Ski areas in Minnesota usually open around mid-November, depending on the weather. Occasionally, it will be cold enough to snow or to make artificial snow by the end of October, but sometimes it stays too warm until around Thanksgiving. Opportunities to ski and snowboard in Minnesota abound and usually last through March. These areas are all within a reasonable drive from the Twin Cities.
Hyland Ski and Snowboard Area is the closest to Minneapolis and St. Paul in Bloomington, just west of the Mall of America. It's right in the Twin Cities metropolitan area so it gets busy. The Ski and Snowboard area is part of the larger Hyland Lake Park Reserve, which offers downhill skiing and snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoe trails, and a Nordic ski jumping complex. This is a good spot for beginners or for freshening up skills.
This resort in Burnsville, about 30 minutes' drive south from Minneapolis or St. Paul, offers skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing. Buck Hill is most famous for its ski racing teams and has produced Olympic medalists like Lyndsay Von and World Cup champions like Kristina Kozick. Winter tubing parties can be customized for private parties for 40 or more.
Off-season you can enjoy mountain biking, camps, team development activities, and music concerts.
Afton Alps is one of the largest snowboarding and snow tubing areas near the Twin Cities. The resort is in Hastings, about 45 minutes southwest of St. Paul. Skiing and snowboarding lessons are available for all ages and levels; group lessons start for kids age 4. Ski and snowboarding equipment, including high-performance ski equipment, is available to rent by the day.
Welch Village Resort is popular with local snow sports enthusiasts. It's about an hour southeast of the Twin Cities in the town of Welch. Lessons are tailored to all experience levels. Special rates for lift tickets and equipment rentals are available for groups. Special events and concerts are a draw. They also offer a Night Club Membership: For a set fee, skiers get a no-cost lift ticket for use after 4 p.m.
Wild Mountain is in Taylors Falls, on the Wisconsin border, about an hour northeast of the Twin Cities. There's skiing, snowboarding, and a separate area for snow tubing. The terrain accommodates all levels from novice to expert with 26 trails spread over 100 acres. Snowmaking and daily grooming ensure action even when there's no snow, and tubing down the Wild Chutes is fun for the whole family.
Just over the state line in Dresser, Wisconsin, Trollhaugen is a small resort well known for its Friday night specials, and open late into the night with reasonably priced lift tickets and live music. It has a small halfpipe for snowboarders, a bunny hill with a rope tow for beginner skiers, and a long, fast hill for an advanced run.
In Mankato, just under a two-hour drive southwest of Minneapolis, Mount Kato Ski Area offers skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing. Discount rates are available for kids 12 and under and seniors 62 and up. Gather your friends and arrange for a snow tubing party.
Near Duluth, Spirit Mountain is popular with the many Twin Cities residents who spend the weekend skiing or snowboarding. The four-season Adventure Park has a 3,200-foot elevated coaster ride that takes you through the forest and down the mountain at speeds up to 26 mph. Chair lifts provide beautiful views of the area, including Lake Superior.
Lutsen Mountains is a fully equipped ski and snowboard resort on the north shore of Lake Superior, north of Duluth in the scenic Sawtooth Mountains. It has four interconnected mountain peaks, 95 runs, a high-speed chairlift, and live music and dance parties. Progression Parks offer jibs and jumps on all four mountains, and the resort boasts the longest slopestyle run in the Midwest. There's even freestyle terrain with halfpipes and terrain parks for a challenge.