Night skiing is available on most of the mountain as is snow tubing with three lanes and a dedicated rope tow. A separate ticket is required to use the snow tube run.

Fat biking is also an option. Bring your bike up on the high-speed chairlift and take any one of three designated runs down. If you'd rather ride on level ground, fat biking is allowed on the 37 miles of cross-country ski trails located in the base area.

If all that activity isn't enough, you can also go snowshoeing on three miles of forested trails.

Official site: https://www.giantsridge.com/

4. Coffee Mill Ski Area

You'll never lose a group member when you ski at Coffee Mill Ski area, as all the runs funnel down to one point at the bottom. Collect all your ski buddies and head back up to the top on one of the two main chairs.

Skiing in Minnesota can be bone-chillingly cold at times, and coupled with brisk winds, it can be downright unpleasant. Fortunately, Coffee Mill is situated in a way that protects you from the wind and at the same time collects as much snow as possible from passing storms.

The 14 runs at Coffee Mill are well separated from one another. The vertical drop is 425 feet, which is blanketed by four feet of snow each year, backed up by 100 percent snowmaking coverage. A dedicated snowboarding/freestyling area is set aside for those looking to ride the rails or grab some big air.

The resort has one snowboard park, and the entire hill is open for night skiing.

Official site: http://www.coffeemillski.com/

5. Welch Village

Welch Village | Photo Copyright: Explore Minnesota, Welch Village

Located less than an hour from Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Welch Village offers up great family skiing. This surprisingly large ski hill has 50 named trails with a vertical drop of 360 feet. With 11 lifts, you'll rarely wait in line and can get back up to the top quickly.

The ski hill is divided up into three areas: East Slopes, West Slopes, and The Back Bowl. The East Slopes have the greatest concentration of beginner and intermediate runs, the West Slopes skew a bit more towards intermediate and advanced, and the Back Bowl is expert territory only.

Welch Village is an ideal place to head to after work, as they offer night skiing on all the runs. Boarders and freestylers will want to check out the terrain park, which features, among other things, a giant log perfect for sliding along.

Official site: https://www.welchvillage.com/

6. Afton Alps Resort

Kids enjoying the chairlift ride at Afton Alps Resort | Photo Copyright: Explore Minnesota, Afton Alps Resort

Changes are afoot at Afton Alps. Now owned by Vail Resorts, Afton Alps is seeing a renaissance of sorts. Ten million dollars of new investments in the hill have resulted in an improved skier experience. The resort is less than 30 minutes from Minneapolis, making it a perfect place for night skiing.

The resort has a 350-foot drop and 300 skiable acres serviced by 18 chairlifts. With so many lifts, you'll rarely need to wait in line. The 48 named runs are generally intermediate in nature with a few short, steep black diamonds for added fun.

The state of the art snowmaking system covers a majority of the hill, and with the colder northern temperatures, the hill can open early in the season.

Afton Alps has an extensive terrain park for snowboarders and freestylers with boxes, rails, and jumps for all abilities.

Afton Alps is part of the EPIC pass program.

Official site: https://www.aftonalps.com/

7. Wild Mountain

Wild Mountain | Photo Copyright: Wild Mountain

Wild Mountain is just over an hour northeast of Minneapolis-Saint Paul along the shores of the St. Croix River. You'll find 26 runs descending down a 300-foot vertical drop. The runs are serviced by four chairlifts. Night skiing across all runs is available until 9pm each night.

Four terrain parks provide endless laps over rails, jumps, boxes, and all kinds of other interesting features.

Off the ski hill, snow tubing is an option in the Wild Chutes tube park.

Wild Mountain strives to have as long a season as possible. In fact, one year they opened on October 7th, but they generally try to get the place up and running by the 1st or 2nd week of November.

Official site: https://www.wildmountain.com/

8. Buck Hill Ski Area

Buck Hill Ski Area | Wendy Berry / photo modified

Buck Hill is located in the suburbs of Minneapolis-Saint Paul, only 20 minutes from downtown. This is a small ski hill with 10 lifts and a decent 309 feet of vertical, and it's been the training ground of famous skiers like Lindsay Vonn. In fact, the resort has named a lift in her honor.

Buck Hill is also a snowboarding and freestyle hot spot, with an amazing terrain park along with a tubing hill.

The resort has extensive snowmaking capabilities, and the place is lit up like a Christmas tree at night. It's a good place to learn how to ski, with gentle beginner areas and a great ski school. Children under five years of age ski free with a paid adult lift ticket.

Buck Hill is part of the Indy Pass program.

Official site: https://buckhill.com/

9. Powder Ridge

Powder Ridge is about 1.5 hours northwest of Minneapolis-Saint Paul in the town of Kimball. Comparable in vertical drop to many of the other smaller hills closer to the city at 300 feet, this ski hill has five lifts and 15 runs.

The three terrain parks at Powder Ridge are North Park, suitable for advance riders; Cedar Park, suitable for beginners and intermediates; and South Park, geared towards higher level intermediates and advanced riders. Each of the parks have rails, boxes, tubes, ledges, pole jams, and jump lines of varying levels of difficulty.

Powder Ridge is part of the Indy Pass program.

Official site: https://www.powderridge.com/

10. Mount Kato

Mount Kato is a 1.5-hour drive south of Minneapolis-Saint Paul in Mankato. Nineteen runs are spread across the front and back side of Mount Kato and are serviced by eight chairlifts along with two surface lifts. The vertical drop is 240 feet.

Mount Kato is well known for its four excellent terrain parks: Sleepy Hollow, Little Forest, Sleepy Creek, and Sundance. You'll also find a tubing park for those non-skiers.

As with most resorts in Minnesota, night skiing is offered most nights of the week.

Official site: https://www.mountkato.com/#gsc.tab=0

11. Andes Tower Hills

Andes Tower Hills is a small, family-run hill about 2.5 hours northwest of Minneapolis-Saint Paul. The hill has six lifts and 16 named runs, and the vertical drop is 290 feet. Snowboarders and freestylers will find a small but enjoyable terrain park.

The 35 acres of the ski hill is covered by snowmaking and lights for night skiing. The tubing chutes have a designated tow line for tubing, which takes place only on the weekends, and a separate ticket is required.

Official site: https://www.andestowerhills.com/

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