Riders and skiers may wonder what Afton Alps will look like after Vail Resorts pumps $10 million into it. One result may be some spiffed-up restrooms.
Afton has the most chalets (five) of any ski area in the Twin Cities, reflecting its status as the largest by size and customer base. The "premier" chalets are Alps, in the northeast part of the property, and the Highlands, in the southwest. In between the two are three other chalets. The tubing chalet is open only during tubing hours (more restricted that skiing hours). Near that tubing chalet is the Meadows chalet, which is by one of the two rental shops on the property, and serves the ski school. Finally, the Alpine chalet is, like the Highlands, on the top rather than the bottom of the river bluff. It's seldom open.
The other day I visited Afton, and while there, stopped in at the Alps and Highlands chalets. Both are heavily used, with the Highland frequently used on weekends for traveling ski and snowboard schools.
Both chalets are far and away nicer facilities than the three others, which feature concrete hallways, long sets of stairs, and shabby-to-basic restrooms.
The restrooms at the Alps and Highlands chalets are easily accessible. Once you enter the Alps chalet, you do have to climb a short (three or four) set of steps to the first-floor restrooms. Better yet, at the Highlands chalet, there's no steps at all. Skiers, especially, will cheer.
Both chalets also get credit for having modern tile on both the floors and on the walls, which gives the restrooms a pleasant appearance. On the downside, both chalets use old-school cloth towels on a roll.
The Alps restrooms (there is one upstairs near the bar, as well as on the first floor) are the nicest. They're bigger, and both upstairs and downstairs restrooms have cushioned chairs that you can sit on to adjust your boots or even change change into your ski/ride clothes, something you won't find elsewhere.
On the lower level, you'll find three stalls, each with a hook for hanging up a coat or helmet. There are also seven urinals, in two banks, but no dividers. This is the practice at Afton, and it's a slight demerit when it comes to a men's room. On the other hand, the two banks of urinals in the lower level each have a long shelf, for placing gloves. For some reason, they're not upstairs or (as I recall) at Highlands.
The lower level restroom has three sinks with a common countertop, three mirrors, and two soap dispensers. There are also three cloth towel dispensers.
The upstairs men's room has a much lower capacity, with two stalls (only one with a coat hook), and only three urinals. But as with downstairs, there are three sinks, two soap dispensers, and three cloth towel dispensers.
The upstairs restroom has an outside door reminiscent of a a "nice" gas station, while the downstairs restroom uses design to avoid the need for an outside door.
The men's room at the Highland chalet has a similar design, and no outside door. It has only two stalls and three urinals. As with the Alps chalet, it has three sinks and two soap dispensers. It has three mirrors and two cloth-towel dispensers. For some reason, the tile floor is more likely to be slippery than the floor of either restroom in the Alps chalet.