What better place to start than at the beginning? I spent 20 years teaching skiing and snowboarding three miles from my Edina, Minnesota home. During that time, I got married and began having children while working full time at Cargill as a sales, product and marketing manager. Prior to teaching, I was a volunteer ski patroller at Hyland and was able to continue to patrol after the first kid was born, but I quickly realized being a wife, working, getting an evening MBA, and parenting could each be full-time, so something had to go. It was skiing. I still skied, just not in a “job” kind of role.
My hiatus from skiing work lasted about five years. When my oldest was about 5 years old I went back to Hyland not as a patroller, but as a ski instructor.
For people from the West, skiing in the Midwest is a unique experience. Hyland is built on a hill with about 175 vertical feet (yes, you can walk to the top pretty easily) and it is conveniently located just outside the Interstate 494 loop, within the city limits of Bloomington, MN.
The first thing you notice as you drive to Hyland is that there is limited parking near the chalet and hill. There are several remote parking areas, the main one about half a mile away. The shuttles run frequently, and the drivers are friendly and good spirited. The Hyland season begins Thanksgiving weekend and usually runs to the second week of March. Snowmaking begins the end of October, or whenever the temperature falls into the 20s.
The large chalet has west facing windows for a panoramic view of the ski area. For parents, this is wonderful if waiting for kids, as the area is small enough that a person can see most of the ski runs therefore making watching progeny easy.
The new chalet, built about five years ago, was designed with the customers in mind. There are a few 10-minute parking spots, and a pay lot next to the building. When the chalet first opened for business, the paid parking was expensive—like $20/day. But it caused an uproar, and today the parking is $2/hour. To me, that’s ridiculously inexpensive. But the day I went, Christmas Eve, the parking lots weren’t full. Nor was the area busy.
Hyland is known for it’s outstanding ski and snowboard school. Since it is literally “in the city” it is THE place to go for lessons. And it is essentially one big bunny hill. Lessons and rentals run around $160 for three 1.5-hour lessons, lift tickets and rentals. A day pass is $38, but the good news is the senior day pass is $18.50, or $20 with tax. Check their brochure for more information: https://www.threeriversparks.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/SnowSports/HylandHills%20SnowSports%202019.pdf
When I was an instructor at Hyland, my goal for adult students was to get the person from the bunny hill to skiing every lift. There are three chair lifts, two quads and one triple. Nothing is high speed, as there’s only 175 vertical feet to cover.
Every area has Green Circle, Blue Square and Black Diamond runs. Some areas will have Orange Ovals, which are the terrain parks. But not all runs are equal.
Each area determines the level of difficulty based on their mountain. And while Green is still for beginners, Blue for intermediates and Black for advanced, it is for beginners, intermediates and advanced for THAT area. Trust me, the runs are all harder on big mountains compared to Hyland, but if you learn the basics at Hyland, and some what I call, “survival strategies,” you can ski anywhere.
The beauty of Hyland is that as you face the hill, the difficulty increases moving from left to right across the hill. From a directional perspective, that’s starting at the far south end to the north end.
I would say technically, Hyland is all green, but again, every area ranks its runs based on difficulty for that area. For Hyland, Greens are the Bunny Hill served by two magic carpets (moving walkways) and a rope tow. The South Chair has two great green runs: Big Foot which is the furthest south run and often crowded with classes, and the Upper Ridge Run that will take you back to the chalet without walking. Upper Ridge Run, while it is easy, is also a long straight run where you have to gain good speed if you don’t want to walk the end (and if you are a boarder, you don’t want to walk) and the last leg of it is part of the Blue Square Lower Ridge Run .
Every chair serves blue runs. Off the south chair the run right next to Big Foot is labeled Blue, but the black run, Sitz is comparable.
In order to get to South without walking, take the center chair and hang left. That’s a blue run, Tattle Tale. It intersects Upper Ridge Run, so keep a lookout to the right for skiers heading to the chalet.
The center chair serves a nice wide blue run which is steeper than south runs.
To get to the North chair, hang a right off Center chair and get your speed up. You will follow the base of the terrain park headed north. Get your speed up so you make it all the way to North.
The north chair has a reputation for being hard, and it is more difficult. The runs on either side of the chair are blacks, and the furthest north run is a blue. The north chairs services the races, so on those days it can be busy, and the runs are limited because of the racing gates. But fewer people head to north because of the difficulty, but really, work on the basics and it is a really fun. Keep in mind, the downhill skier has the right of way, so don’t be bombing the hill, there might be a beginner below you.
The best thing at Hyland are the features in the terrain park. Terrain parks are identified by Orange Ovals. I’ve done limited terrain skiing and boarding, and was one of the early advocates to put baby features on the bunny hill. In my opinion, for a small area with limited terrain space, Hyland has one of the best terrain parks I’ve seen.
There are two sides to the Terrain Park—the smaller features and the big features. The big features are bigger jumps, larger (higher) rainbows and longer slides and tables. The smaller features are pretty amazing by themselves, but they are—smaller. It is great training turf, and again, to have such features within the city is amazing to me.
The danger in the terrain park, as it is all over Hyland, the area can be crowded. And that’s even more of an issue in a park where people are intentionally catching air and landing tricks. Buyer beware.
The cafeteria at Hyland is second to none—and I’ve been to a lot of areas. In addition to the regular fare of burgers, chili and fries, they have specials ranging from chicken alfredo to Mexican dishes. You won’t go home hungry, and the prices are reasonable. Drawback—no alcohol.
There’s a store for those forgotten/lost mittens and hats, logo T’s and wearables, helmets and the like. Very reasonably priced.
Hyland is part of the Three Rivers Park District, so it is county owned. It’s visible taxpayer dollars at work and is actually one of the few revenue generating ventures for the district.
Hyland is a fun little area, great warm-up for the west, or even for going to a larger area in Minnesota. It’s inexpensive, fun, and friendly.