3 of the Best Places To Go Downhill Skiing in Minnesota

Berit Thorkelson
| January 25, 2024 | 1 Minute Read
Ski instructor teaching two children how to ski with various people and a ski lift in the background

Afton Alps, Denmark Township

Established in 1963, thanks to the vision of local farmers, Afton Alps (above) is the largest Twin Cities-area ski resort. It’s a scenic 25-minute drive through the St. Croix River Valley from St. Paul proper, and since they offer digital ticketing, you can leave the metro area and be on a chair lift in under an hour, depending on your starting point.

What Afton lacks in steepness it makes up for in length and volume. Two defined ski and snowboard areas connected by a tunnel—the Meadows and the Highlands—offer 300 acres with 50 trails and three terrain parks.

The resort is celebrating 60 years, with events all season long. Check its website to see what’s on the docket before heading out.

Gondola taking passengers up a snowy mountain with large pine trees on either side Lutsen Mountains

Lutsen Mountains, Lutsen

Lutsen is a Minnesota standout because of its North Shore location, giving it a one-two punch of steep slopes—the steepest in the state—plus 120 or so inches of lake-effect snow a season blanketing Lutsen’s four interconnected peaks. It’s also the largest alpine skiing and snowboarding resort in the Midwest, with 95 runs and terrain parks, a gondola and lodging options including ski in-ski out condos.

New for its 75th season: Raptor Express, a high-speed, six-place chair on Eagle Mountain that effectively triples its predecessor’s capacity while cutting ride-time in half. Also new in 2023: The Stubli opened in the Historic Lutsen Lodge. It’s a casual fondue restaurant with a rustic throwback atmosphere, playing right into Lutsen’s established vibe: like the Alps, only way more Minnesotan.

Welch Village, Welch

Welch is situated on the edge of southern Minnesota’s Driftless Area, where ancient bulldozing glaciers stopped short, leaving the land to dip and roll. The Nelson brothers deemed it a fine spot for a skill hill, debuting five slopes and a little lodge in 1965.

Today’s Welch Village boasts a healthy variety among its 60 runs, spread over 140 acres, with a nice natural bowl that lends a mountain feel. It’s still in the Nelson family, too, and it shows. The place has a solid mom-and-pop vibe and plenty of regulars, many of whom have been coming since way-back-when.

Among the regular events that keep that community alive: The annual March Pond Skip, where about 100 skiers and snowboarders take turns attempting to cross a human-made pool at the foot of the hill. It’s a competition, with extra points for panache, and a cathartic way to end the season.

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