I’m a bit biased because I live in Minneapolis and I’ve been a season pass holder at Afton Alps for over a decade. I’ve ridden every resort within 50 miles and it’s my favorite place to shred in the Twin Cities.
A few items to note, Afton is the largest resort closest in the Twin Cities Area. They have over 40 runs that are mostly open during the winter. Vail resorts purchased them a few years back which gives a nice bonus to having a season pass. With it I can go out west and ride with my epic pass. So make sure you check it out.
Afton Alps Parking:
As of the time of this writing, Afton Alps doesn’t charge for parking. At the start of the season you’ll drive into the resort and down a short but steep downgrade. You’ll know when it starts because you’ll be taking a left turn at the stop sign and on the right will be a sign that says trucks use lower gear.
It is really short, but stay in the right lane as there is two way traffic. Take it slow and you’ll be fine.
When the season gets going and they’re 100% open, you’ll notice an upper parking lot has been opened in the Highlands (terrain/area map). This is usually opened by Christmas break but sometimes sooner depending on how much snow they’re able to make. On busier days I always recommend parking up here as it’s easier to find parking.
Afton Alps Terrain:
The terrain/trail map features five different areas with chalets. So I’ll make my divisions that way. Personally I think of them as 3 different areas with 2 sub areas, but that’s a minor difference and it’ll get confusing. I’ll break these down by the level of rider and the area.
Afton Beginner Area:
The beginner areas are built specifically for new skiers and snowboarders to hone and train their skills to the best of their ability. These ares are called the meadows and alpine areas. Alpine isn’t always open because it only services one run, and that’s a green run. It’s a great run to learn on but since it’s one chairlift servicing one run it’s not cost effective for it to be open often.
Afton Intermediate Area:
The intermediate shredding area is in the Highlands area. These runs are long and have a nice grade to them. Even if you’re an expert you can find something to do here.
Personally after an epic snow fall, I found some epic tree runs off Heathers Highland & Pandoras Pass last season, and I don’t think anybody else new about them. It’s a place I spend a good amount of time shredding in.
There are a few black diamond runs in this area, but for the most part they are short and you know you’re dropping into them. If you’re feeling it give it a shot.
***Side note, there is a small terrain park on Monicas Highland usually mid way through the year. You can see it from chairlift 13***
Afton Expert Area:
The expert area is called the alps, I personally love this area and I find my happy place shredding the “Bowl” (‘Barbi’s Challenge’it isn’t really a bowl, but it’s been nicknamed that as long as everyone can remember).
This area is wide and expansive, and you can get some epic speed because of the steepness. All but two runs here are black diamonds so make sure you have the skills to hit them. (one is an extra hill and the other a blue off the back of chairlift 2).
One of the biggest issues I see here are people who are trying to learn or teach others on Chairlift 3, which is the ‘bowl.’ Whenever I go up on the chair I try to survey and view who’s on the hill so I can make adjustments to my line.
Afton Terrain Parks:
As I stated above there is a terrain park in the highlands, but it’s a smaller one usually with some jump on rails a rainbow, and smaller jumps. In years past they had a huge park back there but when Vail took over they moved all that stuff to the landing zone.
The landing zone contains a couple of different runs with many different terrain features. One side has a ton of jumps and the other some pretty good size rails. If you’re a park rat, this will be your happy place. Hit some rails and ride back up on the tow rope. It’ll be a great day.
At Afton Alps, you’re never that far away from your car. Unless you parked in the highlands and you’re in the meadows or alps you can get back relatively quick. The food is reasonably priced, which is a shocker for a Vail owned resort, but obviously the cheapest route is to bring your own food, or even a grill and tailgate. Each chalet has their own indoor area where you can bring your food sit down and eat.
Alps Main Chalet:
The main chalet is at the bottom of the alps area, and it has your basic chalet food (burgers, hot dogs, skittles, etc.). However if you go upstairs there’s a pretty decent restaurant with a full bar. Facing the black diamonds are giant windows so you can watch people wipe out, all while drinking a rum and coke (I’ve done that a few times).
If you go there I’ve tried most of the food, but I’m a huge fan of there rueben, and any of their burgers.
The highlands chalet is only open during certain times, if you’re going there mid week in the evening you might be out of luck. When it is open there is a normal chalet shop (with burgers & hot dogs) or you can visit the bar and have a drink.
This past year they revamped the menu and made it simpler. Unfortunately I haven’t tried any of the new items from it. Mostly it was because I got mad, they removed tots from it, and so I went to the alps. I’ll make an update next season when I start sampling from the menu.
Gotta have my tots.
Meadows Chalet/Landing Zone:
The meadow chalet is more of a family area since its by the meadows training area, but the landing zone has some food trucks and I ate some epic tacos there once…If I remember the tacos they were delicious, just saying.
To the best of my knowledge ski patrol is located in two different places, other than when they’re out riding around. They have a bulding in the alpine area and in the alps.
The ski school is located in the alps area and the meadows. I believe you can drop in, but you can also make an appointment with an instructor.
The Ski Shop
In the Afton alps ski shop you can find most anything needed to replace something you forgot at home. Personally I think the prices are somewhat expensive, but if you have a season pass they give you a discount too.
In the alps area there is a ski/snowboard repair shop. I’ve had them do everything from giving a snowboard a wax to replacing a broken binding strap. If you’re having an issue on the hill. Make your way over to them.
This is sort of an ambiguous part of the post, but for those of us who tend to ride a lot, we get pretentious. I’ve found Afton to be above adequate in their snow maintenance. What this means is I don’t see issues with how they maintain their snow and they do a good job of getting rid of icy areas.
Keep in mind this is Minnesota, if the day is warm, it’ll get icy after dark. That sucks but there’s not a lot a resort can do about it.
That being said, I’m usually having a good time shredding at Afton Alps, and I’m looking forward to next year. If you’re looking to improve your shredding don’t forget to read more blog posts. On it I’m giving more tips and tricks for an epic time on the mountain. Also I’ll be doing more of these resort reviews in the future, so subscribe to get the latest details on them.