'The most Midwestern thing ever': Last winter's snow is still around at Trollhaugen ski area

Two men uncover a pile of snow stored under a tarp
Trollhaugen's snow scientists check on the ski park's snow stash stored under hay and a tarp ahead of its Open Haugen Snow Fest.
Courtesy of Trollhaugen Outdoor Recreation Area

Just a week after making it through the hottest September on record for much of the Upper Midwest, the first snow slope rides of the season will kick off this weekend at the Trollhaugen ski and snowboard terrain park.

How is this winter fun being made possible?  

Don’t worry, it isn’t quite cold enough to break out the winter boots and shovels yet. But at Trollhaugen — located just south of St. Croix Falls, Wis., about an hour northeast of the Twin Cities — the snow has been there all along. 

After piling up all of the snow at the end of the winter season, Trollhaugen’s “snow scientists” covered it up with 2 feet of thick straw provided by local farmers and an insulated tarp courtesy of the St. Paul Saints baseball team, and tucked it away with hopeful wishes to survive the summer heat. 

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“It’s like the most Midwestern thing ever and even though we do lose a very large portion of the pile [during the summer], we still have an insane amount even now. It’s really crazy and it’s a cool science experiment,” said Marsha Hovey, marketing director at Trollhaugen.

While there has always been motivation to put on this event, it wasn’t always as simple as “tucking the snow to bed” for the summer, Hovey said. To put on the season kick-off Open Haugen event in the past, Trollhaugen officials would have to drive to multiple Twin Cities ice arenas and transport their extra ice shavings from Zambonis back to the slopes.  

A man scoops snow out of a truck bed
This is the third year that Trollhaugen ski park has preserved snow throughout the summer to use during its Open Haugen event, as pictured here in 2022.
Courtesy of Trollhaugen Outdoor Recreation Area

After signing contracts with Red Bull starting in 2021, Trollhaugen knew they needed to step up their snow preservation game, so they began experimenting.

Now on their third year of the snow pile preservation, Hovey says “we’ve now gotten pretty good at it. We know exactly where to put the snow on our hill, we know exactly how much hay we need. It’s kind of like a weird math problem that we figured out and, even with excessive heat, it stays literally all summer until October,” at which point it gets dragged back out.  

There was plenty of snow last winter; the snow pack stayed in good condition throughout the ski and snowboard season and into the warmth of spring as preparation for the pile began.   

“We push with our snow cats at the end of the season, a giant pile of snow in this very shaded area. At the start, it’s like 100 feet long and 20 feet tall, it’s massive,” said Hovey.  

Moving into summer, the snow pile was exposed to temperatures as high as 98 degrees and its fair share of heat advisories and warnings. But the snow pile held strong and still stretches well over 50 feet long and 12 feet tall — making it some major competition for the infamous “Mount Target” snowbank in Eden Prairie, Minn.

All of the hard work to keep the snow preserved will be undone this weekend as Trollhaugen begins the process of uncovering the massive pile and hauling the snow back up the slopes with dump trucks. 

Snowboarders perform jump tricks
Trollhaugen is uncovering the massive pile and hauling the snow back up the slopes with dump trucks for its Open Haugen event, as pictured here in 2022.
Courtesy of Trollhaugen Outdoor Recreation Area

The early season re-creation of a winter wonderland will be open to visitors on Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. for Trollhaugen’s Open Haugen Snow Fest featuring free chairlift rides, skiing, snowboarding and all sorts of other winter activities.  

Hovey encourages everyone to come and attend, even if they don’t plan on skiing or snowboarding. For Trollhaugen, she said, it has always been the goal to “find a way to have physical snow at this open house event as a kickoff to winter.” And with people making the commute from out of state to see some early snow, it seems their hard work has paid off. 

And that one weekend of winter fun will soon turn into many, as snowmaking will begin once temperatures allow. Trollhaugen aims to open runs around the first week of November if the weather cooperates; last year they were able to open a couple weeks early.