Snowmaking upgrades pay off at Afton Alps

What can millions of dollars do for a ski area? A lot, especially if it’s put into the snowmaking system.

When Vail Resorts purchased Afton Alps a few years ago, it quickly put in $10 million in improvements, much of it for the snowmaking system. And if the quality and coverage of the snow yesterday was any indication, the money was well spent.

Consider that the Twin Cities has had a very bad winter for natural snowfall. Warm temperatures. Rain. Few days with a major snowfall.

Yet yesterday afternoon, when the temperatures were in the mid-to-upper 60s,  saw some fine corn snow all around, with few brown spots in the snow, and only a few more spots of darker, “grippy” snow. Oh, and almost the entire area was open for skiing and riding, even most trails in the Highlands area.


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Belinda’s Bowl at Afton Alps: A fine day for corn snow


Yes, it was a bit odd to see the greens and tee boxes from the golf course here and there. But the snow that was on the trails was still rideable. While there was some standing water near the Alps lodge, the snow on the top of the lifts was merely slushy, not “puddly,” which is to say, not standing water. The lifties working the exit ramps were busy moving around snow to give customers a smooth ride off, which perhaps also prevented puddles from forming.


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A golf course green (or teebox)  visible while riding chair #14


There were lots of events during the day, including a pond skim. Surprisingly, three-quarters of the first 30 attempts across the pond were successfull. Of the snowboards, 10 out of 16 made it, while 12 out of 14 skiers made it.

Compared to some other ski areas I’ve visited in late season, Afton Alps didn’t have a tired feel at all. Unfortunately, though, the season around here was just too short and bereft of natural snow.  Maybe next year.



Snowboarder at the Afton Alps pond skim



Pond skimming weekend

The fat lady is warming up to sing, with pond skimming events on tap for Saturday, March 12.

At Welch Village, skiers and riders will descend Dan’s Dive onto the pond. Registration will start at 11:30 a.m. at Madd Jaxx. There will be an outdoor grill and live music afterwards.

Buck Hill has events throughout the day Saturday. Its pond skim will take place from 4:30- 5 p.m.

Hyland Hills hosts a pond skim, 1-3 p.m. Wear a costume and be eligible to win a prize.

Afton Alps has a number of events, including a pond skim that starts at 3 p.m.

The pond skim at Wild Mountain starts at 3 p.m. Registration begins at 1:30 p.m.

Trollhaugen has not yet announced plans for a pond skim.