The newly renamed Hyland Hills Ski Area will unveil its gleaming new chalet this Saturday, giving visitors already eager for the ski season a preview of its design and amenities.
The 37,000-square-foot chalet, twice the size of the one it replaced, is expected to draw even more skiers and snowboarders to the popular Bloomington ski area.
The grand opening will start with a 2 p.m. ribbon-cutting and feature many family activities, including a ski demonstration, a scavenger hunt, food from the chalet’s kitchen, information on discounts and a chance to have pictures taken in a chairlift photo booth.
The $14.9 million project has been “a long time coming,” said John Gibbs, commissioner of the Three Rivers Park District, which operates the area. “We’ve done it right. It’s functional and beautiful.”
The ski area has long been a favorite among locals and tourists staying close to the Mall of America and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
The original chalet, built in 1974, eventually became too small to serve the growing ranks of visitors, who numbered 160,000 per year in the past few years, Gibbs said.
Early planning for the project started in 2007, and the park district decided to demolish the old chalet in 2014. Upgrades to the park’s ski courses were completed in 2013.
At the new facility, visitors looking to take a break from skiing and snowboarding can enjoy an expanded food court or browse the racks of the new retail shop for ski gear.
The new chalet also features more parking, shuttle services and an improved skier drop-off point.
“From the drop-off to parking to picking up passes and renting skis, it’s almost seamless,” Gibbs said. Neighbors once concerned about congestion will find traffic flowing better, he said.
During the winter of 2014-15, when the chalet was under construction, guests could still ski and snowboard using temporary trailers. About 127,600 guests were accommodated then.
“We did our best,” said Tom Knisely, spokesman for Three Rivers. “It was a little rustic, but everyone had a good time.”
The park’s first name, back in 1959, was Mount Normandale, until Three Rivers changed it to Hyland Hills. In 1997, the name was changed again to Hyland Ski and Snowboard Area when the park began to offer snowboarding. Now the name is being simplified again — back to the Hyland Hills Ski Area.
Fred Seymour, the park’s longtime senior manager, said the new chalet will officially open around Thanksgiving, when the ski season begins.
Seymour said that when he lived in Colorado he had to drive hours to ski anywhere. But not in Bloomington.
“There is not another place in the country that has a ski area right in their backyard,” he said. “This is a truly unique place.”