Ski season kicks off at Afton Alps; other Minnesota slopes opening soon

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Many ski areas in Minnesota are opening for the season this week.

Afton Alps welcomed skiers and snowboarders Wednesday afternoon, and Buck Hill in Burnsville and Hyland Hills in Bloomington are preparing to open Friday.

Skiers told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS they have been counting down the days to the start of the 2021 season.

"I just love coming out here in my free time and just putting everything else in the world away and worrying about skiing," said 15-year-old Connor Cilley of Woodbury. “I’m very excited to get out on the hills.”

Afton Alps usually starts making snow on Nov. 1 but the warm fall weather meant the resort had to pause its efforts at times.

"Snow-making is an art and a science, so we have a great snow-making team here and a really good snow-making system," Afton Alps general manager Chris Blackwell said. "But Mother Nature is in control. Really below 28 degrees is when we can make snow and when it gets down to 15 degrees, that’s really when we see great productivity."

Afton Alps opened two of its 17 chair lifts Wednesday and expects more runs to open in the coming days, with colder temperatures on the way.

Joseph Rotenberg, a 9-year-old from Chicago, was one of the first skiers on the slopes Wednesday, along with his 6-year-old sister Abby.

"We came because we like skiing and we’re visiting our grandparents in Minnesota for Thanksgiving. We just decided to come here because my mom skied here as a kid," Rotenberg said.

The 2021 ski and snowboard season also comes with new pandemic protocols.

Afton Alps will no longer require reservations for ski times and guests will not have to wear masks outdoors.

"We feel really comfortable with the outdoor experience. However, indoors, our guests will be asked to wear masks when not eating or drinking. And we will have a vaccination proof at some of our larger restaurants," Blackwell said.

Visit Afton Alps’ website for more information on this ski season, including hours of operation during the holiday weekend.