BEMIDJI — Minnesota is a little vertically challenged. Actually, it’s a lot.

The state happens to be more horizontal than Kansas – whose land is often compared to a pancake – and, by overall elevation, it's also the fifth-flattest state in the nation.

So how can it be that such a place is a quintessential wintertime destination for Mid-America, luring in those who aren't looking to venture to the slopes of Aspen to get their fill of skiing and snowboarding – both of which require a bit of altitude to get the job done?

Of course, Minnesota isn't necessarily considered a downhill skiing mecca; but for what it's worth, there's a ski option within driving distance virtually anywhere you live in the state.

From the colossus that is Lutsen Mountains in the North Shore's Sawtooth Mountains to the quaint village that is Buena Vista nestled along the Continental Divide, there are some pretty notable ski resorts that take what's provided by the region and use it to their advantage.

When skiing emerged in the U.S. around the start of the 20th Century, it only seemed logical that Minnesota would carve out a slice of the pie. Not only did the state have some of the longest winters around, it also had an enthusiastic Norwegian immigrant population that had brought the sport with it from the motherland.

Although Minnesota's landscape wasn't ideal for alpine skiing, its scattering of hills could do the job. And if there were no hills, they could be man-made with a little innovation.

And what arose from those hills are some of the nation's skiing legends: Lindsey Vonn, one of the most accomplished alpine skiers of all time, and Cindy Nelson, Minnesota’s first World Cup skier.

On top of that, throw in a few notable cross country skiers from Minnesota on USA teams – Jessie Diggins from the 2018 Olympics –and there's proof that what the state lacks in altitude, it makes up for in attitude to be the best in the sport.

So if you're hoping to channel your inner Olympian this season on the slopes – or would just prefer the leisure of tubing – here's a guide to some spots around Minnesota that'll have you soaking in the enjoyment of wintertime.

Northwest and Central

Buena Vista Ski Area, Bemidji

Located along the Continental Divide, aka the Top of the World, Buena Vista is one of the older ski areas in Minnesota – its first run cleared in 1936 and its original chalet made out of a grain bin.

Back then, “grooming was unheard of” and “straight down was the style,” Buena Vista’s website said. But in 1975, the ski area upgraded and chair lifts were added as its popularity grew.

Today, it’s a skiing mainstay for many in the northwest region of the state, attracting visitors with its rustic charm, scenic views and family friendly events.

The Lowdown:

Number of Runs: 16

Longest Run: 2,000 feet

Vertical Drop: 230 feet

On-site Lodging: No

Terrain Park: Yes

Tubing: Yes

Types of Trails:

Easy: 20%

Intermediate: 55%

Difficult: 25%

Andes Tower Hills, Kensington

When two brothers set out to create a ski area in the middle of Minnesota farmland in 1980, nobody knew that it would become a top wintertime destination for families seeking wholesome kid-friendly fun.

Today, Andes Tower Hills’ mission is faith-driven and offers affordable prices along with a no alcohol policy on the property. Perfect for a family getaway, the ski area also features hillside condominiums for rent to its visitors.

The Lowdown:

Number of Runs: 16

Longest Run: 1,056 feet

Vertical Drop: 290 feet

On-site Lodging: Yes

Terrain Park: Yes

Tubing: Yes

Types of Trails:

Easy: 25%

Intermediate: 25%

Difficult: 50%

Powder Ridge, Kimball

Only an hour west of Minneapolis, Powder Ridge is providing skiers and snowboarders with both night and day opportunities for winter activity.

All runs are lit for night use, and laser tubing is a popular activity among guests after the sun goes down. Lasers, strobes and flashing lights illuminate the tubing hill while a fire pit burns nearby and music plays, adding to the coolness factor.

There is also a large chalet, which includes an adult lounge and two food service areas for those looking to relax and refill after a day – or night – of recreation.

The Lowdown:

Number of Runs: 15

Longest Run: 2,650 feet

Vertical Drop: 290 feet

On-site Lodging: No

Terrain Park: Yes

Tubing: Yes

Types of Trails:

Easy: 33%

Intermediate: 40%

Difficult: 27%

Mount Ski Gull, Nisswa

Located on the shores of Gull Lake, Mount Ski Gull offers fantastic views while guests explore the area’s various skiing and snowboarding options.

A non-profit facility, Mount Ski Gull has spent years giving back to its local community through its Learn to Ski Program – teaching over 25,000 sixth-graders from area schools how to ski.

The Lowdown:

Number of Runs: 12

Longest Run: 2,200 feet

Vertical Drop: 298 feet

On-site Lodging: No

Terrain Park: Yes

Tubing: Yes

Types of Trails:

40% Easy

30% Intermediate

30% Difficult

Also in the Northwest: Detroit Mountain Recreation Area in Detroit Lakes.

Northeast

Lutsen Mountains, Lutsen

The grand behemoth of Minnesotan ski resorts, Lutsen Mountains boasts that it “offers the Midwest’s only true mountain ski area experience” with a location set along the Sawtooth Mountains on Lake Superior’s scenic North Shore.

With 1,000 acres of skiable terrain spanning across four interconnected peaks, the area is a journey in itself and provides a variety of slopeside lodging and dining options along with live musical performances each day.

While national and Olympic ski champion Cindy Nelson put Lutsen on the map in the 1970s, the resort is continually making efforts to stay up-to-date – with some of its newest additions including a six-passenger high-speed chairlift and an 8 passenger gondola.

The Chicago Tribune described skiing Lutsen as the “Midwest answer to Aspen,” and with a vertical drop of over 1,000 feet, it’s hard to deny that its slopes are offering up serious altitude in a notoriously flat region of America.

The Lowdown:

Number of Runs: 95

Longest Run: 10,560 feet

Vertical Drop: 1,088 feet (lift service – 825 feet)

On-site Lodging: Yes

Terrain Park: Yes

Tubing: No

Types of Trails:

Easy: 18%

Intermediate: 72%

Difficult: 10%

Giants Ridge, Biwabik

Located in the fairytale-esque Bavarian town of Biwabik, Giants Ridge grants guests access to a “first class four-season recreation area in a true Minnesota Northwoods setting.”

Once serving as an Olympic training site, the resort has more than 60 kilometers of world-class cross country skiing trails along with two terrain parks (beginner and intermediate), a snow tubing park and a children's sledding area and sliding hill.

When not partaking in the resort’s many outdoor offerings, guests can also spend their time indulging in onsite dining, shopping and lodging accommodations.

The Lowdown:

Number of Runs: 35

Longest Run: 3,960 feet

Vertical Drop: 500 feet

On-site Lodging: Yes

Terrain Park: Yes

Tubing: Yes

Types of Trails:

Easy: 31%

Intermediate: 44%

Difficult: 25%

Spirit Mountain, Duluth

Renowned for its incredible views of downtown Duluth and its harbor, Spirit Mountain draws in thrill-seekers for its vertical drop of 700 feet – only Lutsen Mountains has it beat – as well as those looking to take advantage of the four separate terrain parks located throughout the area.

Established by the Minnesota State Legislature in 1974 to encourage winter tourism in Duluth, Spirit Mountain boasts of having the “biggest and best” terrain park in the Midwest, which caters to both novices and experts in improving their skills.

Along with offering lift-access to fat bikers, Spirit Mountain also operates a year-round alpine coaster and often holds nighttime glow tubing.

The Lowdown:

Number of Runs: 22

Longest Run: 5,400 feet

Vertical Drop: 700 feet

On-site Lodging: Yes

Terrain Park: Yes

Tubing: Yes

Types of Trails:

Easy: 32%

Intermediate: 41%

Difficult: 27%

Also in the Northeast: Chester Bowl in Duluth and Mt. Itasca Winter Sports Center in Coleraine.

Minneapolis-St. Paul

Afton Alps, Hastings

For many who live in the Twin Cities, Afton Alps is their go-to ski destination – it being the largest in the metro area with nearly 300 skiable acres.

The sprawling area offers scenic views of the St. Croix River Valley along with an abundance of runs and terrain parks to keep guests of all abilities busy with both skiing and snowboarding.

Day and night skiing are also offered as well as a variety of learning programs for all ages.

The Lowdown:

Number of Runs: 48

Longest Run: 2,640 feet

Vertical Drop: 350 feet

On-site Lodging: No

Terrain Park: Yes

Tubing: No

Types of Trails:

Easy: 20%

Intermediate: 60%

Difficult: 20%

Buck Hill, Burnsville

Best known for churning out world cup ski racers Lindsey Vonn and Kristina Koznick, Buck Hill also boasts a nearly 800-foot magic carpet, one of the longest in the country.

The ski area has over 45 acres of skiable terrain and holds night skiing and tubing for visitors. It also works with a local non-profit organization, Padraig’s Place, to provide an enjoyable experience for skiers and snowboarders with disabilities.

The Lowdown:

Number of Runs: 15

Longest Run: 1,056 feet

Vertical Drop: 310 feet

On-site Lodging: No

Terrain Park: Yes

Tubing: Yes

Types of Trails:

Easy: 40%

Intermediate: 40%

Difficult: 20%

Also in and around the Twin Cities: Como Park Ski Center in St. Paul, Elm Creek Winter Recreation Area in Maple Grove, Hyland Hills Ski Area in Bloomington, and Wild Mountain in Taylors Falls.

Southern

Mount Kato, Mankato

Just a mile south of Mankato in the Minnesota River Valley, Mount Kato is serving up exceptional terrain for those looking to fulfill their wintertime cravings for outdoor activity.

The ski area has its own Developmental Race Team for kids, which gives “young skiers and ski racers an opportunity to develop and improve their skills,” Mount Kato’s website said.

The Lowdown:

Number of Runs: 19

Longest Run: 2,800 feet

Vertical Drop: 240 feet

On-site Lodging: No

Terrain Park: Yes

Tubing: Yes

Types of Trails:

Easy: 21%

Intermediate: 42%

Difficult: 37%

Welch Village, Welch

While the family-owned Welch Village caters to all skill levels, skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts are lured to the area, where an ensemble of black-diamond, front-face runs are among the steepest in the region.

The ski area is also geared to both families and adults with two separate spaces for each. Its Base Lodge has been designed for families, groups, and young adults; whereas the Madd Jaxx Chalet is geared toward adults with a full bar and a festive atmosphere.

The Lowdown:

Number of Runs: 60

Longest Run: 4,224 feet

Vertical Drop: 360 feet

On-site Lodging: No

Terrain Park: Yes

Tubing: No

Types of Trails:

Easy: 31%

Intermediate: 50%

Difficult: 19%

Also in the South: Coffee Mill Ski and Snowboard Area in Wabasha.