Going North to "Do South"

Lutsen’s Mountain Meltdown

Lutsen Mountains is the biggest ski resort in the Midwest

Elevation: 331 m (1008 feet)
Number of runs: 95
Longest run: 3.2 km (2 miles)
Number of lifts: 7

Story by Michelle McChristie, Photos by Darren McChristie

After two years of lockdowns, shutdowns, and travel restrictions, many of us are welcoming the opportunity to return to our favourite haunts south of the border. For skiers, this is Lutsen Mountains. With 95 runs spread over 405 hectares (1,000 acres) on four different mountains, there is a lot to explore.

The skiing is great but the après-ski scene is even better—Lutsen offers  3150 pillows within a 32-kilometre (20-mile) radius, plus five on-hill eateries (our favourite is the Summit Chalet which features an awesome view of Lake Superior and a something-for-everyone menu, including local beer on tap and scrumptious deep-fried cheese curds). At the base of the hill, Papa Charlie’s has live music on most weekends (don’t worry, you won’t be the only person on the dance floor wearing ski boots and a toque or trucker cap to cover your helmet hair).

It’s safe to say that Lutsen has not seen many Canadians in the past two years. When I checked in at the Mountain Inn, the front desk clerk said he was starting to think he’d never hear the words “eh” or “poutine” again. In the past, I wouldn’t have thought much of running into friends at the Gunflint Tavern in Grand Marais or on the slopes at Lutsen, but only saw a few Ontario plates in parking lots and there was no line-up at the border (maybe people don’t know about the fresh pavement laid down at the border and the increased speed limit on Highway 61?). It seems we are taking our time to head back south, so here is a little taste of what you’ve been missing.

Like Thunder Bay, Lutsen has had a good year for snow (yes, there really is such a thing, for those of us who love snow sports). As of April 10, they’ve received about 3.7 metres (144 inches) of snow and have a 97-122 centimetre (38-48 inch) base. The majority of their runs are open—the exceptions being a few expert runs on Moose Mountain and some side country runs. With more snow in the forecast, skiers can expect excellent conditions for Easter Weekend and, if you have kids, they will definitely have fun searching for over 300 eggs hidden along the slopes.

Live music at Papa Charlie’s makes for a festive atmosphere, especially on Eagle Mountain, thanks to the speakers blaring the band’s tunes. Our trip coincided with the Mountain Meltdown Festival, so we caught the Chris Silver Band’s set. Hailing from River Falls, Wisconsin, they are a roots act whose set included bluegrass, reggae, folk, and rock (they play a mean J.J. Cale cover and Chris Silver is a master of the mandolin). When their set was over, the dj put on Gordon Lightfoot (see, they really do miss Canadians!).

Ski into May

Lutsen expects to be open during the weekends into May. Follow them on social media @LutsenMountains for updates.

Top Tips for Spring Skiing

1. Wax your skis

 You’ll appreciate the added glide when the snow warms up. Your local ski shop can advise on the best wax for upcoming weather.

2. Sleep in

If morning temperatures are unseasonably low, you might want to delay your start until around 10 a.m. If you like hard-packed groomers, by all means, rise and shine and be first in line.

3. Dress in layers

Temperatures can range from chilly in the morning to downright balmy in the afternoon. Lutsen has a convenient shuttle to its parking lots and, better yet, on-hill accommodations that make it easy to shed layers throughout the day.

4. Ski in sun in the morning, shade in the afternoon

With four mountains, it’s easy to find ideal snow conditions. If the snow gets too wet and heavy, head to runs that are not in direct sunlight.

5. Hydrate

Intense sunshine with exercise means you need to drink plenty of fluids—you’ll enjoy the après-ski scene much more without a pounding headache.

6. slip-slop-slap

The sunscreen, that is. Goggle tans are out, trust us.

7. Enjoy the view

Lake Superior is the greatest lake—on a clear day, you might spot some ships on the horizon.