Huff Hills Ski Area
When people think of downhill skiing, North Dakota doesn’t come readily to mind. But people have found some good areas for skiing. Starting back in the 1960s, a group of local businesspeople around Mandan decided to start a ski area 16 miles south of the city. Unfortunately, the Twilight Hills venture proved short lived, and the location closed a few years later. However, this first failed attempt help lay the groundwork for the future.
Some 30 years later, Jim and Jan Beck, on a skiing trip to Bottineau, thought it was a shame the closest place to ski was three hours away. Jim owned Jim Beck Construction, and he had recently opened a tourist railway from Mandan to Ft. Abraham Lincoln State Park -- the Ft. Lincoln Trolley Company. He also knew of the earlier Twilight Hills attempt and thought it was worth another shot. He formed a group of investors, and on August 15, 1992, the landowner of the old ski area granted them a lease. They started work with the goal of opening by Christmas, but this was harder than they thought.
The old Twilight Hills site had some concrete footings and wire in the grass that made mowing a pain. After they managed to cut some runs, they began working on their first lift, the Blue Chair, a machine that came from the Holimont Ski Area by Buffalo, New York. It was disassembled and shipped by truck to the newly named Huff Hills ski area. As the crew began re-assembling the lift, the temperature dropped. It got even colder as they installed snowmaking equipment and cleared trails. Cold weather and snowstorms stalled the team so much that they missed the Christmas deadline. Jim Beck was worried, saying: "We knew how important it was to be open by Christmas, it would make or break a season. When we missed it, that put us behind for a long time."
On this date in 1993, the ski area finally opened. And luckily, a long winter gave them time to recover. Today, Huff Hills continues to be popular, even offering accessible skis for people with disabilities. The ski area provides a closer-to-home opportunity for the folks of central North Dakota.
Dakota Datebook by Lucid Thomas