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  • Writer's picturerganderson915

My Completely Biased Ranking of Ski Trails in the Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul Area.

This will be a mix of opinions and facts. My assessments are based on feel, and this is more intended to be entertaining than informational. In all honesty you can’t go wrong.

I’ll give 1. the best reason anyone would ski there, 2. an overall rating, and then 3. break it down by categories. I also think I should mention that I ski at all of these places, frequently.

6th: Elm Creek: “Nowhere else had snow” 4/10

Location: 2/10

Once you are there, there are definitely some nice views on the natural trails.

The drive to Elm Creek makes me understand why people make fun of the Midwest. It’s just not scenic at all, urban sprawl. The park feels far away and isolated. Only saving grace is that Pioneer Midwest is on the way - a nice ski store.

Trail quality: 5/10

Elm Creek does a good job getting early-season snow ready, and does a good job maintaining. However, it is windy 100% of the time which makes it cold, and it is flat. I really don’t feel like I’m exaggerating here.

Social atmosphere: 5/10

Depends on the day. Neutral category. Some events here are a blast, some days are a little boring. People seem to be friendly in general.

Chalet/Parking: 9/10

Plentiful parking, welcoming chalet. The chalet is conducive to good ski community vibes - big open room, fireplace, big windows, food. What more can ask for?

Other considerations

Because I was historically bad at skiing flat courses in high school, I also have a tainted view of Elm Creek. Because it is often windy, I also have too many memories of being cold here.

Here's Abby at Elm Creek.

5. Hyland: “I wanted to fit a ski into my busy workday” 5/10

Location: 4/10

Nice modest woods, nice small lakes. Kind of a long drive for me, and too many stop lights in the final 10 minutes of the drive.

Trail quality: 6/10

This may seem shockingly low considering how well-maintained the snowmaking loop is, however - there are ALWAYS leaves in the classic tracks. And all over the trails. Maybe not always but it seems like it. This was enough to take it down 4 points.

Social atmosphere: 3/10

I hate to rag on Hyland like this but I don’t feel love and warmth when I’m at Hyland. It feels more like a business than a ~community~. I feel like everyone is in their own world - it’s a little too busy for people to say hi but not busy enough that it feels “poppin.”

Chalet/Parking: 8/10

Very plentiful parking is Hyland’s biggest asset. Nice chalet with a fireplace, but you can’t take your skis inside which for some reason doesn’t sit right with me. Why so many rules?? (there's probably a perfectly good reason for this)

Other considerations

I grew up skiing at Hyland with Minnesota Youth Ski League. I was a pretty bad skier at first, and have many unpleasant memories here. This may have tainted my ratings. I prefer Hyland in the summer.

Look at those leaves!

4. French Park: “It’s close to me, might as well” 5/10

Location: 5/10

Nice nature feeling and generally pretty. Surrounded by neighborhoods and roads so it doesn’t feel particularly deep in nature, though. Unpleasant drive to get there including a lot of stop lights in my case. Being near Medicine Lake adds a little something. Kind of a neutral category.

Trail quality: 5/10

Another neutral category. Pretty nice but nothing crazy, I would chose other ski areas almost any day

Social atmosphere: 4/10

Some people around, not a ton. Can you tell I feel neutral about French Park? I don’t have much to say.

Chalet/Parking: 4/10

Plentiful parking. No chalet that I know of.

Other considerations

I don’t think French Park typically holds races, which makes it more of a chill area to ski for fun. Probably a great place for a recreational or new skier.

3. Baker Park: “I saw no one, it was awesome” 7/10

Location : 7/10

I gave this a high location rating because Baker truly feels woodsy and “out there.” It does not feel like city or suburban skiing like many other options. However this also makes it a little inaccessible - at least to me.

Trail quality: 7/10

Very good. Nice long very gradual climbs and descents, winding through a mix of woods and fields with farm views. A little narrow for 2 across. Creates awkward situation when passing, someone has to move into the woods momentarily and say “ope sorry”

Social atmosphere: 1/10

I would go here if you want to be one with nature, or make sure you see almost no one. However, this is the place you are most likely to be approached with small talk in the parking lot.

Chalet/Parking: 9/10

Plentiful parking, nice chalet. You won’t be throwing elbows to find a spot here.

Other considerations

This would be my #1 recommendation if you want to feel removed from city life.

2. Battle Creek: “There are real hills there, no seriously” 8/10

Location: 7/10

Nice that it is so close to St. Paul, and cool that it is such a hilly course near the cities. However, it does feel a bit industrial on one side of the park, so the nature feeling is definitely taken down a notch.

Trail quality: 8/10

Awesome that Battle Creek has snowmaking now! Big game changer. Battle Creek is very hilly which is great for Birkie training.

Social atmosphere: 8/10

This feels like the Wirth equivalent in St. Paul area. Nice and social, but definitely feels more like a woodsy park than a city park.

Chalet/Parking 7/10

Plentiful parking, can’t speak to the indoor space. Not sure if it’s open to the public but I haven’t tried in quite a few years.

Other considerations

Battle Creek is a long drive for me so it automatically loses points. However, it is probably the hardest course we have in the cities - lots of long steep hills - which is cool.

1. Theodore Wirth Park: “I love skiing and value community” 10/10

Location: 10/10

Right in Northwest Minneapolis, arguably very close to a lot of people. A combination of woods, golf course, and lakes make it feel close to nature, but views of the skyline and houses nearby remind you that you’re in the city.

Trail quality: 10/10

I have never skied such consistently perfect trails - firm packed, always groomed, deep classic tracks, wide, nice flow. There are flat sections and hilly sections. Perfect for everyone.

Social atmosphere: 10/10

Bustling. At night, the trails are alive with kids and school groups and everyone else. There are often high school teams practicing there, and there is almost never a time when the trails are completely empty. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Wirth without seeing someone I know (or without seeing Greg Klave out there). If you want alone time, the natural trails are much less busy! I have met a lot of friendly people in Eloise Butler. Social vibes are incredible

Chalet/Parking: 4/10

Ok the worst part of Wirth is parking. People are ruthless and aggressive and park as if the lot won’t be completely full 1 hour later. Anyone who has skied at Wirth knows the struggle of walking from the overflow parking lot in their ski boots to the trails. Biggest problem. Chalet saves the rating, as the Trailhead building is big and welcoming, has equipment rentals, and has amazing food at Mill Valley Kitchen.

Other considerations

I have been known to say that Wirth is my favorite place to ski in the world and I stand by it!

Check it out. THIS IS NOT AN AD I really just love it here.

Thanks for reading. Don't take any of my opinions too seriously.


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