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Ski resorts ready as temperatures slide

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The sharp drop in temperatures is good news for Minnesota ski resorts.

The Pioneer Press reports there was a crowd at Afton Alps on Saturday as the Washington County ski resort opened for the first time since it underwent a $10 million renovation during the offseason. Afton's new owner, Colorado-based Vail Resorts Inc., installed 72 new snowmaking machines to increase snowmaking capacity. The resort also updated its food service, with new menus and remodeled dining and kitchen areas, and replaced paper lift-tickets with an electronic system using barcoded access cards.

MPR reported that other ski areas around the state opened this weekend. Lutsen Mountain, the state’s largest alpine ski resort, opened two runs. The chilly temperatures allowed Duluth's Spirit Mountain to open; the resort didn't open until Nov. 30 last year because of warm temperatures.

“We’ve all been putting up with some less than fun winters. And I think that this year is going to be payback on the positive side for the poor winters we’ve experienced,” Spirit Mountain executive director Renee Mattson told MPR.

The Duluth News Tribune says skiers in the northern part of the state may see some snow made by Mother Nature in addition to what's pumped out by resort snowmaking machines. An Alberta Clipper low-pressure system will skirt the Arrowhead and give towns north of Duluth a 40 percent chance for light snow on Sunday. Light snow means a trace to 2 inches.

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