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18 Popular Downhill Skiing Destinations in Minnesota

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Family on top of Lutsen Mountains

18 Popular Downhill Skiing Destinations in Minnesota

Experience the thrill of downhill skiing in Minnesota at 18 scenic and affordable ski areas. Whether you prefer fast technical lines or long cruising runs, Minnesota ski areas offer a mixture of terrain to keep every level of skier challenged.

Ski lift at Giants Ridge, Biwabik

Ski lift at Giants Ridge, Biwabik

Northeast Minnesota Ski Areas

Minnesota may be known for its lakes and prairies, but the North Shore’s Sawtooth Mountains offer spectacular drops and some of the Midwest’s biggest and best ski runs, with a bonus of dark green forests and Lake Superior’s steely winter blues as the backdrop.

Located off Lake Superior's North Shore, Lutsen Mountains has three on-site properties, 2 unique dining experiences and live music 7 days a week, which contribute to the upscale winter resort ambiance. In addition to Lutsen's 95 runs and terrain parks on 2 mountains, skiers and boarders enjoy spectacular views of Lake Superior.

Duluth's Spirit Mountain also offers incredible views of the great lake as you descend the hills. Mountain Villas are located on Spirit Mountain, and there are two full-service hotels within a mile of the mountain. Skiers also can take advantage of the restaurants and night life available throughout Duluth. Four separate freestyle terrain areas are located throughout the ski area.

    mom with kids at Lutsen Mountains ski resort

    Lutsen Mountains is home to Minnesota's tallest ski slope

    In Minnesota's Iron Range, Giants Ridge in Biwabik provides a ski-out-the-door lodge at the base of the hill and views of stunning landscapes and vistas. Guests can indulge themselves with all the amenities, including a crackling fireplace and cozy hot tub in their suites, along with a restaurant and bar, salon spa and an arcade for the kids. Giants Ridge offers 35 runs, plus 60 km of trails for Nordic skiers. Snow machines keep Nordic trails open even when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate.

    Near Grand Rapids, Mt. Itasca Winter Sports Center also goes beyond downhill, boarding and tubing with ski jumping, plus extensive training for Nordic skiers and biathlon participants who compete nationally.

    • Chester Bowl, Duluth
      Vertical Drop: 175 ft. Longest Run: 1,250 ft.
      Downhill ski, terrain park, cross-country ski
    • Giants Ridge, Biwabik
      Vertical Drop: 500 ft. Longest Run: 4,000 ft.
      Downhill ski, terrain park, cross-country ski, tubing
    • Lutsen Mountains, Lutsen
      Vertical Drop: 825 ft. Longest Run: 6,580 ft.
      Downhill ski, terrain park, cross-country ski
    • Mt. Itasca Winter Sports Center, Coleraine
      Vertical Drop: 180 ft. Longest Run: 1,320 ft.
      Downhill ski, terrain park, tubing, cross-country ski
    • Spirit Mountain, Duluth
      Vertical Drop: 700 ft. Longest Run: 5,400 ft.
      Downhill ski, terrain park, cross-country ski, tubing
    Carriage ride and chalet at Buena Vista, Bemidji

    Carriage ride and chalet at Buena Vista, Bemidji / Jennifer Laitala

    Central/Northwest Minnesota Ski Areas

    In the northwest, the newest ski destination in Minnesota, Detroit Mountain, is complete with a lodge and 15 runs. It’s among a growing number of ski hills that also build runs designated for tubing. Further north and west, Buena Vista Ski Area near Bemidji features 16 runs and 25 km of Nordic trails.

    In central Minnesota, both Kimball’s Power Ridge and Nisswa’s Ski Gull provide more than a dozen runs and terrain parks. If you keep heading north, you’ll find 15 km of Nordic trails plus 16 runs at Alexandria area’s Andes Tower Hills.

    • Andes Tower Hills, Kensington
      Vertical Drop: 290 ft. Longest Run: 3,000 ft.
      Downhill ski, terrain park, tubing, cross-country ski
    • Buena Vista Ski Area, Bemidji
      Vertical Drop: 230 ft. Longest Run: 2,000 ft.
      Downhill ski, terrain park, tubing, cross-country ski
    • Detroit Mountain Recreation Area, Detroit Lakes
      Vertical Drop: 210 ft. Longest Run: 2,200 ft.
      Downhill ski, terrain park, tubing, cross-country ski
    • Mount Ski Gull, Nisswa
      Vertical Drop: 268 ft. Longest Run: 2,200 ft.
      Downhill ski, terrain park, tubing
    • Powder Ridge Winter Recreation Area, Kimball
      Vertical Drop: 290 ft. Longest Run: 2,400 ft.
      Downhill ski, terrain park, tubing
    Buck Hill Ski Area at night, Burnsville

    Buck Hill Ski Area at night, Burnsville

    Minneapolis-St. Paul Ski Areas

    Twin Cities area visitors will find an array of excellent downhill areas. Afton Alps in Hastings has steadily targeted young snowboarders and expanded under ownership by Vail Resorts. It added 60-foot big-air jumps, expanded to six terrain parks and built a new lodge with bean-bag chairs and a burrito yurt for young athletes.

    For traditional skiers, there are 48 runs following bluffs carved by the St. Croix River. Wild Mountain in Taylors Falls also takes advantages of the bluffs for its 25 runs.

    You can ski the runs that helped groom Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn and hone racing skills at Burnsville’s Buck Hill. Sixteen runs cross the hills, along with one of the state’s biggest tubing parks. The terrain park sets up with giant airbags a few times a winter for boarders who want to practice freestyle tricks with a guaranteed soft landing, and you can even ski in the summer on Buck Hill's artificial turf.

      Skier jumping with buildings behind at Hyland Hills

      Ski jumper at Hyland Hills in Bloomington

      Other popular Twin Cities destinations include Hyland Hills Ski Area in the heart of Bloomington and Maple Grove’s Elm Creek Winter Recreation Area. Hyland has 14 runs that are a favorite for beginners and snowboarders with multiple terrain areas. It’s also a destination for serious ski jumpers to rocket down Bush Lake’s 70-foot jump. Elm Creek also features gentle downhill runs, a terrain park, tubing runs and everything else related to winter, from 19 km of Nordic ski trails to skijoring (skiing with dogs) and snowmobiling.

      • Afton Alps, Hastings
        Vertical Drop: 350 ft. Longest Run: 3,000 ft.
        Downhill ski, terrain park
      • Buck Hill, Burnsville
        Vertical Drop: 310 ft. Longest Run: 1,250 ft.
        Downhill ski, terrain park, tubing
      • Elm Creek Winter Recreation Area, Maple Grove
        Vertical Drop: 100 ft. Longest Run: 800 ft.
        Downhill ski, terrain park, tubing, cross-country ski
      • Hyland Hills Ski Area, Bloomington
        Vertical Drop: 185 ft. Longest Run: 1,200 ft.
        Downhill ski, terrain park
      • Wild Mountain, Taylors Falls
        Vertical Drop: 300 ft. Longest Run: 5,280 ft.
        Downhill ski, terrain park, tubing
      Snowboarding at Welch Village ski area terrain park

      Snowboarding at Welch Village ski area terrain park

      Southern Minnesota Ski Areas

      In southern Minnesota, stunning bluffs of the Mississippi River valley provide long drops and excitement to the 14 runs at Coffee Mill Ski Area near Wabasha. As a bonus, you can round out a day with eagle watching along Lake Pepin.

      About 20 minutes west of Red Wing and tucked into the Cannon River Valley, Welch Village ranks among Minnesota’s biggest ski areas with 60 runs.

      Mankato’s Mount Kato offers 19 runs.