New Year’s Eve Activities at Twin Cities Ski Areas

Looking for a fun, snowy way to ring in the New Year? Ski areas around the Twin Cities have you covered.

At Afton Alps, you can ski or ride until midnight, and take in a fireworks show at 9:00 p.m. The Highlands area will open for the season at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, with chair 13 put into service.

Buck Hill will be open until midnight for skiing and riding, and its snow tubing chutes will be open as well. Be prepared to bring some extra cash, as your lift ticket isn’t valid for the tubing area. But sliding down out of control on a tube is a fun diversion.

Wild Mountain has a party, with a dinner included, at its snow tubing area. (Register here). Skiing and riding is available until 10 p.m.

Trollhaugen keeps the fun going until 3:00 a.m. Saturday. As a bonus, its glade area is now open.There will also be a free concert in the lounge.

Welch Village has a torchlight parade at 6:30 p.m., with fireworks at 7:00 p.m. The wheels will keep turning until 10:00 p.m.



Hyland Hills parking lots overview

Part of the recent $14 million in renovations to Hyland Hills Ski Area is a reconfiguration of the parking lots, including a controversial $20 daily fee for parking near the new chalet during peak hours. The fee may end up not making a lot of difference: If you were deterred from parking in the chalet lot before by a lack of space, not you’ll be deterred from parking there because of the fee.

During peak times, most people will park at the “remote” lots, just north on chalet road, and take one of the shuttle buses.


Shuttle buses take people to and from the Normandale lot

Compared with a few years ago, it’s now easier to find the location of the shuttle pickup in the remote lot. Two flags denote stopping points.

Shuttle stop1

Shuttle stop for Hyland Hills

If you park in the far northern reaches of the Normandale (remote) lot, it may seem like a long walk to the shuttle stop. Then again, it’s probably in the range of what you’d walk at the far reaches of lots at Buck Hill, Afton, or one of the other ski areas.

Near the entrance to the remote lot, you’ll find a sign that tells you if you can proceed to the chalet lot free of charge, or if you might wish to consider saving the money and pulling into the free-at-all-times lot.

Free Parking

Sign by remote lot tells you the status of the chalet lot

The renovation has not removed one chokepoint for the ski area, and that is the railroad track that crosses the two-lane entry road to the chalet. Once you get past that, though, you’ll find a new roundabout.

Fork to the right of the roundabout, and you’ll find a lot for loading and unloading. You’ll have 10 minutes, at most.

Drop-off 1

Drop-offs and pick-ups only

The lot has some repurposed snowboards for anyone who is awaiting a ride.

Drop-off area

Sitting area


There’s also a special place for a ride that most people would prefer not to take.

Patient Pickup

Injured at Hyland Hills? This is where you’ll get a ride.

If, instead of forking off to the right on the roundabout you keep going, you’ll get to a gate at which you must collect a ticket for the parking lot. This is true even if you are parking during off-peak (free) hours. Just be sure to get the ticket stamped at the guest services desk before you leave.


Parking ticket

Parking lot ticket


The lot near the chalet features roughly nine parking lots that float between handicapped use and general-parking purposes, depending on events. When the Courage Center has an outing, for example, the extra handicap-accessible spaces come out. Otherwise, they’re covered with bags and available for anyone’s use.

Flexible parking

Some parking spaces alternate between general parking and handicap parking, depending on need

And there’s your quick tour of the parking lots at Hyland Hills Ski Area.

Hyland Hills new chalet: a tour

Though the 2015-16 season is, to put it charitably, having a slow start, it does have one good thing going for it: a new chalet at Hyland Hills Ski Area.

The new chalet is on the same footprint, more or less, of the old building, and features, as did the old building, a two-story design.

Rear view

Hyland Hills chalet, rear elevation

There’s still a ticket window on the parking lot-level for busy periods.

Outside ticket

Ticketing area at Hyland Hills

Head inside if you wish to sign up for a lesson, or buy your ticket during a slow period.

Guest svcs

Inside ticket sales, ski school

One new feature is a collection of changing rooms. It’s on the ground level, which is probably not ideal for skiers. On the other hand, they won’t have to carry a pair of heavy boots up the stairs. Once you’re done getting changed, there are several banks of day lockers in the building for rent.

Changing room

Changing rooms at Hyland Hills

The ground floor level also has a greatly expanded retail shop that leans heavily on clothing and other soft goods.

Retail shop

Retail shop at Hyland Hills

The old building had a low ceiling and a jigsaw puzzle-like floor plan that impeded traffic flow. Not so with the new building. Everything on the second floor (and ground floor for that matter) empties onto a long hallway with a high ceiling.

Hallway view

Main hallway of the new Hyland Hills chalet, second floor

Each of the services offered on the second floor is set off from the hallway, much like a shop inside a (small) mall.

Food Court

The various service areas on the second floor are set off from a main hallway.

The food service area has both made-to-order and grab-and-go stations, with an electronic sign that can be changed to reflect current offerings.

Food service

Food service stations at Hyland Hills

If there’s a weakness in the building, it’s in the seating area. It is now open, rather than interrupted by the food service and other functions. That may or may not be a good thing.

Sitting area

Public seating area at Hyland Hills

The rental shop is now an integral part of the chalet, rather than sitting separated from the rest of the action.


Rental shop

The restrooms are of the open variety that you’d find in an airport, relying on a 90-degree entrance rather than doors to provide privacy. Inside, the shelves above the fixtures have a stylized touch.

Restroom shelves

Customization in the restroom

The outside of the building features tall lockers suitable for storing skis and boards during the season.

So that’s a quick look at the new chalet.

Love outdoor recreation? Here’s a job for you

Most of us who enjoy the outdoor life are weekend warriors, or use vacation days and evenings as we can. And then there are some people who enjoy it so much that they find a job where they can be around it all the time.

This isn’t to say that jobs in the recreation industry are all play and no work. Far from it. (Think of the work required to maintain snowmaking equipment, for example.) But if you’d like to be near the action, here’s one opportunity to consider in the Twin Cities region.


Wild Mountain/Taylors Falls Recreation is looking for a general manager, who will oversee various departments at the business. Wild Mountain is a year-round operation, with downhill and tubing options in the winter, a water park in the summer, and other forms of recreation.

There’s a (presumably temporary) link at CareerBuilder that has the relevant information.


Ski free at Mt. Kato for a week, if you’re under 13

Good news for families looking for ways to get the kids engaged in something other than electronics: Mt. Kato is offering free skiing and snowboarding to anyone 12 and under during the week of Dec. 14-20.

If you don’t have skis or a snowboard for the kiddos, the ski area is offering half-price rentals during the week.

Entrance sign.jpg

Group lessons are also half price during the week. They start at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 6 p.m. during the week. On the weekend, they start at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m. Children must be at least 7 for snowboard lessons and at least 6 for ski lessons. The half-price offer  does not extend to children who are 13 and older.

You can get more information about the ski area at The area is roughly 85 miles southwest of downtown Minneapolis, in Mankato.

No snow at home? Don’t worry, go skiing

Lacking snow around your house? Don’t worry, be happy. Happy that there are ski areas in Minnesota and beyond that have been busy making snow so that you can go skiing or riding.

The Minnesota Ski Areas Association is the trade group for Minnesota’s ski areas. It does the usual association stuff, such as hold meetings and promote its business. But it also has something that skiers and riders will find useful. It collects snow reports from its members and presents them in one page.

From that page, you can see who’s making snow, who’s not, and what the snow depth is at various resorts.

The page also provides updates on trail openings and other items of interest. For example, you can see that a number of resorts suspended their operations due to warm temperatures and weak business. But take heart. Many are opening again for the weekend.

Buck Hill opens its tubing hill this weekend. Andes Tower Hills has an equipment swap. If you head up to Spirit Mountain, be sure to drive to its new chalet at the bottom of the hill (Grand Avenue), as that’s where all the skier services are right now. Wild Mountain hopes to open a second terrain park. Trollhaugen starts its late-night season, extending Friday business hours until 3 a.m. on Saturdays.


Is Hyland Hills charging $20 just for parking? Yes and no

Hyland Hills Ski Area enters the 2015-16 season with a new chalet and other improvements, thanks to a $14 million overhaul. But it’s also facing criticism for imposing a fee at a parking lot.

A post on, for example, lambasted the Three Rivers Park District, which owns and operates Hyland, for setting “the record for the most ridiculous parking fee to vertical rise ratio in the world.” It also mocks the district for its work to “suck money off of naive soccer moms and Maserati dads,” and putting young customers who drive themselves out of luck.

The parking fee for the lot, near the chalet, is $20.

At first blush, it seems ridiculous, not to mention outrageous. It’s certainly more than you’d pay to park ($0) at the other local ski areas. But there’s more to the story than simple outrage, and getting there requires a consideration of some facts.

The most obvious fact is that Hyland has a very small footprint. Its parking lot is small, and landlocked, meaning there’s not much room to expand it.So crowd control can be a problem. Hence, the fee.

The fee applies only during the peak times: after 2 p.m on weekdays, on weekends, and on holidays. If you don’t want to pay the fee, then you can park in a nearby shuttle lot and take a quick bus ride to the chalet — which is probably what you’ve been doing in years past anyway.

Parking at the chalet has long been so scarce that the park district has regularly used a shuttle bus system to deal with overflow. The main overflow lot, called the Normandale lot, has more than double the spots of the chalet lot, and using it has traditionally been a part of the Hyland experience. (On extremely busy days, Hyland has even shuttled people from a lot by Bush Lake, a two-mile ride on a winding and hilly road.)

Before this season, if you wanted to snag a spot near the chalet during peak times, you had to drive around until a spot opened up. The result of lots of people doing this was congestion in the lot and increased traffic on Chalet Road, which leads into the lot. The latter phenomenon displeased both neighborhood residents (the chalet is at the end of a dead-end road) and city officials. By encouraging people to park in the Normandale lot, the new system should reduce both problems.

By changing to a pay system, the park district changes the logic of allocating spots at the chalet. Before, parking was on a first-come-first-serve basis. During off-peak times, that was not a problem. But during peak times, you would see a queue of cars waiting to get into a close-in spot. Any decent economist could tell you that if you see a line of people, that’s a sign that the price of whatever is being served (in this case, a parking spot) is too low. (If in fact $20 is too high, the lot will be unused and everyone will use either a drop-off option or use the shuttle. It’s likely that the park district would then lower the fee.)

The pay system, by contrast, operates on the value proposition: If you place sufficient value on parking near the chalet, you pay; if you don’t, you park and take the shuttle. And if these are Maserati parking spots, as the NewSchool writer mentioned, you also might call them a (voluntary) tax on the wealthy — something that is not exactly unheard of in Minnesota.

As newly configured, the parking lot at the chalet has three areas: A drop-off zone for personal vehicles, a drop-off zone for buses, and paid parking spots. Fred Seymour, director of alpine services for the park district, says that the new setup helps separate out the separate functions served by these areas.

The new parking system uses a machine to dispense tickets, as is the case with many parking lots elsewhere.

When the buses are scheduled to run, they run on a continual basis, said Seymour. And on the few times that I’ve visited Hyland during a peak period, I haven’t had to wait long for a bus.

The chalet lot now has 167 parking spots available, with 20 reserved as handicapped spots under the Americans With Disabilities Act. (People with a handicap license plate can park free of charge.) The Normandale Lot has 359 total spots (eight spots are handicapped spots).