Welch Village, located on tall bluffs overlooking the beautiful Cannon River valley about a half-hour south of the Twin Cities, has opened its much anticipated Back Bowl to the public: earlier than expected. The new area opened in early January for Welch season pass holders and wasn't supposed to open until late in the month to the general public, but it was too good to keep bottled up. The new slopes opened to the public Jan. 22.

"The new terrain gives a higher level of excitement and joy than even I had anticipated when we started this project," said owner Leigh Nelson after seeing the excitement of early skiers and riders. "The reaction to the new slopes was better than I hoped for. After just three weeks of use by season pass holders, and seeing the expressions of surprise and delight with the expansion, it seemed wise to open it everybody. As the days get longer and warmer, those new south and east facing slopes will be prime for spring skiing and riding."

Welch's front slopes are spread across two peaks with 35 named trails and slopes, eight chairlifts, and a surface tow. There's a good mix of difficulty levels with nice easy runs complemented by some of the region's best steep and headwalls. The backside adds another 10 new runs for advanced skiers and riders and a new quad chair. Plans call for further expansion of the Back Bowl area with another chairlift, about 10 more new runs, and a food and beverage slope-side service, according to the longtime owner.

"We would hope to open some more terrain back there suitable for intermediate and beginner skiers and snowboarders," added Nelson. "It's been a wonderful experience so far."

I can't wait to get over to Welch and ski the new terrain. Back bowls are a rare treat in the Heartland.