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It’s Duluth vs. Provo in final faceoff for Outside magazine’s ‘best outdoors town’

Driftwood lines the Park Point beach along Lake Superior under sunny skies on Sunday, in a view looking back toward downtown Duluth. (Andrew Krueger /

And then there were two.

Duluth will battle Provo, Utah, in the final round of Outside magazine’s annual “best outdoors town” competition.

The matchup was finalized late Sunday night, when online voting closed for the semifinal round of the contest. Duluth routed Asheville, N.C., more than doubling Asheville’s vote total. Meanwhile, Provo eked past Ithaca, N.Y., by a narrow margin.

Duluth and Provo now will face off in a week of online voting to determine which is the best outdoors town in the country, with the winner to be announced when balloting closes next Sunday. Duluth was the early leader as of mid-morning Monday, with about 11,100 votes to Provo's 6,700 as of 9:45 a.m.

So how do the cities stack up?

Duluth boasts easy access to Lake Superior and a growing network of hiking, mountain biking and cross-country skiing trails; an extensive park system; downhill skiing, kayaking and even surfing, among other pursuits.

Provo is about 40 miles south of Salt Lake City and is home to Brigham Young University. City boosters have touted its trail system, rock- and ice-climbing opportunities and proximity to the Sundance ski resort.

Duluth has a population of about 86,000 with a metro population of about 280,000 (that includes St. Louis, Carlton and Douglas counties). Provo has a population of about 115,000 with a metro-area population of more than half a million.

To vote and to see the current standings, go to for a link to the Outside magazine ballot.

Jonah Ogles, associate editor at Outside, said the outdoors and adventure-oriented magazine used to select 10 cities from around the country and give readers a month to vote for their favorite. This year’s contest has featured a bracket with 64 cities and six rounds of head-to-head voting.

“There’s nothing more iconic than a bracket,” Ogles said.

The competition started last month; Duluth beat Columbia, Mo.; Athens, Ohio; La Crosse, Wis.; Minneapolis and now Asheville. The city’s outdoor opportunities are being promoted by an active social media campaign, with a “VoteDuluth” tag being used on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The magazine’s online balloting doesn’t prevent a person from voting multiple times, on multiple devices.

“That’s certainly a possibility — that there are people voting over and over and over again in each round,” Ogles said. “I don’t really have a problem rewarding that.”

Ogles didn’t identify any problems with the voting results so far. He said the contest has been an accurate representation of “how proud people are of their cities.

“All four finalists are very good towns to live in, be active and raise families,” Ogles said last week, as voting continued in the semifinal round. “Those are qualities we (Outside) looked for when we picked the cities.”