By Jeff Wagner

BURNSVILLE, Minn. (WCCO) — Minnesota has had a taste of snow this season, and families are gearing up for winter.

So are the places that specialize in frozen fun. Snow is starting to show up on Minnesota ski hills, from Lutsen on the North Shore to Buck Hill in the Twin Cities.

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Not only are ski hills expecting another busy season, but so are retailers connected to winter sports.

At Midwest Mountaineering in Minneapolis, the racks are full, but consumers are advised that it won’t stay that way for long.

Manager Steve Schrader says that people should start shopping now, as demand remains as high as last winter, when the pandemic rekindled many Minnesotans’ love for the outdoors.

This time there also are supply chain issues. Currently, the store only has about 50% of its snowshoe stock, for example.

“There’s a chance once it goes, we’re not going to be able to get it back again,” Schrader said.

Once Minnesotans get their new winter gear, they won’t have to wait long to strap it on at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis. The snow guns are slated to activate over the weekend, turning the golf course into a winter wonderland for cross-country skiers.

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“Our programs have seen a ton of interest for the winter season, a lot of them are sold out already,” said Robert Ibler, the trails director with the Loppet Foundation. “We are anticipate that it’ll be pretty busy coming into this winter as well.”

Down in Burnsville at Buck Hill, there’s already a flurry of excitement as the snow guns were blasting Thursday night.

“It’s one of the greatest days of the year,” said Dave Solner, the owner of Buck Hill.

The ski hill has a new snowmaking system, which Solner says can pump out 5,000 gallons a minute when running at full capacity.

“That’s doubling what we had in the previous couple of years,” he said.

The system should keep Buck Hill covered in snow for longer periods of time. Like others in the outdoor recreation business, Solner is expecting another busy season. He says that season pass sales are up this year.

Buck Hill and Theodore Wirth Park both plan to open their ski areas after Thanksgiving. They just need a bit of help from Mother Nature, particularly daytime temperatures below freezing. That’ll speed up the snowmaking process.

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Jeff Wagner