Early ski season begins in Minnesota

Ski season is off to an early start in Minnesota, compared to recent years.

Wild Mountain north of Taylors Falls is now open.

Afton Alps is set to open Friday, with final preparations currently underway out on the slopes.

“We are just thrilled to welcome everyone back,” said Afton Alps General Manager Trevor Maring.

Maring said the timely start is a welcome surprise, given the unseasonable warmth in early November.

Minneapolis and St. Paul set a record on Nov. 2, with a high temperature of 76 degrees.

“Quite a change over the last two weeks, when you were here in sandals!” Maring said. “Now we have a snow-covered mountain. Once we saw the cold weather move in, we were ready.”

Afton Alps started making snow Nov. 7.

Maring said being able to open before Thanksgiving is always preferable, so visitors can enjoy a long weekend of skiing and snowboarding.

“It was a pretty good turnaround here. We had a good cold snap over the weekend and the beginning portion of this week, so we were able to make quite a bit of snow,” said Senior Manager of Mountain Operations Jesse Kimes. “We have more cold weather coming, so we’re hoping to expand terrain pretty quickly.”

Afton Alps expects to have three or four runs open Friday, with all 37 open by the start of the new year.

Maring said guests will also notice a change in staffing this year compared to last year.

“We took a new direction with our employees and it’s paid off tremendously,” Maring said.

The ski resort boosted wages for employees, with pay now starting at $20 per hour.

Maring said they had a big response to the new incentives so they expect to be fully staffed this season, which means shorter wait times at chair lifts and restaurants.

“It’s been hard the last couple years for everyone. Fun is our product so we are thrilled to just lean in and make it the best possible experience for everyone,” Maring said.

The season kicks off at 3:30 p.m. Friday, with a DJ playing music at the base of the slopes.

There will be free s’mores for opening weekend and then every Saturday and Sunday for the rest of the season.

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