Make a visit to the Wirth Chalet

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February 12, 2013
By: Linda Koutsky
Missed a trip to Vail or Aspen this year? Spend an hour at the Wirth Chalet for Alpine recovery.
Linda Koutsky
Linda Koutsky

I wore it all: thermal long underwear, breathable turtleneck, pants and snow pants, wool sweater, 3M Thinsulate jacket, two pairs of socks, mittens with glove liners, knit scarf and an Olympics-branded hat. But my favorite part of skiing, even when I was growing up, was that last turn into the chalet.

Theodore Wirth Park is the largest outdoor recreation area in the Minneapolis Park System. Its 759 acres are chock full of walking and biking trails, golf courses, picnic areas, a boat launch, fishing pier, beach, wildflower garden, and bird sanctuary. But there’s plenty to do in winter too — and it all begins at the chalet.

Everything you need to know about tickets, equipment rental and trail maps can be answered at the chalet’s first-floor info desk. And while you’re there take a look around. The chalet is a truly unique piece of architecture — especially for an urban area. It’s more like a National Park Lodge plopped down in the shadow of our skyline.

Giant rough-cut blocks of granite set the stage for a quaint, Alpine-style chalet. A stone terrace is a delight even on a cold winter day. Carved brackets and beams create a dramatic overhang on the second floor. Inside, a vaulted ceiling covered with dark beams soars over what’s called “the fireplace room.”

Built in 1923, the chalet was designed by Minneapolis architectural firm Magney & Tusler whose signature works blanket Minneapolis: the Foshay Tower, Downtown Post Office, Westminister Church, Woman’s Club and Calhoun Beach Club. They seem to have spared no expense in the design of this park building. And the effect works: in an instant, you’re in a lodge in the Swiss Alps — this can’t possibly be Minnesota any more! The building is an architectural jewel in the Minneapolis Park Board. So grab your mittens and at least have a hot cocoa on the terrace. 

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Theodore Wirth Park Chalet
1339 Theodore Wirth Parkway, Minneapolis

CROSS COUNTRY SKIING

The park’s 15 miles of trails are groomed daily for both classical style and skate skiing.

• Equipment rental: $11; skis, boots, poles (available at Par 3 Clubhouse)

• Daily pass: $8

SNOWBOARDING

Plenty of rails and jumps for the adventurous but also lessons for the uninitiated.

• Equipment rental: $17; snowboard, boots, helmet;

• Daily pass: $10, Wed.–Fri.; $13, weekends, holidays, and school release days

SNOW TUBING AND SLEDDING

Freshly made snow and a rope tow make getting up the hill easier while evening lighting extends the fun hours.

• Daily pass: $8; ages 4–17; $12; 18+ (includes tube rental)

• Hours: Wed.–Fri., 4–8 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.–8 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.–6 p.m.

PIE BREAK: Pick up something at Chalet Cafe’s counter and enjoy it on the fieldstone terrace 

Tips or comments? Write to WeekendTourist@mnpubs.com