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Hit the Slopes at Afton Alps



Like many women, I envisioned my proposal a certain way. I didn’t have an exact scenario in mind, but when I imagined “it” happening, I didn’t envision flushed cheeks, drippy noses, clunky helmets, and layers of snowboarding gear. But that’s exactly how it was when I got engaged at Afton Alps in December of 2003.

Aaron and I were out spending a day on the slopes when he suddenly dropped down in the middle of a run, scurried over to a wooded clearing (no easy feat when you’re strapped to a snowboard), and beckoned me over. I thought maybe he was taking a water break. I had no clue he was about to ask me to be his wife.

Looking back on it, I love everything about the proposal (well, almost everything—could’ve maybe used a Kleenex at one point). It was perfect for us.

Since then, Aaron and I have snowboarded together on Mt. Hood in Oregon; Whistler, British Columbia; Lutsen Mountains; Spirit Mountain; Wild Mountain; and Trollhaugen; but on the day I got engaged, Afton Alps inherited a special place in my heart. 

Fast-forward to this past weekend, and I was able to appreciate Afton all over again, just not in such a giddy stupor.

Boarding at Afton AlpsLocated in Hastings (surrounded by Afton State Park, thus the name), Afton Alps is an easy drive from the metro. We live on the East Side of St. Paul and it took us about 30 minutes to get there.

Once we arrived, the first thing I noticed was the amount of snow on the slopes. That’s always a good sign.

The second thing I noticed was how spread out it felt. It's a pretty expansive layout. There are 48 trails, four terrain parks, and 18 chairlifts, in addition to numerous chalets (you never know when hunger/thirst might strike). With an adult weekend lift ticket running $43, you actually feel like you’re getting your money’s worth.

There’s a good mix of green, blue, and black runs, making the beginners happy (another green!), as well as those who like a challenge. You don't ever get to the top of a chairlift only to realize the only way back down is a double-black diamond. (I hate it when that happens.) There are always options. I personally liked the Highland area, away from the main chalet, the best. The runs seemed longer and the lines less congested.

We snowboarded for 2.5 hours before stopping for lunch in Paul’s Pub, which brought back memories of Aaron and I sitting at the bar after we got engaged, a celebratory beer in hand. I was eagerly trying to call my mom, my sister-in-law, my friends, anyone, to no avail. The cell phone reception at the time was horrible and I couldn't get through to anyone. It was killing me that I had big news and no one to share it with (other than Aaron, who obviously already knew about the proposal since he was the one who made it happen).  

I finally blurted to the bartender, “Guess what?! I got engaged!”

His response? “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Good luck.”

Well, geez, buddy, thanks for the vote of confidence.

His less-than-enthusiastic reaction (maybe he was trying to be funny?) was about the only memory—then and now—to tarnish Afton’s stellar reputation.   

Tips:

  • Afton Alps is a great place for beginners to learn, with two bunny hills. If you rent your equipment, you can take a one-hour lesson for free. Lessons are offered six times a day; simply show up at one of the lesson centers.
  • Get there early for the best snow conditions and shortest lines.
  • Lift tickets are cheaper on weeknights ($33 for adults) and from 4:30 to close, seven nights a week ($30 for adults).
  • If your child is interested in learning and is under the age of five, he or she gets a free lift ticket per paid adult. 
  • If you need to rent equipment, standard ski and snowboard rental packages start at $25.
  • Check the website for special days (college discounts, family value, Scouts, 4H, YMCA, etc.) and reduced rate lift tickets.
  • Afton Alps is now part of the Vail Resorts family, including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone,  Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, and Mt. Brighton.  This partnership means Afton Alps pass holders can get 25 percent off full-day lift tickets at resorts in Colorado, Lake Tahoe, and Michigan, as well as deeply discounted lodging specials.
  • An adult season pass is $450. Season passes are also valid at Mt. Kato, one mile south of Mankato.
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