Northernwilds feb15

Page 7

Lutsen has short and long term expansion plans LUTSEN— Lutsen Mountains’ role as a premier destination ski area is centered on its natural resources and sweeping views of Lake Superior. Positioning Lutsen Mountains to meet skier’s expectations now and in the future, co-owners Charles Skinner and Tom Rider announced plans to expand ski area operations, new funding to protect the Poplar River and a replacement of the four-passenger 45-year-old gondola with a new eight-passenger, $7 million gondola. All of this is an effort to keep Lutsen competitive with other ski areas, as well as fully invested in the community for years to come. Gondola construction will begin in the summer of 2015. Besides the gondola, there will be an expansion of the Summit Chalet and additional observation decks and hiking trails. Work may also begin on a local history museum to be housed in an existing 2,000-square-foot building at the top of Moose Mountain. Canopy tours, ropes courses and zip lines are planned for future years. Efforts to protect and improve water quality in the Poplar River were bolstered recently by the news of $829,000 in grant funds from the Board of Water and Soil Resources to work on this project. “We estimate the projects funded by this grant will get us to our goal of removing

the Poplar River as an impaired river,” Rider said. The final part of the expansion plan comes with the announcement of a proposal to expand the ski area operations onto 400 acres of adjacent National Forest lands. Skinner noted that in the last 30 years, 300 ski areas closed because they were too small. National trends suggest that Lutsen will need to double skier visits to keep pace with other U.S. destination ski areas and gain the critical mass needed to remain viable. Rider noted however, that in order to continue to protect the Poplar River, the terrain expansion would need to be outside the Poplar River watershed. The Forest Service lands proposed for ski area expansion are designated for “Recreational Use in a Scenic Landscape” in the Superior National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan. The expansion proposal is in the early stages of development and the Forest Service has made no decisions at this time. Once a full, detailed application is submitted, the Forest Service will begin an analysis as prescribed by the National Environmental Policy Act, which could take 12 to 24 months to complete.

New gondola construction will begin this summer at Lutsen Mountains. | SUBMITTED

Duluth rolls out the welcome mat for fat bikes City of Duluth. Despite the city’s reputation for snow and cold, the bike trails are open year-round. COGGS began grooming trails for fat tire biking this winter. While such grooming occurs in other areas, it is a first for the Northern Wilds. COGGS purchased a used Skidoo Skandic LT in the fall of 2014 with money gained through donations. This sled pulls a Yellowstone Track Systems (YTS) groomer with the tracks removed and snow combs installed. It’s very similar to a ski grooming set up, but quite a bit narrower, says COGGS ride coordinator Dave Cizmas. Snowmobile grooming is being done by volunteers. Other volunteers are also out packing trails on snowshoes.

Duluth has been receptive to the increasing popularity of fat biking and is creating more trails for riders. | STOCK

DULUTH— Mountain bikers are salivating as the 100-mile long Duluth Traverse takes shape. A multi-use, single-track trail that will eventually span the entire city from the Fond du Lac neighborhood in the far west to Lester Park on the eastern end,

the Traverse will link to other trail systems along its route. Those trail systems include (from east to west) Lester Park, Hartley Park, Piedmont-Brewer Park, Spirit Mountain and Mission Creek. Duluth is gaining recognition as a moun-

tain bike destination. Outside Magazine specifically mentioned the Traverse when Duluth won the nod as Best Town Ever in that magazine’s 2014 contest. The development of the mountain biking system is a joint effort between the Cyclists of Gitche Gumee Shores (COGGS) and the

Minimal snow conditions have challenged grooming efforts this winter, so snowshoers have packed trails where the snowmobile couldn’t go. Trails in Hartley and Lester parks receive enough traffic from walkers and snowshoers that grooming for fat bikes hasn’t been necessary. Trail status updates are available on Facebook and Twitter from COGGS and at—Eric Chandler




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