Before you read today’s post about Lutsen Mountains, Minnesota, clear your mind.
Rid yourself of any preconceptions you might have about skiing in Minnesota. Whatever you think you know, let those thoughts go.
Nowhere Else Like Lutsen Mountains
We skied Lutsen Mountains two weeks ago, a last hurrah for this season’s MAX Pass.
Immediately, I realized that whatever I had anticipated, it wasn’t going to hold.
Disoriented by mountain peaks and cliffs, abundant forest and the staggering beauty of the lake, I spent my first few runs on Moose Mountain trying to compare Lutsen Mountains to other resorts and other regions.
Lutsen Mountains has had a bountiful winter and we arrived in the midst of a week which would ultimately yield 30” of freshies. The snow that we experienced was soft, light and felt pretty darn western, especially one morning when we awakened to 11″ of new snow.
Yet the overall feel of northeastern Minnesota reminded me of New England.
The drive from Duluth, along Minnesota’s North Shore, is gorgeous, with northern forests descending the rolling hills and ridge lines to the rocky shores of Lake Superior. Rustic summer cabins and campgrounds abound, along with historic resorts and very small towns.
As in New England, this is a land of maple forests and handmade syrup.
Unlike New England, with it’s history of colonial gentility, northern Minnesota is wild.
Just south of the Boundary Waters Wilderness and surrounded by the dark woodlands of Superior National Forest, Lutsen Mountains lies, literally, at the end of the road, despite being only two miles off the main thoroughfare. Beyond the resort, you’ll need nordic skis, snowshoes or a snowmobile to progress in winter.
And then there is Lake Superior. As I stood at the top of Eagle Mountain, watching the light play off the ever-changing surface of this vast lake, I realized there is nowhere quite like this spot.
Lutsen Mountains is unique unto itself.
Skiing and Snowboard at Lutsen Mountains
Here are the stats: 820 vertical feet, 95 runs, 1,000 skiable acres on four distinct mountains.
Before we arrived, a seasoned Lutsen Mountains ski mom gave us this advice.
“For weekend skiing,” she wrote, “be ready to take the first chair or gondola and get over to Moose Mountain.”
The largest of the mountains with a wealth of terrain, here you’ll find blue, black and double-black (think seriously steep) groomed runs, glade runs, mogul runs and even, when conditions allow, cliffs and pillow lines for the adventurous.
I love this video of tree skiing on Moose Mountain. This is how beautiful skiing at Lutsen Mountains can be.
There are two lifts on Moose Mountain, the Caribou Express 6-pack and the Timberwolf Chairlift.
Smart Tip: The sun shines first on Moose Mountain, so you won’t be alone in starting your day here. There were no lift lines until after 10:00 a.m. and while they weren’t very long, use the quick-moving singles line and fill in openings on the six passenger seats.
From Moose Mountain, go next to Eagle Mountain. This steep, short mountain above the resort base also has two lifts, the Bridge Chair and the 10th Mountain Chair.
The longer Bridge Chair connects Moose Mountain with Eagle Mountain, via Moose Return. The Bridge Chair is also where you’ll end up if you ski the long blue runs on the front flank of Eagle Mountain.
The shorter 10th Mountain Chair is best for hot laps on Eagle Mountain’s advanced and expert terrain.
Smart Tip: The views of Lake Superior are stunning from the top of the Bridge Chair. Stop. Drink in the view. Take a few photos. Notice how the lake changes throughout the day as the lift shifts, the colors deepen and the ice flows in and out with the wind.
Ullr Mountain is a slow skiing zone, convenient to the base chalet, ski school and Rosie’s Cafe. Offering pint-sized runs popular with pint-sized skiers and their parents, Ullr Mountain is perfect for teaching and learning.
Smart Tip: For extra fun runs on Ullr Mountain, ski Tony’s Tango, an introductory mogul run, and Molly’s Folly, an introductory glade run. The resort’s small-feature terrain park is also on Ullr Mountain.
Most of the runs on Mystery Mountain are intermediate. But here you’ll also find two short black diamond shots at the top, some glade skiing and Lutsen Mountain’s boarder cross/skier cross course. This course is open to all and a fun challenge for friends and family.
Smart Tip: The Mystery Mountain chairlift is long and slow. Take it to the top for ski the harder runs, or get off midway to lap the boarder/skier cross course.
Make the Most of the Beautiful North Shore
Weekends are more busy than weekdays at Lutsen Mountains, with an influx of enthusiastic skiers from points north and south. However, we never found the resort crowded and we wouldn’t hesitate to ski here on a weekend.
Whenever you go, consider skiing for at least 2-3 days and staying a bit longer to experience the North Shore.
Winter is fully embraced in northern Minnesota. Outdoor options beyond alpine skiing include consider cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice climbing, fat biking, dog sledding, fishing, and, yes, winter surfing on Lake Superior.
Wolves, Snow, Adventure, Oh my! This 30 second video shows much of what makes northern Minnesota so wonderful in winter.
Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes. It’s massive, beautiful and mesmerizing. Drive to Lutsen Mountains during the day and make time to stop and enjoy the views.
While I hear that Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is too busy in summer, in winter it’s beautiful. Rent snowshoes in the park to explore the trails.
Or drive a bit further north to Grand Marais, home to artists and craftspeople. Enjoy their work, or sign up for a class and learn a new skill.
Closer to Lutsen Mountains, visit historic Lutsen Resort for a meal on the shores of the Lake Superior. Lutsen Resort is the oldest resort in Minnesota, founded as a summer destination in 1885.
Back at Lutsen Mountains, don’t miss Papa Charlie’s, with live music seven nights a week and afternoon entertainment on Saturdays. Papa Charlie’s has a bar and dining room, featuring local beverages, and a menu for all tastes. Midday, the bar offers a limited, quick menu for hungry skiers and snowboarders.
Lutsen Mountains has a Family Festival Weekend each month from December through March. Two day/two night packages include free ski rentals (if needed) and Family Fun Night on the mountain with kid-friendly entertainment, pizza, live music and art projects among other fun activities.
The next Family Festival Weekend is March 29 – 31, 2018.
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