BEMIDJI, Minn. -- If you plan on hitting the slopes this winter at any one of Minnesota’s many ski areas and resorts, keep in mind that your visit will come with some modifications, as these recreational businesses each are taking special safety precautions to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Along with implementing their own policies, such as reservations and pre-purchased lift tickets, resorts and ski areas are also following a general set of guidelines created by the Minnesota Ski Areas Association.

“We will need everyone’s help in following the rules so we can remain open for the season,” Bo Bigelow, executive director of Minnesota Ski Areas Association, said in a release.

Some of these MSAA guidelines include face coverings that must be worn indoors, in lift lines, when loading and unloading lifts, and anytime outdoors where 6 feet of physical distancing cannot be maintained. The association also recommends bringing a second face mask in case the first one gets wet.

And because most chalets will only be open for restrooms, retail, rental operations and ticketing, visitors will need to plan to use their vehicles as a base camp to boot up, store gear and eat. Because of Gov. Tim Walz’s extended restrictions on indoor dining, ski areas will be continuing to offer grab and go and takeout food options, along with some outdoor seating options.

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Most ski areas will continue to offer private lessons, and rental shops will remain open. However, there may be a requirement to reserve items beforehand. The MSAA guidelines also said there will be ski patrol at each ski area and resort to ensure visitors follow protocols.

“We have worked with the National Ski Patrol to ensure our patrollers have the necessary training to provide the highest level of care this winter,” the MSAA website said.

In other parts of the country, how to stay open amid the pandemic is a complicated issue many resorts are facing.

According to Kaiser Health News, Vermont resorts are asking skiers to certify their compliance with rules governing interstate travel during the pandemic when buying a lift ticket, and in Colorado’s Pitkin County (home to Aspen), visitors will be required to confirm they’ve had a negative COVID test result within 72 hours of travel or pledge to quarantine for 14 days after arrival or until they obtain a negative test result.

So before heading out, it’s important to check individual state regulations as well as the website for your ski area or resort to be aware of any particular COVID-19 policies they’ve implemented.

There’s a ski area or resort in each region of Minnesota, so in order to know before you go, here is how four of them are handling the 2020-21 season.

Located along the Continental Divide in the northwestern part of the state, Buena Vista Ski Area is celebrating its opening weekend starting Saturday, Dec. 19. (Pioneer file photo)
Located along the Continental Divide in the northwestern part of the state, Buena Vista Ski Area is celebrating its opening weekend starting Saturday, Dec. 19. (Pioneer file photo)

Buena Vista Ski Area, Bemidji

Located along the Continental Divide in the northwestern part of the state, Buena Vista Ski Area is celebrating its opening weekend starting Saturday, Dec. 19.

Along with emphasizing the use of face coverings for all guests and employees when indoors and outdoors, the ski area will also perform daily wellness checks on all employees prior to the start of their shift.

The chalet will be open for restrooms, retail, ticketing, rental and take out food service. No ski bags or backpacks will be allowed inside of the chalet, and visitors must get ready for activities inside of their vehicles. Day and season lockers will be available for rent.

For skiing and snowboarding lessons, online reservations are required and must be confirmed by the ski school director, Buena Vista’s website said. Lessons are limited to a single instructor and a single household.

When riding the lifts, chairs are limited to members of the same household. Additionally, staff will conduct routine cleaning and disinfecting of high touch areas around the facility. Sanitation stations will be available for guests.

Tubing and some hills will not be ready for opening weekend but will become available as more snow is made.

For more information, visit or visit the ski area’s Facebook page.

The Lowdown:

Number of Runs: 16

Longest Run: 2,000 feet

Vertical Drop: 230 feet

On-site Lodging: No

Terrain Park: Yes

Tubing: Yes

Snow Base: 12" to 20"

Pricing: $46 for all-day adult

Types of Trails:

Easy: 20%

Intermediate: 55%

Difficult: 25%

Also in the Northwest: Detroit Mountain Recreation Area in Detroit Lakes, Andes Tower Hills in Kensington, Powder Ridge in Kimball, and Mount Ski Gull in Nisswa.

Lutsen Mountains, Lutsen

In the northeastern region of the state, set along the Sawtooth Mountains on Lake Superior’s scenic North Shore, Lutsen Mountains ski resort has made several operational changes in order to adhere to state health department restrictions, current CDC guidelines, and Ski Well, Be Well operational best practices developed by the National Ski Areas Association.

The ski resort is implementing capacity restrictions to limit the number of guests each day, and guests are required to purchase tickets online for all dates, including same-day ticketing, which minimizes wait times and line queues as well as providing contact-free payment, Lutsen Mountains’ website said.

The chalet will be closed except for restroom access, and the resort’s restaurant will be open for take-out orders only. It is recommended that guests bring their own water and pocket snacks with them on the slopes.

Additionally, the resort encourages guests staying on the mountain to use their rooms for breaks and meals, and day guests are asked to consider their car as their base lodge. Shoes, boot bags or backpacks will not be allowed unattended in the chalets, but lockers will be available.

Guests will be asked to self-group and load the lift with their traveling party. Single lanes have been removed from all double and triple chairlifts.

Rental equipment must be purchased online in advance and redeemed at the ticket office. All rental equipment will be cleaned and sanitized between each use.

All-day lessons will not be offered this season. Instead, students will be limited to one 1-hour private or half-day group class per day.

“None of these changes are particularly oppressive nor do they materially change the joy of gliding down a slope,” Lutsen Mountains’ website said. “By working together, knowing what to expect, and adhering to the guidelines, we can all enjoy a safe and awesome ski and snowboard season this winter.”

For more information, visit or visit the ski resort’s Facebook page.

The Lowdown:

Number of Runs: 95

Longest Run: 10,560 feet

Vertical Drop: 1,088 feet (lift service – 825 feet)

On-site Lodging: Yes

Terrain Park: Yes

Tubing: No

Snow Base: 12" to 30"

Pricing: Typically above $80, but there’s lower priced options on their website.

Types of Trails:

Easy: 18%

Intermediate: 72%

Difficult: 10%

Also in the Northeast: Chester Bowl in Duluth, Mt. Itasca Winter Sports Center in Coleraine, Spirit Mountain Recreation Area in Duluth, and Giants Ridge in Biwabik.

Afton Alps, Hastings

For many who live in or around the Twin Cities, Afton Alps is their go-to ski destination -- it being the largest in the metro area with nearly 300 skiable acres.

But this season, the facility is managing on-mountain access, resulting in reservations being required and pass holders getting priority access. The resort is recommending future guests book their lift tickets early in order to lock in their preferred dates.

Face coverings will be required in every part of the facility, and no one will be permitted on the mountain without a face covering, Afton Alps’ website said. And lift lines and mazes will be larger to accommodate greater physical distancing between guests.

Guests will be able to ride chair lifts and gondolas with their related parties, and no one will be required to ride with someone they don’t know.

Additionally, guests will be given access to restrooms and grab-and-go food only, as there will be no indoor seating. All transactions around the facility will be cashless. For the best experience, the resort recommends guests book and pay online in advance.

For more information, visit or visit the ski resort’s Facebook page.

The Lowdown:

Number of Runs: 48

Longest Run: 2,640 feet

Vertical Drop: 350 feet

On-site Lodging: No

Terrain Park: Yes

Tubing: No

Snow Base: 12" to 20"

Pricing: $50–$80

Types of Trails:

Easy: 20%

Intermediate: 60%

Difficult: 20%

Also in and around the Twin Cities: Elm Creek Winter Recreation Area in Maple Grove, Hyland Hills Ski Area in Bloomington, and Wild Mountain in Taylors Falls, and Buck Hill in Burnsville.

Welch Village, Welch

The family-owned Welch Village ski area in the southern portion of the state is taking an active role in reducing the spread of COVID-19 by creating a safe environment for both staff and guests this season.

According to the Welch Village website, daily lift tickets, ski and snowboard rentals, and lessons will be available for purchase online only. A limited number of daily lift tickets and rentals will be available each day. There will be no reservations required or capacity limits for season pass holders on any day during the 2020-2021 season.

Welch Village is also working on adding more outdoor amenities like additional fire pits, patio heaters and outdoor portable restrooms. Starting Saturday, Dec. 19, it will offer on-site food and beverage services with patio seating.

Additionally, the ski area has installed new outdoor ticket windows. The ski area recommends those who have the ability to ski or ride on weekdays or in the evening to do so, as weekends and peak holiday periods will have an effect on parking and chalet space this year.

For more information, visit or visit the ski area’s Facebook page.

The Lowdown:

Number of Runs: 60

Longest Run: 4,224 feet

Vertical Drop: 360 feet

On-site Lodging: No

Terrain Park: Yes

Tubing: No

Snow Base: 15" to 42"

Pricing: $35-$64

Types of Trails:

Easy: 31%

Intermediate: 50%

Difficult: 19%

Also in the South: Coffee Mill Ski and Snowboard Area in Wabasha and Mount Kato in Mankato.