Hyland Ski and Snowboard Area is so small that it is used as a driving range in the summer, with golfers hitting up the slopes. Assistant area manager Jake Woese¿a six handicap¿can actually hit to the summit, 240 yards on the fly. But it is remarkable what Hyland does with its meager 175 feet of vertical drop, 35 acres of terrain and six lifts.
Less than an hour's drive for nearly two million Twin Cities residents, Hyland buzzes with activity on winter days and evenings, even when the temperature dips below zero. On one trail, high school racers run gates. On another, racers of the USSA Team program (which recently placed 15-year-old Kaylin Richardson on the U.S. Ski Team) practice. Just a few yards away, members of the freestyle team rip through a small patch of moguls and soar off two large jumps. In front of the A-frame base lodge, a posse of young snowboarders makes endless laps up the ropetow and down through the terrain park or adjoining halfpipe. Says area manager Fred Seymour: "We maximize time and space."
Hyland was started with a single ropetow in the Fifties on Mt. Gilboa, the second-highest point in Hennepin County. In the Sixties, it became part of Hennepin Parks system, a nationally acclaimed 25,000-acre network of parks in the Twin Cities area. As a government-operated area, Hyland bans smoking and alcohol and the ski area is within the 1,000-acre park. "We're a safe place for parents to drop their kids off and then come back six or seven hours later," Seymour says.
Many parents also stick around to ski or ride themselves, often polishing their skills before trips to Western resorts. With a boost from 5,000 season-passholders, Hyland averages more than 120,000 skier visits each winter. Hyland's 250 part-time instructors teach more than 30,000 lessons, including organized school programs for some 25 local elementary schools.
Despite being so close to a major city¿so close that the downtown Minneapolis skyline is easily visible¿Hyland emits a friendly, low-key atmosphere. Prices are reasonable in the newly remodeled base lodge cafeteria, which seats 400. Outside on the wide-open slopes, you can count on more "Minnesota Nice," not ice, thanks to 100 percent snowmaking coverage and meticulous grooming.
Although some Hyland locals gaze longingly at the steeper, gladed backside of the hill, that terrain can never be developed because of park restrictions. But if skiers or riders get bored with running gates or playing in the terrain park and halfpipe, they do have other options at this pool of snowsports.
A few hundred yards down the ridge, they can join the Minneapolis Ski Club and soar off a towering 70-meter nordic jump. Or there are tamer options nearby¿miles of cross-country and snowshoe trails, and even a lighted sledding hill.
Hyland, Bloomington, Minn.
INFORMATION 612-835-4250 or www.hylandski.com
VERTICAL 175 feet
ANNUAL SNOWFALL 35 inches, plus 100 percent snowmaking
STATS 10 runs, six lifts, 35 acres
LIFT TICKETS For adults, rates are $18-$25, depending on day and length of time; juniors (12 and under) pay $13-$22.
A GOOD DEAL The 10-visit Value Pass is $150.