Cross-country, some downhill skiing underway in Northland
Lutsen Mountains ski area on Minnesota's North Shore will open for downhill skiing on Thursday, and several cross-country ski areas are open thanks to ample November snowfall. Relatively warm weather is keeping some downhill ski areas from making...
Lutsen Mountains ski area on Minnesota's North Shore will open for downhill skiing on Thursday, and several cross-country ski areas are open thanks to ample November snowfall.
Relatively warm weather is keeping some downhill ski areas from making snow, but Lutsen has enough snow to have some runs open for Thanksgiving. Lift tickets and gondola rides are free on Black Friday, the ski area noted.
Spirit Mountain in Duluth is combining a little natural snow with some of the manmade variety to hold another Duluth National Snocross snowmobile race event this weekend. But it hasn't been cold enough yet to make enough snow to open any downhill ski runs, said Brandy Ream, executive director of the ski hill.
"Too warm and too humid. We're really hoping to be open the first weekend in December for skiing. But we need to see colder temperatures back in the forecast," Ream told the News Tribune on Wednesday.
So far that's not happening, with highs in the mid- to upper 30s expected into next week and lows in the upper 20s. Snowmaking is best with low humidity, low winds and temperatures in the teens or lower, although some snow can be made with temperatures in the 20s, Ream said.
Mont du Lac near Duluth and Giants Ridge in Biwabik also hope to be open the first weekend in December, but also only if temperatures cool down for more snowmaking.
Nordic skiing underway
Meanwhile, Giants Ridge has 40 kilometers of cross-country skiing groomed and they'll be open starting Friday, staff at the Biwabik ski area said, and several other Nordic trails are open across the area. Most areas from Duluth north should have enough snow for at least some trails to be open, although mild weather could make the snow soft in spots, with patches of bare ground.
Snowflake Nordic Center on top of the hill in Duluth had all 15 kilometers of trail groomed and open earlier this week, although skiers were warned to "bring their old skis'' due to rocks showing through the snow. Another 2 to 3 inches of new snow that fell Wednesday morning should help conditions there.
The Ely Nordic Ski Club reported that the Hidden Valley ski area is fully groomed and open. Ely received more than a foot of snow last week and another two inches or more Wednesday.
"The trails look fantastic.'' said Sarah Hanson, a volunteer at the ski area. "And it's snowing right now."
Snowmobile trails iffy for Dec. 1 opening
While there's plenty of snow on the ground in parts of the Arrowhead region of Minnesota, snowmobilers are warned that the ground under trails is still soft and that many swamps and creeks remain unfrozen and impassable. Minnesota snowmobile trails officially open Dec. 1 if they can be groomed.
Many area lakes remain open or are covered with only a thin layer of ice, making them unsafe for snowmobiles as well.
"While the early snow is encouraging, it acts as insulation that slows the freezing we need in order to work on brush clearing and other trail maintenance in wet areas," said Guy Lunz, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources area trail supervisor in Grand Rapids. "Crews are out removing brush from trails where they can, and that pace will pick up once cold weather helps freeze the low-lying areas."