DULUTH - ‘Tis the season to hit the slopes in the Northland.
Colder-than-normal weather this past week has made for prime snow-making conditions in northeastern Minnesota. That means some resorts are starting ski season sooner than usual.
Mont du Lac in Superior, Wis., opened its two main runs for skiers Thursday, the earliest start to a season in resort history.
Duluth’s Spirit Mountain also opened its Grand Avenue Nordic Center trails, and Lutsen Resort up the North Shore will welcome the winter’s first skiers this Saturday — an opening date that has been on the calendar since the summer that was easy to prep for thanks to Mother Nature.
“These last two weeks — while it’s been a harsh introduction to winter, we couldn’t ask for better weather for getting ready for skiing,” said Jim Vick, Lutsen’s marketing director.
Bridgette Duffy, Mont du Lac’s sales and marketing manager, said the resort started making snow last Tuesday, when temperatures dropped into the 20s and lower.
“Everything at a ski resort is weather dependent,” she said. “Our projected opening date was Thanksgiving, which is still what we’re shooting for in the entire park. But the weather just worked out for us so well this year and we were able to open [two routes] — so we decided to just do it.”
Visit Duluth spokesperson Maarja Anderson Hewitt said alpine and nordic skiing draw crowds of tourists to Duluth and its surrounding region each year. Last season, Lutsen saw about 100,000 visitors, Vick said.
Anderson Hewitt couldn’t say how much revenue skiing specifically brought to Duluth, but winter season, from November to March, the city raked in more than $4 million in tourism tax collections — though holiday events like Bentleyville and the Christmas City of the North Parade also bring large crowds to the city each year during this period.
“Skiing in the winter is really a part of life in Duluth,” Anderson Hewitt added.
Curious when your favorite slopes are set to open this season? Here’s a list of dates local spots are set to open for downhill skiing:
• Mont du Lac: Open this weekend; schedule in the near future TBD based on weather conditions
• Lutsen: Weekends only starting Saturday; open daily starting Dec. 13
• Spirit Mountain: Nov. 22
• Giants Ridge: Nov. 29
• Chester Bowl: Dec. 7