AFTON, Minn. (WCCO) — Winter sports are officially back in the Upper Midwest. Several local ski areas reopened for the season this week, just in time for the Thanksgiving break.

Afton Alps opened Wednesday afternoon, and skiers and snowboarders quickly lined up to take their first runs of the year.

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In Wisconsin, Trollhaugen Outdoor Recreation Area opened earlier Thanksgiving week thanks to hard-working snow machines battling mild temperatures.

“Unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans this year, and we started a bit later than we have in the past,” Trollhaugen Marketing Director Marsha Hovey said.

Despite a late start, Hovey anticipates another busy year. During the 2020-2021 season, lift tickets sold out for the first time in its 70-year history.

(credit: CBS)

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“We were kind of one of those unicorn businesses that was able to really flourish even during the pandemic with an outside activity that was safe for a lot of people to do,” Hovey said.

Afton Alps is also navigating through mild temperatures, using their snow machines when they can. Senior Communications Manager Pam Hoye reminds visitors to bring their vaccination cards if they plan to eat inside the dining hall.

“I like to say, you know, come out and carve the snow, and then you can carve your turkey,” Hoye said.

Both ski areas anticipate a snow-packed season with plenty of frozen fun. Due to increased demand, they recommend making a plan early.

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Buck Hill and Hyland Hills Ski Area both plan to open Friday. Other areas are waiting for colder temperatures, like Welch Village, which hopes to open by the end of next week.

Kirsten Mitchell