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Afton Alps opened in 1963 with a few tow ropes, a T-bar and 37 skiers, but it grew over the years.

Star Tribune file ,

Skis and snow boards dangle above a skier who enjoys one of the steeper hills at Afton Alps.

Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

Vail to sink $10 million into upgrades for Afton Alps

  • Article by: JENNIFER BJORHUS
  • Star Tribune
  • March 7, 2013 - 6:24 AM

Vail Resorts Inc. said Wednesday that it plans to invest nearly $10 million in Afton Alps, the Twin Cities ski area it bought in December.

It’s the first time the Colorado skiing giant has put a dollar figure on the upgrades it mentioned when news of the sale went public.

The company said it intends to significantly improve snowmaking so the resort can open earlier and stay open later in the season, as well as to create a better snow surface.

It also plans to create state-of-the-art terrain parks with new features and rope tows and to modernize the base area facilities.

“We’re planning on getting as much completed as possible for next season,” Vail spokeswoman Kate Lessman said in an interview.

The company also said it’s selling the Epic Pass and Epic Local Pass, popular season pass products that offer access to all of Vail’s resorts, for the next ski season. The Epic Local Pass, for instance, allows adults to ski or ride all nine Vail resorts, with some restrictions, for $529, $130 more than the current Afton Alps Pass.

Afton Alps had been owned by the Augustine family since 1963, when it opened with a few tow ropes, a T-bar and 37 skiers the first day.

Vail Resorts, a publicly traded company based in Broomfield, Colo., announced in December that it was buying Afton as well as the Mount Brighton ski area outside Detroit for a combined $20 million.

Afton is the largest ski area near a major city in the Midwest, according to Vail Resorts, with 48 trails and 18 lifts over nearly 300 acres. Mount Brighton has 26 trails on 130 acres.

The acquisitions are part of Vail’s new growth strategy targeting key urban ski areas that it views as gateways.

Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683

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