18 Popular Downhill Skiing & Boarding Destinations in Minnesota

By Explore Minnesota

On top of Lutsen Mountains overlooking Lake Superior
On top of Lutsen Mountains overlooking Lake Superior

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.

Northeast Minnesota Ski Areas

Giants Ridge chair lift
Giants Ridge chair lift

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.

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: 1,088 ft. Longest Run: 10,560 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

Central/Northwest Minnesota Ski Areas

Buena Vista Ski Area
Buena Vista Ski Area

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: 298 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

Minneapolis-St. Paul Ski Areas

Night skiing at Buck Hill Ski Area
Night skiing at Buck Hill Ski Area

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.

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

Southern Minnesota Ski Areas

Welch Village Ski Area in Welch
Welch Village Ski Area in Welch

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.

Coffee Mill Ski Area, Wabasha
Vertical Drop: 425 ft. Longest Run: 4,300 ft.
Downhill ski, terrain park

Mount Kato Ski Area, Mankato
Vertical Drop: 240 ft. Longest Run: 2,800 ft.
Downhill ski, terrain park, tubing

Welch Village Ski and Snowboard Area, Welch
Vertical Drop: 360 ft. Longest Run: 4,800 ft.
Downhill ski, terrain park

 

For more information on Minnesota ski and snowboard areas, check out the Slopes page.