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Afton Alps celebrates 50 years in business

Afton Alps is celebrating 50 years in business this year. The ski hill made $10 million in capital investments during the offseason. Rivertown Multimedia photo by Margaret Ontl

This is a big year for Afton Alps. The area ski destination is celebrating its 50 year anniversary. In addition to that, it is the ski area’s first full season in the family of Vail Resorts. Vail Resorts purchased Afton Alps Dec. 13, 2012.

“During the off season, we have made $10 million in capital investments,” said Amy Reents, marketing manager.

The improvements include the addition of 72 new snowmaking machines, a new guest services facility, a new ticketing and scanning system. The biggest and most dramatic addition is the new Terrain Park which has four runs.

“The Terrain Park is a freestyle ski and snowboard area designed by the same people who designed the courses for the Winter X Games,” said Reents.

Other additions include two high speed rope tows in Terrain Park. Food and beverage offerings have been upgraded in every chalet.

“Afton Alps employs 1,000 people in the winter,” said Reents. “We have a lot of the same employees. We still feel like a family and we are the community hill.”

According to the website Afton Alps started with the hard work of a few family farmers with a passion for skiing. Afton Alps sprung to life on 300 acres of bluffs along the St. Croix River on Dec. 21, 1963. Opening day drew 37 guests.

One of those family farmers was Reents’ dad, Paul Augustine.

“I grew up here,” said Reents, who worked part-time through her high school years and became a full-time employee in 1993.

The 1970s brought rapid growth with more chairlifts, new trails and a very dedicated ski school staff. The area continues to add new facilities with the advent of snowboarding.

Vail Resorts’ $10 million investment is the most significant one time influx of capital improvements in the history of the Afton Alps.

Local community hills like Afton Alps create the consumers for mountain resorts like the other Vail Resorts properties, which include: in Colorado, Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, Breckenridge; in Utah, Canyons; and in Nevada and California, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood.

Afton Alps and Mount Brighton in Michigan are considered urban resorts.

“The new tag line ‘Where EPIC Begins’ reflects the concept that the passion for skiing starts locally,” said Reents. “We are the place where people learn to ski. A lot of people learn on their hometown hill. Our roots have always been in families learning how to ski.”

“We survive by church and school groups that bring students during the week nights after school,” said Reents. “These groups are our partners to help get people into the sport of skiing.”

Vail Resorts managers recognized the connection with local hills and their customer base at their mountain resorts. Therefore purchasing and investing in a quality resort like Afton Alps not only gives area residents a terrific destination, it helps assure the long-term survival of other Vail Resorts. Vail Resorts Season Pass options now include Afton Alps.

Today, Afton Alps offers 50 trails on 300 acres, 18 lifts, four terrain park runs and new guest services offering.

For more information about Afton Alps and other Vail Resorts, go to