Young or old, we all experience moments of clarity. It’s that “aha” revelation when a toddler discovers a certain block does fit through that hole, when a student finds the key to finally understanding econ, or in the case of one of my skiing companions last weekend, the first time in his newly married adult life when he realized: My wife is totally right.
For the sake of his marriage, let me clarify: She has been right plenty of times. But this was the first shout-it-from-the-snow-covered-hilltops “I-told-you-so!” moment.
Photo provided by Afton ALPS
You see, with a little encouragement and lots of ribbing, my sister-in-law and I roped him into tackling my new winter sport, downhill skiing. Cut from the same cloth, my brother is equally competitive and a little stubborn, so naturally hesitant to try a new sport. Would he fall? Would it be freezing cold? Why not just stick to a sport he’s already good at?!
But his wife begged to differ. She learned in her 20s, really enjoys skiing in Minnesota and Colorado, and knew he could too. But it took a trip to Afton Alps to prove her right.
After filling out a couple forms and swinging through the rental rooms to get boots, skis, poles, and an optional helmet (just do it, I’ll prove why later), we were ready to go. Note: Size shouldn’t be an issue because my bro is 6’9” and they fit him just fine.
Afton offers plenty of resources for beginners: a daily, complimentary hour lesson, additional group ($20/hr) and private lessons ($45/hr), plus a “Ski and Ride Simplified” plan where you receive a swipe card valid for three lift tickets after 4:30 p.m. any day, three ski or snowboard rentals, and three one-hour lessons for $99. There’s also a Snow Sports Academy for those really wanting to commit and learn over many weeks.
Maybe I should have invested in one of those options, because soon after my brother took a few trips down the starter hill and came back grinning ear to ear—He could do this! He could love this!—I had a personal revelation of my own: If at first you succeed, try, try again, and you’re bound to mess up!
Ok, that’s not how the saying goes. But it feels appropriate considering my fall-free experience at Trollhaugen and then the out-of-control, barreling-down-the-hill-with-not-enough-skill-or-leg-power-to-stop episode at Afton. (Picture a flash of red, gathering speed, taking the lift of a ridge that’s supposed to be your stopping point, and twisting and turning to eventually land in a remarkably safe, pain-free ball!)
Photo provided by Afton Alps
One day clearly does not an expert skiier/snowboarder make, but it’s an exhilarating, great Minnesota sport that flourishes regardless of how many feet of snowfall we get.
And my brother is ready to go back.
Check their site for numerous ongoing specials or events and discount days. The night rate (seven days a week) is from 4:30 p.m. until close (adults 13-61 $29, children 6-12 $23, seniors 62+ $23). Typical rates for weekend lift tickets are $42 (13-61), $31 (6-12 and seniors) and during the week, $31 or $24. Rentals range from $4-$25 typically.
They’re open and producing snow (if needed) from December to March. Go, give it a try or rediscover Minnesota slopes—you can ski, snowboard, tube, and even hang out in Paul’s Pub during live music nights.
Take the risk. Humble pie can be tasty!
6600 Peller Ave. S., Hastings
Winter ski/snowboard hours:
Monday thru Thursday 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Friday, Saturday and Holidays 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sunday 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.