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Winter recreation shifts into high gear thanks to nearly a foot of new snow in the past week

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 1/17/18

REGIONAL— What a difference a snow makes. The storm that moved through the area late last week dumped more than nine inches of the white stuff in some parts of northern St. Louis and Lake counties, …

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Just add SNOW!

Winter recreation shifts into high gear thanks to nearly a foot of new snow in the past week

Posted

REGIONAL— What a difference a snow makes. The storm that moved through the area late last week dumped more than nine inches of the white stuff in some parts of northern St. Louis and Lake counties, providing a much-needed jump start to the winter recreation season. Two-to-three additional inches which fell last Sunday further added to the growing snowpack.

While the area has had snow on the ground since late October, a December and early January dry spell had left too little snow for most winter activities, and that kept the phones from ringing at area hotels and motels, and kept local watering holes quiet as well, particularly as the region endured a weeks-long cold snap.

With the recent sub-zero temperatures, lake ice is rock solid and even most swamps have stiffened enough for heavy trail grooming.

“It was the perfect set-up for the season,” said Jeff Carlson, owner and operator of Harold’s Arctic Cat near Tower. Carlson said the cold weather and limited snow early allowed the ground to freeze hard, providing a solid base that could last for months. “I think we could be riding through March and possibly into April the way we’re set up now,” he said.

And that prospect has folks in the hospitality industry excited. “We’re nearly full already for this coming weekend,” said Orlyn Kringstad, operator of the Marjo Motel in Tower. “And we had one party that came up last weekend for a day and booked two more nights because the snowmobiling was so great,” he said.

Rick Oveson, at Oveson’s Pelican Lake Resort in Orr, said his parking lot had been mostly empty so far this winter, but he expected that to change as word spread about all the fresh snow. “We’ve got a good base now,” he said.

The influx of snowmobilers was apparent at area bars and restaurants as well.

“We’re getting the sleds in here now,” said Randy Semo at Good Ol’ Days Bar and Grill in Tower, who noted that the first part of the winter was slow for business. “Things are looking up now,” he said. “The trails have to be awesome.”

“It benefits everyone,” said Troy Swanson, president of the Lake Vermilion Chamber of Commerce, who notes that the income generated by visitors circulates throughout the local economy. “We probably have the best-groomed snowmobile trails in the state right now,” he said. “This was just the perfect amount of snow.”

Tower area DNR trails specialist Brad Dekkers agreed. “It helped a lot, both that snow last week and the extra snow over the weekend,” he said. He said the trails will all have a new grooming before the weekend and should all be listed as in good to very good condition.

And for those who prefer non-motorized sports, the conditions are finally excellent for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, which has become increasingly popular in recent years.

Both Lake Vermilion and Bear Head state parks are open for snowshoeing, and Bear Head offers snowshoe rentals in case you don’t have your own. On snowshoes, you can travel anywhere in either of the parks, except for groomed ski trails. Bear Head now has seven miles of freshly groomed ski trails, with differing levels of difficulty and it also offers a comfortable trail center for park users to come in out of the cold, dry off, or have a snack before heading back out on the trail. Park Manager Jen Westlund said the park also offers comfortable, heated camper cabins that people can rent if they’d like to spend a little more time in the winter woods, without having to rough it too much.

With warmer weather forecast for the weekend, it should be a great time to get out and enjoy the new snow. The latest forecasts holds a chance of more snow Sunday night into Monday, which should ensure that the winter playground will be open for business for weeks to come. Get out there and enjoy it!

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