Cascade Vacation Rentals now managing condos at Lutsen Mountain

The addition of 72 Poplar River Condos units nearly doubles the vacation rental company's North Shore portfolio.

The Poplar River Condos at Lutsen are now managed by Cascade Vacation Rentals.
Contributed / Cascade Vacation Rentals

LUTSEN — Cascade Vacation Rentals continues to grow as it recently began management of the Poplar River Condos at Lutsen Mountain. The condos were formerly managed by Lutsen Resort, which took on new ownership in 2018.

The addition of the 72 rental units nearly doubles the company's portfolio.

In total, Cascade manages 186 privately owned vacation rental homes and cabins from south of Duluth to the Canadian border and up the Gunflint Trail. Its vacation rentals range from luxury lodging to off-grid wilderness lake cabins.

Klarhet, a North Shore homestead, features four Airbnb rentals, chickens, fruit and nut trees, and a developing regenerative food forest.

“We have seen demand for rental units increase about 10% each year with more and more people looking for escapes that offer woods, water and seasonal activities,” co-owner and general manager Stephen Surbaugh said in a news release.

During the pandemic, travelers tended to stay closer to home, which contributed to the extra demand for vacation rentals along the North Shore among those who were unable to vacation nationally and internationally, Surbaugh said. This helped to boost the company's business by more than 20%. He said the increase in people working remotely was another contributing factor.


Each of the Poplar River Condos is individually owned and managed by Cascade Vacation Rentals.
Contributed / Cascade Vacation Rentals

The condos are already taking bookings for the busy summer season, according to co-owner Clair Nalezny — the newest addition to the leadership team at Cascade Vacation Rentals. She joins Surbaugh and co-owner Sarena Crowley.

Peak season for the Poplar River Condos is from Memorial Day weekend through mid-October. Larger four- to six-bedroom homes book at least four months in advance and smaller homes book about three months out.

"The location of the Poplar River Condos is fantastic," said Nalezny. "They are central to Lutsen, on the shores of Lake Superior, near ledge rocks, and bordering the Poplar River that runs through the ski hill and down into (Lake) Superior. There are fantastic views. We're just moments away from the golf courses and Gitchi-Gami bike trails. It's nearby Grand Marais, and on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness."

Cascade Vacation Rentals is working with individual property owners to renovate and remodel the 20-year-old Poplar River Condos.
Contributed / Cascade Vacation Rentals

The company is working with individual property owners on remodeling the 20-year-old condos. The units were recently updated with all new linens. More housekeeping and maintenance staff were hired to help manage the properties. More amenities may be added in the future.

Each unit accommodates parties ranging from two to 11. Cascade installed new door locks so guests can check in without having to stop at the front desk.

The Skinner family plans to rebrand the Blackjack and Indianhead ski areas under fresh names as part of the newly recast Snowriver Resort.

Taking after his father and grandfather, Surbaugh entered the short-term rental industry nearly 20 years ago, founding Cascade Vacation Rentals in 2004. He said he most enjoys the variety.

"Inventory is ever-changing. That's the great and fun thing about the business. Nothing ever stays the same with homes," he said.

In 2002, he moved from Indiana to the North Shore to sell real estate. He and his wife also operated a vacation rental business on the side, until eventually they began devoting all their time to the rental business. It did better than they originally expected, Surbaugh said.


Since its start, Cascade grew from a tiny operation with 1.5 employees to a full-blown rental management company, with employee housing, its own maintenance company and co-ownership of North Shore Laundry.

The Poplar River Condos consist of full-floor condos, including several with lofts, suites, king guestrooms and double guestrooms.
Contributed / Cascade Vacation Rentals

Surbaugh partially credits the company's success in growth to its ability to stay on the cusp of technology trends. Cascade Vacation Rentals employs two commercial drone pilots. It also hosts a podcast called "Exploring the North Shore" with over 50 episodes highlighting insider North Shore travel tips, regional activities and attractions.

These are the types of investments property owners appreciate, Surbaugh said.

Brielle Bredsten is the business reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.

She earned a bachelor's degree in Professional Writing & Technical Communication, with minors in Advertising and Creative Writing from Metropolitan State University, in addition to a two-year professional paid internship as reporter/editor of the student newspaper.

She is an award-winning professional writer, photographer and editor based in rural Minnesota. Over the past decade, Brielle Bredsten has contributed more than 1,000 articles, feature stories, non-profit press-releases, photographs and columns. Her work has been published in several community newspapers.

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