For skiing in the Midwest, nothing comes close to Lutsen, Minnesota. You can't blame 'em for trying, and they're still a lot of fun, but they're just a bit too vertically challenged. At Lutsen, you're skiing the real thing. The mountains rise up from their inland seashores, forming some of the most picturesque country in the nation. The snow quality is excellent, very similar to that of Canada, which isn't surprising, since Lutsen is less than 100 miles from the Canadian border. Lutsen seems a world apart, yet it's under four hours from Minneapolis.
Describing the Lutsen ski experience is a bit tricky. There are four mountains at the resort, each of them a bit different than the other. One, Ullr, is a beginner's mountain, and primarily for teaching basics and beginning intermediary skills. Mystery Mountain steps up the excitement a bit, and is a great place to start if you haven't skied in a while or are transitioning from Ullr. The other two, Moose and Eagle, show a marked preference for intermediate and advanced skiers. These two are joined by a gondola (the only gondola in the midwest) so you don't really have to choose between them. While Eagle Mountain can still cater to every level of skier, Moose is decidedly set up for advanced and experts. That's not to say that novice and intermediate skiers can't check it out. But they're going to have a lot more fun on the other mountains, while the advanced and expert skiers will find the challenges they're after at Moose.
The buzz is impressive, too. John James Gibson, of Thunder Bay, Canada, compares it to world-class ski resorts, saying “I enjoy Lutsen more than the four areas in T.Bay and the conditions rival Whistler in quality.” That's quite an unsolicited testimonial. Others have noted that “The area is well patrolled, with many members of the Lutsen Ski Patrol being EMT's and nurses.” Another commented, “It has runs of the type only seen in Colorado. (Lutsen) is the best ski area in the Midwest. I would practically rather go there than anywhere else.”
Diversity is important. While there are some pretty vertical runs on Moose, there's also a 2.5 mile run, and over 50 kilometers of cross-country trails for the nordic fans. In all, Lutsen has at least 87 runs. About 20 percent are for beginners, half for intermediate, another 20 percent for advanced, and the remaining 10 percent for experts. Expert may be a relative term, but check out this comment: “For those seeking a true adrenaline experience, 'the plunge' on the north face of Moose Mountain has a 98 percent pitch on the upper headwall.” That's expert enough for anyone!
Lutsen adds dog mushing to the menu, along with a variety of other activities and attractions. On-mountain dining is available, everything from ski-in / ski-out sandwiches to gourmet food and spirits. You can grab a big burger at Rosie's Cafe, or take a little time off at the Mountain View Grill By far the most happening place around is on-mountain too. Pappa Charlie's Tavern & Stage serves up drinks and food, a giant Snowsports TV screen, and some of the hottest live music around. Pappa Charlie's is definitely the on-mountain hotspot. If you decide to go into town, you'll find everything from casual to fine dining. There are shops, bakeries, pizzas, espresso cafes, all set alongside magnificent Lake Superior. Restaurant reviewers have even said that some of the restaurants and hotspots are worth the drive from Minneapolis. Whatever you're after you'll find it—on mountain and off.
The mountain offers a base elevation of 1,088 feet and a vertical rise of 825 feet. The total amount of skiable acreage is 1,000 and the facility features a total of 95 different runs. The longest run offered at is two miles long, while the steepest runs can be found at Split Rock and Experts Cutoff. Eighteen percent of the runs are classified as easy while 47 percent are considered to be more difficult, 25 percent are labeled as most difficult, and 10 percent are for the expert skiers. In all, the facility features eight lifts, including a new Doppelmayr 8 passenger Gondola. It also offers four double chair lifts, a 6-passenger detachable high-speed chair, one triple chair lift, and one magic carpet lift. As a result, the facility can move 10,000 riders per hour.
The area offers a two terrain parks, the Timberjack Progression Park and the Mystery Mountain Boarder X. The Lutsen snowboarding area had long been revered for its natural terrain, but the addition of Mystery Mountain took the area to a whole new level. Now, it offers bank corners, rollers, and jumps within nearly one mile of terrain.
Cook County offers over 400 km of groomed cross-country skiing and endless snowshoeing trails. If you visit during the summer months, you can also enjoy golfing, lake watching, kayaking, and spending time at the beach. Since the facility is only a mile away from the shoreline of Lake Superior, there are a number of water opportunities available to you if you choose to visit in the summer rather than in the winter.
You will find plenty of restaurants, you can also enjoy a little shuffleboard indoors or take a dip in the indoor pool for a bit of relaxation and hookup opportunities. You can also hangout in the game room, grab a massage, or relax in the whirlpool.