Lutsen, MN 3/19/09

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
Minnesota was abnormally warm for the week before I arrived. Flying into Minneapolis the small lakes are mostly frozen but there is minimal snow on the ground. Snow cover along the Lake Superior shoreline was patchy.

For our ski day Thursday temps dropped back to 20 degrees but there were spotless blue skies and no wind, thus views across the lake to the Apostle Islands. Conditions were better than expected, mainly because of excellent grooming. I'm aware of the 'powdermaker" groomer attachments, but this was the first time I've observed immediate effect. A couple of runs I saw the grooming machine go up the hill and immediately skied down its just created corduroy track, which was indeed soft. Also the main mountain Moose faces southeast and thus softened some in the March sun despite cool temps.

There is a short steep pitch on the north side of Moose called Plunge which was bulletproof and fortunately nobody lost balance as you would take a fast slide into the woods. There were a few bump runs which also remained hard. I tested a couple of short sections there. Trees between the runs are potentially skiable, but not often since Lutsen is on the windward side of Lake Superior and thus averages 105 inches vs. the 250 at Bohemia with maximum lake effect. FYI admin's friends Scott and Susan Staples drove from Vermont and hit Bohemia Tuesday in ideal warm spring conditions, probably similar to my day at MRG in 2003.

The reality of Midwest skiing: Lutsen has 1,000 vertical but it's not continuous. Moose is a consistent fall line of 780 vertical by my watch at what I'd guess is a 5-1 length to vert chair ratio, with 2 fixed doubles. The Bridges chair is similar vertical, steeper the top half and runouts below. Ullr is a typical beginner lift. Mystery is very long and flat, but has a mid-station where people can get off to hit a decent sized terrain park. The vertical is longer than typical Midwest because the Poplar River cuts a canyon through the middle of Lutsen.

Lutsen is quite remote, 4.5 hours from its one big population base of the Twin Cities. They do 90-100K skier visits per season. Last 2 days have been new activities for me, cross-country, snowmobiling and snowshoeing. Unusual settings, I'll get pics up from those next week.
 

Admin

Administrator
Staff member
Tony Crocker":135y3fcc said:
FYI admin's friends Scott and Susan Staples drove from Vermont

Tell them that I said they're nuttier than you are.

Tony Crocker":135y3fcc said:
I'll get pics up from those next week.

Green tint and all? :mrgreen:
 

flyover

Member
Minnesota was abnormally warm for the week before I arrived. Flying into Minneapolis the small lakes are mostly frozen but there is minimal snow of the ground. Snow cover along the Lake Superior shoreline was patchy.

We've had an extremely early and extremely warm thaw here in the cities. In average winters, x-country skiing in the cities should last until mid-march (Easter in colder-than-average winters). The local snow pack down here had a rough February and was toast before March. On the plus side, we've had several sunny days in the 60s in Minneapolis!

Patchy snow cover along the Superior shoreline is not uncommon even with a deep snow pack just 100 vertical feet above the lake. With winds in the right direction, the big lake can have a dramatic effect on temperatures nearby - much colder in the summer and much warmer in the winter.

For our ski day Thursday temps dropped back to 20 degrees but there were spotless blue skies and no wind, thus views across the lake to the Apostle Islands.

The NASJA timing was somewhat unfortunate. You run a much higher risk of firm conditions in mid-March at Lutsen than you do in midwinter (when thaws are generally much fewer and further between) or late March/early April when things warm up most days. IMO Lutsen is best skied in early April. It must have been quite clear if you could see the Apostles. I'm not sure I've ever seen them from further up the Shore than about Temperance River.

Trees between the runs are potentially skiable, but not often since Lutsen is on the windward side of Lake Superior and thus averages 105 inches

You'd be surprised. I only ski the place once or twice a season at most and I haven't been there at all this season, but I've probably got about 20 lifetime days there and I don't remember ever NOT skiing the trees. We're talking gladed trails of moderate pitch in northern Minnesota here, they don't need a huge base to be good skiing and its not uncommon to go many, many weeks without going above freezing. The snow preserves, even if the chances of fresh lake effect are much lower than on the other side of Superior.

The reality of Midwest skiing: Lutsen has 1,000 vertical but it's not continuous. Moose is a consistent fall line of 780 vertical by my watch at what I'd guess is a 5-1 length to vert chair ratio, with 2 fixed doubles.

It is true what they say about Minnnesota: we don't have actual mountains. We do, however, have 3 fixed-grip chairs on Moose "Mountain." :wink: Some might argue that that the North Shore of Superior is not the "Midwest." There is more than a little truth to that. In terms of geography, climate, ecology, culture, economics and outdoor recreation potential it is galaxies away from the rust belt or the farm belt.

Lutsen is quite remote, 4.5 hours from its one big population base of the Twin Cities. They do 90-100K skier visits per season.

With reasonable speeding (less than 5mph over posted limits) I usually get there from south Minneapolis in just under 4. Lutsen also draws from the Duluth/Superior metro (275,000+) and Thunder Bay (150,000+?)

Last 2 days have been new activities for me, cross-country, snowmobiling and snowshoeing. Unusual settings, I'll get pics up from those next week.

IMO, it is the surrounding environment and the varied recreational opportunities that environment provides that makes Lutsen interesting, not the lift-served skiing. I don't think I've ever lift skied both days of a weekend spent in the area. The snowshoeing, creek skiing (think canyoning with skis and skins), x-country, mushing, etc. are too much fun to pass up. Look forward to seeing your pics, green tint and all.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
IMO, it is the surrounding environment and the varied recreational opportunities that environment provides that makes Lutsen interesting, not the lift-served skiing. I don't think I've ever lift skied both days of a weekend spent in the area. The snowshoeing, creek skiing (think canyoning with skis and skins), x-country, mushing, etc. are too much fun to pass up.
No surprise the local comments pretty much nail it. I skied one day out of 3, which probably the majority of NASJA visitors did also. I did 2 rivers, one on snowshoes and one cross-country skiing (ouch!) plus snowmobiling. 2nd day lifetime XC, first ever for the other 2. Dog-mushing and ice-climbing were also offered. The river canyoneering is a free guided option for anyone using the Lutsen lodging properties. Vermonters may be surprised that the maple syrup industry is big up there too; a few took a tour of those facilities.

I've probably got about 20 lifetime days there and I don't remember ever NOT skiing the trees.
Yes the pitch is moderate and it probably doesn't take that much to cover it. The prior week thaw probably exposed a lot of logs and underbrush. I actually traversed through the woods when the Caribou chair was down for ~20 minutes. I didn't have to cross any bare ground, but the crusty/refrozen surface was not pleasant. I had a couple of weather discussions, and it does make sense that mid-winter thaw and rain events would be less frequent than in the Northeast where storms can track up the Appalachians from the Gulf of Mexico. But the temps might be a bit intimidating to people from locales like mine.

Not a destination for the typical skier, but if family/business brings you to the Twin Cities, I'd certainly recommend a weekend detour up to the North Shore for the varied activities. I suspect the whole area is quite busy in the summer, particularly around Grand Marais, where we had dinner Friday night. There were also some Ontario spring breakers from Thunder Bay at Lutsen.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
Pics from the ski day 3/19:

My roommate John Karabetsos, who drove 16 hours from Detroit! We're about to ski the White Wolf run directly into the morning sun for the softest snow.
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This is the top of Plunge, which drops off the northern backside of the Timberwolf chair. It's hard to tell from the pic how hard the frozen granular was here. I was not willing to peer over the convex roll with camera in hand.
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Top of NASJA race course near Caribou chair.
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Since I left my pack at the top of Caribou during the race, I wound up traversing through the woods to Timberwolf in order to retrieve it when Caribou was down. Cover in the woods was modest and snow was crusty.
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Here's some mogul skiing on Upper Grizzly. It could have been ideal for joegm except the snow was still quite firm at 3PM.
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View of the relatively steep upper runs on Eagle Mountain, taken from a beginner run on Ullr.
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View back toward Moose Mt. from the same spot on Ullr. The gondola (bought from Loon) runs up a NE escarpment to the mountaintop restaurant where we had lunch and also the Saturday awards dinner.
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Sugar Maple Run on Mystery chair, looking towards Eagle Mt. This is what the snow surface would be without the intensive snowmaking and grooming of most of Lutsen's runs. The snowboarder at right is making his way back after sliding off the run into the woods.
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Eastern NASJA member Neal Estano getting some air at the top of Eagle Mt.
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