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.
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.
Most regulation-length golf courses are a place where players can challenge themselves and even measure their improvement. By focusing on par 3s, cutting round duration in half, and adding a practice range, Island Lake Golf is a place for players to do the actual improving. Beginners build confidence as they work their way around the eight par 3s and lone par 4, learning to avoid ponds and the outstretched limbs of trees and off-duty caddies hoping for high-fives. With the round's highlights and disappointments fresh in their minds, players can also log some time at the practice range to shore up weak spots. An 18-hole mini course is also on-site.
Mendota Heights has always had a hunger for golf. In 1961, just five years after the city's founding, the community draped nine short holes over the rolling terrain of a farm and dubbed it the Mendota Heights Par 3. It hasn't changed much over the years, still offering a forgiving layout for beginners to learn the game and more experienced golfers to practice using a mannequin leg instead of a putter. The scaled-down layout also serves as a training ground for lessons, camps, and leagues for golfers of all ages.
Goodrich Golf Dome's indoor facilities allow golfers to hone their game during any season and in any weather. Unlike outdoor locations where players must tape umbrellas to each golf club when it rains, Goodrich's air-filled dome offers consistent service and hours in addition to unlimited-ball specials throughout the week. During the summer, visitors of all ages can enjoy the 18-hole outdoor mini-golf course.