Skiers and snowboarders gently rise over the St. Croix River Valley in one of 18 chairlifts that grant them access to Afton Alps’ 300 acres of skiing terrain. With 48 trails—80% of which are manageable for beginner and intermediate alpinists—and an average annual snowfall of 48 inches, guests can carve their way down Afton Alps’ 350-foot vertical drop in a variety of ways, from slowly snaking down a 3,000-foot run to tucking into a cannonball at the peak and landing with a white splash at the base. Three rental shops provide guests with high-quality gear, and a snowtubing park offers a more leisurely way to enjoy the tender romance between snow and gravity.
In the spring, the melting snow gives way to the fairways and greens of Afton Alps’ 18-hole golf course, where golfers hunt pars over a combination of flat and hilly terrain. Guests can take in scenic views of the St. Croix River and its attendant wildlife aboard a peppy golf cart or while cruising down trails on a mountain bike or runaway wheelbarrow.
First opened in 1995, Gopher Hills has since come to be known among golfers and confused hockey players for its classic features, currently boasting a total of 18 holes on two distinct nines that increase scorecard strokes with wind, native grass, and undulating greens. The course's Early American layout is lined with tree-lined fairways, sculpted bunkers, leaf-covered bear pits, numerous elevation changes, and bubble-wrap-lined greens, providing plenty of reward opportunities for risk-takers and enjoyable scenery for shaky-swinged optimists. Throughout the round, golfers will get to cruise the course in style with a rental cart instead of having to drag their grumpy club-toting Sherpas along. After the game, feel free to visit the chateau-style clubhouse and its fully stocked pro shop.
Mississippi Dunes Golf Links' sophisticated, 18-hole layout blankets 3,000 feet of rolling Mississippi River shoreline with manicured, bent-grass fairways and an inventive, tree-lined design. As golfers cruise over the course atop a cart or a caddy training to be an Olympic power squatter, majestic views of the river appear through groves of trees that shelter native prairie creatures. On their odyssey from tee boxes to speedy, contoured greens, golf balls must split fairways to avoid sidelines riddled with mounds, pot bunkers, and knee-high grasses—a trinity of hazards that imbue the course with a Scottish, links-style vibe. A memorable tee shot awaits at the 399-yard, par-4 fifth hole—the course's most difficult, nicknamed "Humpback" for the large mound in the middle of the fairway as well as its voracious appetite for krill—where golfers must draw or fade drives around a dogleg left.
After hacking their way across the breeze-swept links, guests can unwind at Doc's Landing Pub, where a menu of traditional grill fare, fish, and pizza sates tour-worthy appetites. Patrons can look out on the river on the Pub's patio, catch up on the day's sporting events in the glow of a flat-panel TV, or discuss how greenskeepers maintain the immaculate felt that covers the billiards table.
A row of neatly trimmed trees lines either side of the winding driveway that leads up to the stately clubhouse at Kilkarney Hills Golf Course, welcoming visitors to its verdant grounds. Ever since players began spraying drives and rolling putts over the 18-hole course in 1994, the club has filled the space with similar congenial flourishes, including flower beds and a central lake fountain. After players hole out and exchange secret handshakes on the 18th green, they can head for drinks at the course bar, complete with a veranda where they can watch the sunset.
Lake Wissota Golf and Southern Hills Golf courses feature traditional well-kempt greens and challenging obstacles. Measuring more than 6,000 yards each from start to finish, these ball-battered battlegrounds envelop players in grandiose frondescence as they steer dimpled warriors past water hazards and sand traps filled with frowns. Each hole greets gurus and greenhorns with three sets of tee boxes from which to swing, marked by specific colors according to difficulty. Rather than slow roasting clubs before rounds, players can warm up naturally with a small bucket of balls on the full-sized driving ranges, or swing equipment-toting hatchbacks up to one of the full-service pro shops to procure hole-conquering provisions. Both locations recommend scheduling tee times in advance.
Parkview Golf Club’s full-length driving range lets clubbers perfect their swings through the winter months. Golfers keep comfortable inside one of the three heated stalls, each equipped with a recently renovated oversize teeing area that allows ample space to swing or wind up for a hammer throw. Today’s Groupon can be used over one or several visits, so golfers can test their endurance during one thwacking frenzy or play over several visits to chart the positive effects of an all-bermuda-grass diet. Aim at this link to check stall availability.