A nonessential trip to northern Minnesota in midwinter requires a hardy soul, someone who sees opportunity in winter as opposed to those who resist opening their freezers until April.

Biwabik in February, the home of Giants Ridge Ski Area, is a beautiful place in winter, with rolling, snow-coated hills and enough to do to nudge even the most cold-phobic of Minnesotans outdoors.

It’s also the site of the MSHSL’s Alpine and Nordic ski racing meets, the first state tournaments of the 2014-15 winter sports season.

Wednesday, the Alpine skiers take to the slopes, with the Minnetonka girls and Blake boys each shooting for their third consecutive state team championship. The first runs begin at 10 a.m.

The Nordic skiers hit the trails Thursday. Wayzata’s girls will be chasing their third team title in a row and the Forest Lake boys will be attempting to repeat. The 5K freestyle, or skate, race starts at 10 a.m. with a classic-style race of equal distance beginning at 2 p.m.

Here’s a quick look at the best of the rest this week:

Girls’ hockey

It’s section finals week. After Friday, the state tournament will be set. Interested in checking out a game? Try staking out Parade Ice Gardens. The Minneapolis arena will play host to the Class 1A, Section 5 final at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, with the combatants likely to be 1A, No. 2 Blake, the defending state champs, and No. 3 Breck. Friday, it’s the Class 2A, Section 6 final, also at 7:30 p.m. The matchup will undoubtedly be worthwhile, as all four of Tuesday’s semifinalists are ranked among the top 14 in 2A (No. 2 Minnetonka vs. No. 14 Hopkins, No. 6 Wayzata vs. No. 3 Maple Grove).

Boys’ hockey

Thursday: White Bear Lake vs. Cretin-Derham Hall at Highland Arena, 7:30 p.m. Both teams are tied with 24 points atop the Suburban East, but the Bears (12-2 in league play) have a game in hand. If White Bear Lake loses to Woodbury on Tuesday, this one will be for the conference championship. If the Bears win Tuesday, Cretin-Derham Hall will need a victory to gain a share of the conference crown.

Boys’ basketball

Saturday: Cretin-Derham Hall at DeLaSalle, 6:15 p.m. Injuries sidelined Cretin-Derham Hall’s Donnell Grisham for much of the first half of the season. Having his athleticism back in the lineup relieves the pressure on the high-scoring duo of Joe Rosga (19.7 ppg) and Sam Neumann (19.5 ppg) and is a big reason why the Raiders have won 11 in a row. Host DeLaSalle has won 16 consecutive. This looks like fun.

Girls’ basketball

Thursday: St. Michael-Albertville at Elk River, 7 p.m. Two top 10 teams from neighboring school districts hoping to bolster their season resumes. Both have two losses. St. Michael-Albertville recently won at Minnetonka 53-51, while Elk River fell to the Skippers 78-73 nine days later. The Knights are ranked No. 3 in Class 4A, the Elks No. 6, but Elk River’s home-court edge makes this game pretty even.