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Hyland Ski & Snowboard Area: Winter fun in the middle of Minneapolis-St. Paul

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Hyland Ski & Snowboard area is small even by the standards of the Twin Cities ski world. Still, it has its charms, and serves as a convenient place for many Twin Cities residents. If you’re nearby, it's worth a visit.

Know that the main parking lot is small (130 slots, more or less), so you may have to park at a remote lot and take a short ride on a shuttle. Arrive early, though, and you'll have a very good parking spot near the chalet.

The chalet could use some more interior lighting, but it has some good qualities, too, such as a supply of facial-tissue boxes, a decent eatery, free wi-fi, and storage lockers. The restrooms are not fancy, but better than those at some other ski areas around here. They're on the ground level and are pleasantly lit.

The base facilities, by the way, will only improve: After this season, the chalet will be razed and rebuilt as part of a $14 million project, which will also bring redo the parking lots.

If you've never been to Hyland and would like to get a good feel for it all, start at the south chair and work your way toward the north. (As you face the hill, you'll move from left to right.) Take a few laps here, and then move on. Due to the configuration of the terrain, that's easier said than done; to get to the center chair from the base you may have to pole or skate. Skiing or riding down to the center chair from the south isn't a sure thing, either; the connector trail has a slight incline.

The center chair serves what may be the least interesting part of the area, though intermediates can use it to work on their techniques. From the center chair you can see the terrain parks, which is where Hyland shines. The parks lie between the center chair and the north chair. Even if you're like me and avoid riding or skiing in parks, stand below them and watch the action for a few minutes. You just may see some of the best freestyle riders and skiers in Minnesota strutting their stuff.

For the person who is beyond a novice, but isn't into freestyle, the best terrain is served by the north chair. If there’s not a ski team at work, make some laps on Big Moe (blue), which is near and under the lift. Use chair lift towers as pylons, or take tighter turns. Even further north than Moe is French Cliff, which provides a hint of of a steeper pitch.

The northern chair has a couple of curiosities, by the way. It has two race houses, plus a control shack that lies uphill from the unloading area. The placement of the shack has no implications for the guest experience, but it is something that caught my eye.

The top of the north chair features two other unusual sights. First, there’s a substantial view of host city Bloomington, which is the fifth largest city in the state and third largest in the metro area. A second and more unusual feature, though, is the Bush Lake Ski Jump facility, operated by the Minneapolis Ski Club, and on the same piece of property as the downhill area. While you’re probably not going to see anyone use the jump while you’re standing at the top of the north chair, the sight of the jump is a good reminder of how broad the world of snow sports is.

For more, on Hyland Ski & Snowboard area, read the in-depth review at Twin Cities Ski & Ride.

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