Mount Kato, in the scenic Minnesota River valley near Mankato, is the first ski area that Minnesotans along the southern border of the Gopher State run into heading north. It's not big, even by Midwest standards, but has been serving area skiers since the mid-1970s.

A variety of midweek lift ticket specials keep skiing and riding affordable for area residents, and everyone, 13 and older, who purchases a lift ticket with rentals is offered a free beginner lesson; both skiers and snowboarders.

Sunday and Monday nights, after 4 p.m., lift tickets are $18, rental skis also $18 and snowboards are $21. Monday through Thursday purchase a lift ticket before noon for $20, and it's good until 4 p.m.

Tuesday and Thursday nights, after 4 p.m., is college night discount. A lift ticket is $17 and ski and snowboard rentals are $18 with a valid college ID.

You receive a $2 per day discount, if you purchase two or three days of consecutive day lift tickets. All consecutive day tickets must be purchased at one time, and does not include night skiing or riding. The area offers live entertainment on Saturday nights in the Lift Bar.

Mount Kato offers 19 trails, eight chairlifts and three surface tows. It even has a backside, which is a little unusual in the Heartland. Most areas are pretty straight forward. What you get is what you see. Here there are a handful of trails and three lifts located on the other side of the ridge. It keeps it interesting and fun.

It's at least an hour closer, if you live along the Minnesota/Iowa border, than the collection of ski areas around the Twin Cities, but has close ties to that market. The ski area is owned by Afton Alps.

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