A Local Skier Ranks the Best Ski Resorts near Minneapolis and St. Paul

best ski resorts near minneapolis st paul

When I moved from Denver to Minneapolis so many year ago, there was one transition that hit me harder than any other:

The skiing.

As an avid skier, I knew I had to find some good places to ski around Minneapolis and St. Paul. And I’m happy to report back that after skiing all over the state, I’ve managed to find some decent spots!

Today, I’m breaking down all the noteworthy downhill ski resorts within about 2 hours of the Twin Cities.

PS – Want to check out some of these mountains but aren’t super sold on the idea of skiing? Check out our guide to snow tubing in the Twin Cities.

But first, how is the downhill skiing near the Twin Cities?

While it didn’t quite make my formal comparison of Minneapolis vs. Denver, it’s worth taking a minute to discuss our local ski scene.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: these aren’t the Rocky Mountains.

Most of Minnesota’s “ski resorts” are either large hills or river bluffs, and only one of the following places is technically a mountain. This means the runs are much, much shorter, and in general, there’s far less snow.

But they can still be plenty of fun! And there’s some advantages, too!

Since we aren’t exactly a destination ski location, crowds here are much lower, prices are much more affordable, and obviously, the hills are much easier to get to!

All this means that whether you’re an avid skier looking to scratch the itch, or a family looking for a more affordable way to experience the slopes, these local spots are definitely worth checking out! (In their own, charming way.)

Onto the rankings!

Map of Ski Resorts near Minneapolis and St. Paul

The best ski resort in Minnesota: Lutsen Mountains (Lutsen, Minnesota)

Lutsen is without question the best skiing in Minnesota.

As Minnesota’s only geological mountain range, Lutsen Mountain sits among The North Shore’s unique Sawtooth Mountains. This means it has by far the most vertical and longest runs of any of our state’s ski areas.

If you’re looking for a real “mountain” ski experience, Lutsen is pretty much the only place you’ll find it near the Twin Cities. While it’s still relatively small compared to the biggest ski resorts out West, Lutsen is still really darn good for our humble Midwestern state! 

Take it from someone who’s lived in Denver – while Lutsen might not completely satisfy the most hardcore of skiers, if I was a cost-conscious skier, someone getting into the sport, or even a family looking for a little less hassle, I would definitely recommend saving some bucks and checking out Lutsen Mountain, even compared to some of the more popular resorts out West.

  • Distance from Minneapolis: 4 hours
  • Vertical Rise: 767 feet
  • Longest ski run: 0.76 miles

More info:

The second best ski resort in Minnesota: Spirit Mountain (Duluth, MN)

I’m a big fan of Spirit Mountain.

It’s located in Duluth, Minnesota, about 2 hours north of the cities. However, those who make the trip will be rewarded with what I’d consider the second best local skiing experience.

To me, Spirit Mountain is one of the few places to ski in Minnesota that actually feels like you’re taking true “ski runs.” Unlike a lot of the Twin Cities ski hills, Spirit Mountain has over 500 feet of vertical rise with runs that stretch up to half a mile. This means that you can get plenty of turns in before it’s time to load up on the chair lift again, making it feel much more like real mountain skiing than most anywhere else in the state.

  • Distance from Minneapolis: 2 hours 7 minutes
  • Vertical Rise: 565 feet
  • Longest ski run: 0.5 miles

More info:

  • Address: 9500 Spirit Mountain Pl, Duluth, MN 55810
  • Website: Spirit Mountain

The closest ski hill in the Twin Cities: Hyland Hills Ski and Snowboard Area (Bloomington, MN)

Located in Bloomington, MN, Hyland Hills is just 15 minutes south of Minneapolis. This is one of just two places where you can ski with a front row seat to the city’s skyline!

The trade off for the convenience is that the runs at Hyland Hills are the shortest around. That said, if you want a quick and convenient place to ski, it doesn’t get any closer than Hyland Hills!

  • Distance from Minneapolis: 15 minutes
  • Vertical Rise: 165 feet
  • Longest ski run: 0.27 miles

More info:

The most affordable, and most popular, place to ski in Minneapolis: Buck Hill (Burnsville, MN)

buck hill burnsville mn

Located 25 minutes south of downtown Minneapolis, Buck Hill is a bit of a local legend. You’ve certainly seen it if you’ve ever driven down Interstate 35W (who hasn’t) since this hill is located directly on the highway.

Its ease of access means it’s extremely popular. Local Twin Cities ski teams use Buck Hill as a training grounds (hey, this is where Olympic gold medalist Lindsay Vonn got her start!) and lots of suburban kids love to hang out in the terrain park.

Again, the runs are pretty straight and basic, but who cares? Buck Hill is all about convenience!

Plus, Buck Hill might have the best deal on lift tickets in town. For just $20 bucks, you can take a quick trip to the slopes with an “early bird” (10 AM to Noon) or “Late Night” ticket (7:00 PM to 9:00 PM).

  • Distance from Minneapolis: 15 minutes
  • Vertical Rise: 246 feet
  • Longest ski run: 0.27 miles

More info:

  • Address: 15400 Buck Hill Rd, Burnsville, MN 55306
  • Website: Buck Hill

The best deal if you’re planning a trip: Afton Alps (Hastings, MN)

Afton Alps is a ski resort located between Afton and Hastings, Minnesota. This makes it the closest ski resort to St. Paul, since it sits just 25 minutes east of downtown St. Paul.

At Afton Alps, you’ll find nearly a dozen lifts servicing relatively short, basic runs.

Afton is also unique in being the only Minnesota ski resort on the “Epic Pass.” That means it’s technically owned by Vail resorts, and buying a season pass to Afton Alps will grant you access to dozens of world class resorts in Colorado, Utah, California, Canada, and even Australia!

For the skier planning a ski vacation or two, this is the perfect setup to lock in a good deal on your vacation lift tickets, while scoring basically unlimited local skiing in the process.

That said, I’ll let you in on some skier’s drama. Epic Pass resorts can be controversial, since Vail is known to cut costs to the bone and maximize profits at all costs. What this means for us local skiers is that, since Vail bought Afton Alps, crowds at this spot have increased significantly.

  • Distance from Minneapolis: 35 minutes
  • Vertical Rise: 276 feet
  • Longest ski run: 0.32 miles

More info:

  • Address: 6600 Peller Ave S, Hastings, MN 55033
  • Website: Afton Alps

The best terrain near the Twin Cities: Welch Village (Welch, MN)

As the name implies, Welch Village is located in Welch, Minnesota, about 50 minutes from the Twin Cities.

Welch Village is probably my favorite place to ski within an hour’s drive of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

For a ski area near the Twin Cities, it has surprisingly solid terrain, including a good mix of greens, blues, and blacks, multiple chair lifts, and even a “back bowl” area! (By Minnesota standards)

The only negative with Welch is that prices are noticeably more expensive than other nearby ski areas. (Friday-Sunday tickets currently run $70 per person, and rentals are also on the higher end.)

  • Distance from Minneapolis: 55 minutes
  • Vertical Rise: 294 feet
  • Longest ski run: 0.45 miles

More info:

  • Address: 26685 County 7 Blvd, Welch, MN 55089
  • Website: Welch Village

An underrated spot near the Twin Cities: Wild Mountain (Taylors Falls, MN)

wild mountain ski area

While it’s still pretty small overall, Wild Mountain is a great option for someone wanting a decent ski experience near the Twin Cities.

Located 1 hour from Minneapolis in Taylors Falls (one of our favorite day trips from Minneapolis!), Wild Mountain offers a basic ski experience at a good price.

Sure, the runs are still pretty short, and the amenities are pretty spartan (prepare yourself for ancient wooden chair lifts) but I love Wild Mountain nonetheless. The runs are noticeably longer than the Twin Cities spots like Afton, Buck Hill, and Hyland Hills, and the distance from the cities means the crowds are much less, too.

  • Distance from Minneapolis: 1 hour
  • Vertical Rise: 268 feet
  • Longest ski run: 0.44 miles

More info:

  • Address: 37200 Wild Mountain Rd, Taylors Falls, MN 55084
  • Website: Wild Mountain

The best nearby place to ski in Wisconsin: Trollhaugen (Dresser, WI)

Trollhaugen is a small ski area located in Dresser, Wisconsin. 

Similar to Wild Mountain, Trollhaugen is almost exactly 1 hour from Minneapolis. And I consider that a good comparison – the two areas ski and feel pretty similar to me. Both are similar sized, and their distance from the cities means you can avoid the crowds that sometimes occur at many of the more local hills. Likewise, prices are pretty similar, at about $50-60 for a full day ticket.

  • Distance from Minneapolis: 1 hour
  • Vertical Rise: 226 feet
  • Longest ski run: 0.4 miles

More info:

  • Address: 2232 100th Ave, Dresser, WI 54009
  • Website: Trollhaugen

Special thanks to JollyTurns.com Minnesota for ski resort stats.

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