Most people don’t equate North Dakota with great skiing, but by admission that’s only because of the competition our country has given us. While we may boast better cheese than Colorado, and more land than Vermont (you could fit seven Green Mountain States into one Peace Garden), they’ve certainly got us beat in terms of pure elevation. This isn’t to say we haven’t got great skiing, of course — Huff Hills Ski Area is evidence enough of that.
Huff Hills first opened in 1993. Naturally, Huff Hills’ local investors weren’t adamantly opposed to the place attracting a lot of business when they cut the ribbon, but ski areas are always founded with a certain passion for the sport in mind as well. The men wanted the people of the Bismarck-Mandan community to enjoy skiing and snowboarding without first having to exhaust themselves during a long morning drive, or worse — boarding a plane.
Huff Hills is the largest ski area in North Dakota, a 450’ vertical drop with two double chairlifts and a handle tow in the beginner’s area. From the hillcrest you can see the Missouri River Valley panning all around you, with a long horseshoe of waterway framing the scene. The view alone would be worth the trip. What follows from the peak is some incredibly varied terrain over which you can practice any kind of skiing or riding that you’ve got the grit for.
No matter your skill level, Huff Hill provides. If you’re a purist, you’ll enjoy keeping to the area’s 16 trails, spanning from beginner runs to steeper black diamonds. If you’re the adventurous sort, you’ll especially enjoy discovering the area’s hidden treasures, portions of terrain that are unmapped but nonetheless make for stellar skiing. (There is an exceptional glade just off of the Rattlesnake trail.) If you’re a daredevil, you and your fearless kind can go and one-up each other at the terrain park, a collection of ramps, boxes, and rails where you can slip the surly bonds of earth.
Naturally, becoming airborne takes a lot of skill, at least if you’d like to do so intentionally. That’s why Huff Hills’ friendly and capable instructors are standing by to teach people the ropes, whether they’ve never taken to skis or a snowboard before or would simply like to hone their already considerable skills. Kids so enjoy the affable instructors’ guidance that they’ll often be unaware they’re meant to be learning at all, becoming adept at traversing the slopes while laughing the whole time.
Aside from experience, a novice might lack equipment, but Huff Hills provides that as well. The rental shop at the base area offers ski and snowboard rentals, as well as helmets which you’re dearly advised to take advantage of. The base area lodge also has hot food, a big fireplace by the window, and a selection of beers including local microbrews, just the thing to cap off a great day of skiing or simply punctuate one.
Its base area makes Huff Hills a particularly family friendly destination, because no matter which lift or trail you take, gravity dictates you’ll wind up right back there. This means that mom may restore herself by the fire with the aid of hot chocolate, dad may venture into the woods in search of impressively hard skiing, the kids can go check out the terrain park, and everyone will end up back at the same place at the end of the day.
Whether you’re planning a big ski trip to Vail, Red Lodge Mountain, or Jackson Hole and would like to make certain beforehand that your legs are ready and equipment is dialed in, or you’d just like a fine ski trip in its own right, Huff Hills awaits. It’s incredibly nearby at only 16 miles from downtown Mandan, so you don’t even have to wake up early to enjoy a full day there. Visit huffhills.com to learn more about the best local skiing around!
By David Scheller