Minnesota: Not Just 10,000 Lakes; 12 Ski Areas -

Minnesota is home to Cindy Nelson, one of America's best ski racers, who broke onto the World Cup circuit in the 1970s as a 17-year-old, impressing older and more experienced Europeans with her toughness. Nelson's career over many years made her one of America's winningest World Cup and Olympic racers ever.

A scenic view from a gondola in Lutsen Mountains, Minnesota

Cindy's home area was Lutsen, quadruple the size of most Great Lakes ski resorts. There are four peaks, more than 1,000 acres, a nearly 900-foot vertical drop, 90 runs, and the region's only gondola. This New England look-alike also gets rave reviews from skiers for scenery thanks to its spectacular views of Lake Superior from just about anywhere on the mountain. The resort is located on four separate peaks of the Sawtooth Mountain range - Moose Mountain, Eagle Mountain, Ullr Mountain, and Mystery Mountain. Some trails are close to two miles in length. All are interconnected through a system of lifts.

Buck Hill, located in the Minneapolis suburb of Burnsville, has a well-earned reputation when it comes to producing top-level racers and riders. The ski area, a stone's through from the interstate, has delivered five Olympians, dozens of U.S. Ski Team members (including three currently on the team), and literally hundreds of junior champs. The U.S. Ski Team named Buck Hill the top ski racing team in the country in 2008. Head coach is Erich Sailer, a member of the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame. Buck Hill has 15 different runs to skiers and snowboarders of all abilities, as well as snow tubing. There are 11 lifts including two quads and a triple chairlift.

A snowboarder jibs through the terrain park at Hyland Ski & Snowboard Area, Minnesota

Afton Alps sits along the rolling hills of the scenic St. Croix River Valley. This sprawling area surrounded by Afton State Park offers enough runs to keep a skier or snowboarder busy both day and night just exploring the whole layout. Skiing and riding is spread out along a wedge-shaped ridge overlooking the river valley. There are 48 trails, four terrain parks, and 18 chairlifts.

Hyland Ski & Snowboard Area is located five minutes from the Mall of America, just south of Interstate 494 and Highway 100 in Bloomington. The ski area is nestled within the 1,000-acre Hyland Lake Park Reserve which offers extensive winter recreational activities including lighted cross country ski trails, snowshoe trails, and a Nordic ski jumping complex. Hyland is known for its snowmaking and grooming and its terrain park is full of progressive and innovative features.

A snowboarder jumps above a rail in the terrain park at Spirit Mountain, Minnesota

Spirit Mountain is in Duluth, a great ski town. Tucked in between Lake Superior and a towering forested ridgeline, it has long, legendary winters. One of the greatest "surburban" ski areas in the Midwest, Spirit offers a big 700-foot vertical drop, seven lifts including a high-speed quad, 22 runs, and two terrain parks spread out over close to 200 acres. Spirit's assets include a sea of some of the finest "blue cruisers" around the Great Lakes and its great views of the city and harbor. The sprawl of twinkling city lights at night is one of the greatest night skiing views anywhere.

Other areas in Minnesota include Andes Tower Hills, Buena Vista, Giants Ridge, Mount Kato, Powder Ridge, Welch Village, and Wild Mountain.

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