While Minnesota doesn’t have huge mountains, it still has excellent slopes and incredible amenities for skiers and snowboarders.
The crowds are less, the slopes are gentle and less intimidating, and most resorts are easily accessible from the major cities, making Minnesota a great ski destination for beginners.
Even so, it can be challenging to find the best ski resort that suits your specific needs and provides the type of experience you are looking for.
But what you can always be sure of is finding a perfect place to hit the slopes in Minnesota regardless of your age and ability. You just have to know what to look for.
To make your planning easier and save you some time, I have researched and compiled a list of the top 6 best ski resorts in Minnesota for beginners.
I’ve been to some of these ski resorts and have researched the others carefully to ensure that I only provide what’s best in the region.
Keep reading to discover the best resort in Minnesota for your first ski vacation!
6 Best Ski Resorts in Minnesota for Beginners
#1. Lutsen Mountains
- Vertical Drop – 825 feet
- Skiable Terrain – 1,000 acres
- Ski Lifts – 8
The beauty and large size of Lutsen Mountains will surprise you for a ski resort in the Midwest. The nearby Sawtooth Mountains will give you a vibe of New England sceneries but on wilder terrain.
When driving to Lutsen Mountains, you’ll enjoy watching spectacular views along Lake Superior Shore Road.
Being the biggest ski hill in Minnesota, Lutsen Mountains ski terrain cuts across four interconnected mountains, giving you an array of skiing and snowboarding options.
The family-owned resort impresses both youngsters and adults, making it a great place to learn to ski and snowboard with your family.
You can learn to ski or snowboard at Ullr Mountain, as there is a designated beginner skiing area at the bottom. Then use the higher lift that will take you to a selection of green runs for more practice.
Once you feel confident in the snow, you can move to Eagle Mountain, which offers green and blue runs to help you build experience and improve your skills.
Freestyle skiers and boarders will love the two terrain parks featured in this mountain as they provide a perfect place to perform tricks and learn new moves.
The resort’s average seasonal snowfall is about 120 inches but there is an extensive snowmaking system, which covers most ski runs to maintain great skiing conditions.
If you don’t want to do downhill skiing or snowboarding, you can enjoy riding the cross-country ski trails.
Learning to Ski in Lutsen Mountains
Lutsen Mountains Ski Area offers several learning programs for new skiers and snowboarders. If you are traveling with your kids, they will benefit from the Kinderschool and Mountain Rangers programs.
The ski and snowboarding lessons can be group or private and are all offered by qualified and experienced trainers.
If you don’t have your own ski or snowboarding equipment, Lutsen Mountains Resort offers a first-time package that comes with lessons, rental equipment, and a limited trail pass.
When it comes to accommodation in Lutsen Mountains, Eagle Ridge Resort has a wide array of condo units and provides ski-in/ski-out lodgings.
The resort has a restaurant, sauna, and a fantastic pool that will make you want to stay here forever.
If you want more dining and accommodation options, there are other lodges and hotels along the shores of Lake Superior.
Off-slope activities to engage in include snowshoeing, dog sledding, and snowmobile tours.
#2. Giant’s Ridge
- Vertical Drop – 500 feet
- Skiable Terrain – 202 acres
- Ski Lifts – 7
Heading north to Minnesota’s Iron Range, you’ll find Giant’s Ridge, which has been an enduring favorite for many skiers and boarders in the North Star State.
With its exciting summer activities like golf courses and beautiful mountain views of Sabin and Wynne Lakes, Giants Ridge is a year-round destination for individual and family vacations.
The ski resort has a separate learning area accessible via a conveyor lift. Here, beginner skiers and snowboarders can learn and practice riding on the snow.
Once you master the basics and gain confidence, you can head to the high lifts to access green trails on the right side of the mountain for practicing and building experience.
While Giants Ridge is a bit lower compared to other ski resorts in the state, its higher latitude near the Canadian border makes up for it.
The average annual snowfall is 62 inches, but this is always backed up by extensive snowmaking on 100% of the slopes.
This mountain resort features 35 ski runs, which range from beginner to intermediate trails. But there are a few blacks for experienced skiers visiting the resort.
If you want to observe or practice some skiing and snowboarding tricks, Giant’s Ridge has two terrain parks. One terrain park is beginner-friendly, while the other suits experienced skiers and boarders.
Learning to Ski in Giants Ridge
Giant’s Ridge provides a range of lessons which can be group, private, and semi-private for all guests, provided they are aged 4 years and above.
There is an adaptive program for those with disabilities and autism spectrum disorder. Those who meet the requirements for this program and kids under 6 years can ski for free.
You don’t have to worry about skiing and snowboarding gear since the resort has a rental shop that offers everything you need, from skis and boards to ski boots. You can also hire a fat tire bike.
Après ski activities in Giant’s Ridge include fat tire biking, snowmobiling, tubing, ice fishing, and snowshoeing among others.
For accommodation, Giant’s Ridge has a well-equipped hotel with different size ranges, from one to four bedroom rentals that suit different needs.
#3. Spirit Mountain
- Vertical Drop – 700 feet
- Skiable Terrain – 175 acres
- Ski Lifts – 7 lifts
Nestling in the suburbs of Duluth, Spirit Mountain is an easily accessible ski area for skiers and boarders looking to hit the slopes in Minnesota.
Its terrain is perfect for beginners, given that most runs are greens and blues. The trails run down through the wooded mountain, giving skiers and boarders great views of St Louis Bay and Lake Superior in nature when riding downhill.
Beginners can use the Skyline Chalet to access the beginner area, which provides a vast space for practice at the top of the hill.
After practicing for a while and gaining confidence in the snow, you can progress to the mountain’s left side for green and blue runs that will help you build skills and gain experience.
Then take the Double Jaw or Express II Chair, which will take you to the summit and let you ride the tree-lined runs.
The four terrain parks in Spirit Mountain include Spirit Park, Lone Oak Tow Park, 18-Line and Shark Park, and Mini Park.
Learning to Ski in Spirit Mountain
Both kids and adults can learn to ski and snowboard at the resort’s ski school, which offers several programs.
The lessons also come with the equipment you need, so you don’t have to worry about anything if you haven’t bought your gear already.
Individuals with disabilities can learn to ski and snowboard in Spirit mountain since there is an adaptive program that caters to those with varied special needs.
Spirit Mountain Resort has partial snowmaking to back up the resort’s average snowfall of about 90 inches.
Spirit Mountain Resort does not provide on-site lodging, but you’ll find several accommodation options nearby.
After-ski activities include fat tire biking, snow tubing, enjoying bonfires, and great dining.
#4. Buck Hill
- Vertical Drop – 309 feet
- Skiable Terrain – 45 acres
- Ski Lifts – 10
If you are looking for an excellent ski area near Minnesota’s Twin Cities, Buck Hill is easily accessible via Interstate 35.
Buck Hill ski area provides great skiing and snowboarding and allows you to get the best value for your money by offering night skiing.
The small ski hill has 10 ski lifts serving its 45 acres of skiable terrain. The slopes are perfect for learning to ski, as it’s where famous skiers like Kristina Koznick and Lindsey Vonn trained.
You can enjoy freestyle skiing at Buck Hill, as there is a beginner-friendly terrain park. When you are tired of skiing or snowboarding, you can head to the snow tubing hill for more winter fun.
When visiting the resort with friends or family, intermediate and experienced skiers will still have plenty of slopes to ride while you learn the basics in the beginner area.
One of the fascinating things that most adventurers love in Buck Hill is its spacious outdoor deck. Here, you can relax and soak up the sun while watching other skiers ride downhill.
Learning to Ski in Buck Hill
Buck Hill boasts a wonderful ski school and an expansive training ground with 6 trails where new skiers and boarders can learn to ski and snowboard.
Rental equipment is available on this ski hill, and you can get a discount when booking a lesson that includes rentals.
And if you are traveling with a kid who is under five years, they can ski free as long as you have a paid adult lift ticket.
When you are not skiing or snowboarding at Buck Hill, you can take part in snow tubing, relax at the resort’s outdoor deck, and dine in any of the three on-site restaurants.
Accommodation options are available nearby, and depending on the hotel you choose, you’ll have varied off-mountain activities to enjoy.
#5. Afton Alps
- Vertical Drop – 350 feet
- Skiable Terrain – 250 acres
- Ski Lifts – 21
Another incredible ski area nestled near the Twin Cities is Afton Alps. This ski hill is only 30 minutes away from the Twin Cities, making it a perfect destination for a weekend getaway or a quick trip.
Located in the St. Croix River Valley, Afton Alps has over 300 acres of skiable terrain with trails that suit different levels and abilities.
Beginners visiting Afton Alps will be excited to explore the 13 green trails that spread throughout the mountain.
The three terrain parks in this resort have been named the best in Minnesota, so you can be sure of unmatched fun from freestyle skiing and snowboarding. Splendid night skiing is the icing on the cake in this ski resort.
Since the resort is owned by Vail Resorts, you can purchase the epic pass to gain access to Afton Alps and other ski resorts in different parts of the country.
If you are not an epic pass holder, you’ll want to purchase your lift ticket in advance since there could be day lifts limits put in place to prevent crowds.
Learning to Ski in Afton Alps
Afton Alps has a great ski school and a beginner area where new skiers and boarders can hone their skills. You don’t have to bring your own gear since you can rent everything you need on the mountain.
The lesson packages are available for kids and adults and can be done in private or group learning sessions.
For accommodation in Afton Alps, the Historic Afton House Inn offers affordable rooms, fireplaces, and Jacuzzis to keep you warm and cozy after skiing.
There is also an on-site restaurant where you can grab a meal during the day or have dinner with your friends or family in the evening.
If you want to take a break from the slopes and don’t want to go to your hotel room, you can stop by Highlands Chalet and Paul’s Pub and relax while enjoying a meal or drinks.
#6. Wild Mountain
- Vertical Drop – 300 feet
- Skiable Terrain – 100 acres
- Ski Lifts – 8
On the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, you’ll find Wild Mountain Ski Area nestled in Taylors Falls.
The year-round adventure mountain offers plenty of fun activities in winter and summer. You can enjoy sliding in the water park and alpine slide in the hot months and hitting the slopes on your skis or boards during the cold months.
This family-owned and operated ski area boasts 100 acres of skiable terrain with slopes that suit different levels and abilities.
Wild Mountain has a long ski season, as it’s usually one of the first ski resorts to open and the last to close in the Midwestern United States.
Being one of the popular and large ski resorts in Minnesota, Wild Mountain boasts great ski conditions supported by its extensive snowmaking system.
There are four excellent terrain parks where skiers and boarders can enjoy tricks such as jumps, rails, and boxes.
When you are tired of downhill skiing and snowboarding in Wild Mountain, you can head to the Wild Chutes snow tubing park for extra fun.
Learning to Ski in Wild Mountain
Beginner skiers can train at the discovery area, which provides adequate space for practice.
The snowboarding and ski lessons are available at the snow sports learning center for all ages at an affordable price.
Once you are done learning to ski, you can join the after-school club for relaxing activities and recharge your energy levels.
When you feel hungry on-site, you’ll have several places to grab a meal, from restaurants and eateries to rustic bars and wineries.
If you don’t want to take part in downhill skiing, you can enjoy sliding down the hill by going to the Wild Chute tubing park via a conveyor lift.
Why Minnesota is a Great Place to Learn to Ski
Minnesota has unique ski resorts with varied terrain that suit different levels and abilities.
While the state is known for its great lakes and prairies, it has some of the best ski resorts that beginner skiers and boarders can ever visit.
The lower mountains in this state make it a great destination for beginners as they don’t have to learn to ski in intimidating and challenging terrain.
And you never have to worry about the snow conditions since the ski hills have sturdy snowmaking machines to make enough snow and maintain the ski routine.
Other top ski resorts in Minnesota for new skiers and snowboarders to visit include Detroit Mountain, Buena Vista Ski Area, Hyland Hills, Welch Village, and Coffee Mill Ski Area.
Q: Where Should I Go for My First Ski Holiday?
A: The best destination for your first ski holiday will depend on many factors, including your budget, location, and the type of mountain experience you are looking for.
You also want to consider who you want to include in your ski holiday, as not all ski areas are family-friendly.
If you want to go for your first ski holiday in the Midwest, some of the best ski resorts in Minnesota include Lutsen Mountains, Giants Ridge, Spirit Mountain, Welch Village, Afton Alps, Hyland Hills, Wild Mountain, and more.
Q: How Many Days Should a Beginner Ski?
A: About four days are enough for beginner skiers to learn the basics and gain confidence hitting the slopes.
If you want to improve your skiing skills and learn tricks like jumps, rails, and boxes, you can give yourself a week to reap the best rewards.
Q: Is Coffee Mill Ski Area Beginner-Friendly?
A: Yes, Coffee Mill Ski Area is beginner-friendly. This compact ski resort provides discounted ski packages to first-time skiers and snowboarders.
Depending on the experience you want or how you intend to learn, you can enroll in group or private lessons.
Q: Is Welch Village Good for Beginners?
A: Yes, Welch Village is good for beginners. Its 140 acres of skiable terrain along Cannon River Valley has about 15 trails that suit beginners.
Welch Village offers group and private lessons to skiers and boarders of different ages, starting from four years.
If you are getting started in skiing, you don’t have to purchase ski boots and skis/boards as there are equipment rentals in the mountain for both beginners and expert skiers.
Apart from skiing and snowboarding, Welch Village offers snow tubing, live music entertainment, and great dining to its guests.
Q: Can You Use Ski and Snowboard Rentals in Lutsen?
A: Yes, you can use ski and snowboard rentals in Lutsen. This ski mountain offers a variety of rental packages for kids and adults.
All the rental gear is well-tuned and maintained by the resort’s qualified staff on a daily basis.
Q: Are Terrain Parks Good for Beginners?
A: Yes, terrain parks are great for beginners. Terrain parks offer an excellent place for skiers and snowboarders to practice tricks.
However, you’ll need to learn the basics and gain confidence in the snow before you head to a terrain park.
Once you get your feet on the snow, you can learn to ski and snowboard in a beginner-friendly terrain park with persistence and the right tips.
Minnesota is home to incredible ski hills that provide skiers and snowboarders of different levels with an exciting experience.
Whether you are looking to ski in Southern Minnesota or near the Twin Cities as a beginner, you can always be sure to find an excellent ski area.
The slopes are gentle and progressive, making it easy for novice skiers and snowboarders to build skills and gain experience riding on the snow. Lessons and equipment rentals are also affordable in Minnesota.