Nestled in the St. Croix River Valley in the tiny town of Afton, MN, lies the popular weekend getaway and nighttime ski location of Afton Alps. Yes, ‘The State of Hockey’ is better known for its skating than its skiing, but with everyone on skates and such similar edge control, skiing comes as second nature to Minnesotans — and let me tell you, the people here love to ski.
Offering 300 skiable acres and 350 feet of elevation gain, Twin City locals can ride Afton’s 18 lifts for 135 days in a typical season. Rarely can you visit this hill without seeing ski racers training, parents teaching young kids, bonfires ripping at the base, and Minnesota residents frolicking in ski culture.
Buckling my first set of boots at the ripe age of 4, I was immersed in this midwest ski culture at a young age, and many of my cherished memories from my earliest days skiing came at Afton Alps. From the notorious stories of my youth, straight-lining some of my first-ever runs while my dad begged me to slow down (PS— not much has changed), to middle school ski club sharing my first-ever experience of deep turns with peers, Afton has laid the foundation for my 19-year-and-counting infatuation with the sport.
Despite my young resistance to the age-old saying, lamentably, it is true: a trip out West does indeed ‘ruin’ skiing in Minnesota. I vividly remember my first family road trip to Colorado at age 13, skiing Copper Mountain with family and friends, my heart fluttering like a goldfish relocated from its fishbowl to the sea. The views, trails, and choice of terrain were endless, and as we drove past our Minnesota hills on the highway home, I asked, “That is a ski mountain?”
Since seventh grade, I have almost exclusively skied mountains in the Western United States and have relocated to Kamas, Utah. But when I am home for the holidays, I will still get a few laps in at the old stomping grounds, and it is with a warm heart I thank Afton for introducing me to the sport, culture, and associated people that I have grown to love so much.
Afton may not be the world’s gnarliest mountain, but it was the one that first gave me the gift of skiing, the introduction to passions that have lit a fire in my soul. For that, I am eternally thankful.
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