About Bearskin

Since 1925, Bearskin Lodge on the Gunflint Trail has been one of Minnesota's favorite wilderness resort destinations. The McCloughan family has owned Bearskin since 2007.

Plans for the 2020 – 2021 ski season

The future is a mystery in 2020, but the Central Gunflint Trail System is moving ahead with optimistic hopes for another fantastic ski season. We will figure things out as we move forward, just like all of us are doing on a daily basis.

This is what we do know:

  1. Our partner on the ski trails, Golden Eagle Lodge, just purchased a brand new Pisten Bully groomer for next winter, very similar to the one that Bearskin owns. This means there will be more consistency between trails as you ski from section to section. We’ve always taken great pride in the quality of our grooming on the entire Central Gunflint Ski Trail, and now the trails will be even better.
  2. Bearskin will not have a restaurant during the 2020-2021 ski season. Our restaurant is so tiny that it’s not realistic for us to maintain appropriate spacing while people dine. Food service will return when the world resolves Covid. For cabin guests, this should be no big thing, as all Bearskin cabins have complete kitchens with dining areas. Fine dining is an enjoyable extra perk on a long, dark winter evening, but it isn’t essential to your cozy cabin experience here.
  3. We will do our best to keep you safe and healthy.  We’ll figure out which model of providing guest services Bearskin will use as we get closer to winter, but Bearskin cabins and lodges have proven to be excellent spaces for a socially-isolated vacation. So far this summer, we think we have excellent protocols in place for maintaining safe cabin cleaning and transitions. We will reassess for winter and continue to maintain the highest standards of disinfection. Read through our web page info to see what we’ve been doing to keep our guests and staff healthy.
  4. Day skiing — still lots of questions:  Both resorts on the Central Gunflint Trail System are mulling over our options for serving day skiers. Skiers on our trails have little contact with each other, so it’s a safe, socially-distanced activity. You can plan that we will be selling season passes and day skier tickets, but the way that we sell tickets could change. We predict that the Main Lodge at Bearskin probably will not be open for food service or for day skiers to hang out in the Lodge, and we may limit the number of people in the building at any time. All of these ideas are part of our “wait and see” planning. We will have a much better idea about what is going to be necessary later in the year, but for now you can assume that skiing will be available, perhaps with slightly altered procedures and building access.
  5. Cabin 6 won’t be rebuilt for winter season.  Most people have heard that Cabin 6 burned down one night last March. The process of rebuilding Cabin 6 has been greatly slowed down by the Covid era; we imagined that we could get going much faster than the way it has gone. Permits and plans were finally approved, but now our contractor is unavailable until late fall. If you’re here this winter you should be able to see how cool the new Cabin 6 will be, but the interior work won’t be done until after winter season. We have been contacting all winter guests in Cabin 6 to make a new plan for 2020.

Anything is possible this winter, as we all know. For now, we think you can assume that the winter ski season will happen this year as usual. Our beautiful trails have the potential to be better than ever for 2020-2021.

There are still lots of available options for a winter ski getaway at Bearskin, but given that most people probably won’t be traveling on flights to distant winter locations this year we anticipate being extremely busy at Bearskin. You might want to make a winter reservation early to get your perfect dates. If something dramatic happens with our virus situation and we end up closing (hoping not!), Bearskin will do exactly what we did after closing on March 18, 2020, and fully refund all deposits — so when you make your plans, don’t worry about that part. This is a perfect winter to plan a close-to-home winter ski getaway at USA Today’s #3 ranked cross-country ski destination in America.

3.5.2020 New snow today — grooming is ongoing

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After a couple weeks with no fresh snow (very odd for us), we added about 8 inches of new snow over the past 24 hours. We have a great group of serious skiers here, so we did groom many of the trails throughout the day in the snowstorm. Skiers were very happy with conditions. We’ll be out grooming again tomorrow to get ready for the weekend.

Soup and chili will be available in the lodge all weekend — come on up to ski.

Will you be attending the World Cup Cross-Country Ski races in Minneapolis this week?  Stop in at the Bearskin Mini-Lodge along the race course. Quinn will be there Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday and will be happy to chat.  Hope to see you there.

Here’s a video of the Mini-Lodge going up in our garage. Now they’ll take the whole thing apart, put it on a trailer, and bring it to Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis, then set it up again.

 

2.14.2020 President’s weekend skiing

We had a few bitterly cold days this week, but the temperatures have warmed up nicely for the long weekend. Conditions should be excellent all weekend.

We will be serving soup and chili in the Lodge and, as usual, hot chocolate, wine, and beer are also available for your enjoyment.

Our expectations are that the Bearskin parking lot will fill up early, as it almost always does on a 3-day weekend. We will have overflow parking available, but if you get here and find that the parking situation has gone crazy, we encourage you to drive just a little farther up the Gunflint Trail and start on the Golden Eagle side of the Central Gunflint system.  Same snow, same trails, same tickets, same system, just an emptier parking lot.  Many, many people ski from Golden Eagle to Bearskin, and eat lunch or have a glass of wine in the Bearskin Lodge before skiing back.  It’s a great option if you discover that our parking lot is overwhelmed.

In other news, Kate and Quinn made a video of skiing all of the Bear Cub Trail this week. Since this is a trail that is too challenging for many skiers, we thought you might enjoy “skiing” along with them.

 

2.9.2020 Snow, groom, snow, groom, repeat, repeat

It snows almost every day. We are grooming multiple times each week. There’s been no melting, there’s been no rain. Conditions are outstanding.

Our temperatures have been relatively mild this winter, so the constant snow plus decent temps have made this a favorite winter for many skiers. There are a few cold days ahead, but then temps bounce back nicely. It’s a fantastic winter for skiing, but not much of a winter for writing exciting ski trail reports.

Quinn and Kate have continued to make videos of various ski trails in the system. Last week they focused on Bear Cub. Since not everyone dares to do this trail, you can watch the videos to ski Bear Cub vicariously. The uphill video looks grueling and the downhill video is super fast.

 

descending deaths door

 

 

1.23.2020 More snow, more grooming — same old story

Skate ski tips

Quinn and Kate have been out with the video camera lately, taking videos of trails, grooming, and ski techniques.

 

We have so much snow. The regular cycle of snow, groom, snow, groom, snow, groom, etc. continues. The groomers go out after every significant snowfall, and the trails are in excellent shape. So far this has been a snowy winter with relatively mild temperatures, but we haven’t experienced any temps or weather conditions that degraded the snow — no iciness, no sleet, no “mixed precipitation,” just lots more snow.

At this point we’ve received about 73 inches of snow this season.  (There have been years when that was the snow total for the entire season — 2020 will obviously be a high snow winter.) Our trail base is averaging 14 inches. Skiers are very happy with conditions.

In other news, Quinn and Kate have been using our Go-Pro to create videos about trails, grooming, and even ski techniques. Videos are usually posted to the Bearskin Facebook page and to the Bearskin Wilderness Outfitters Facebook page, but here are links to all the videos so far. Next on the agenda (as soon as they get some better after-work daylight!) will be a video of ski tips for classic skiers.

Skate ski tips

Ski along with us on Upper Beaver Dam Trail

How we groom the short BWCAW section of our trail system

A fast tour of the Poplar Creek Trail

The much-improved Bearskin wax room 

Keep watching.  We will start to post their new videos directly to this blog in the future.

Meanwhile, we probably won’t be blogging trail reports constantly because, face it, these are reruns — we are in a pleasant, repetitive winter pattern. Should conditions change dramatically, we will definitely post here. For the most recent grooming information, please contact Bearskin Lodge (1-800-338-4170) or Golden Eagle Lodge (1-800-346-2203).

 

 

1.3.2020 Long overdue ski update

Snowy drive to Bearskin

Driving into Bearskin Lodge this week. Photo by our massage therapist, Christal Stone Kelahan.

Time flies over the holidays!  An update to our trail conditions blog is much needed. For as long as we’ve delayed, we still don’t have much to say. It snowed. We groomed. It snowed again. We groomed.  Repeat cycle almost every day.  To get an idea of snow conditions, check out this Video of the Poplar Creek Ski Trail.

Much of the North Shore experienced ice and rain over the past two weeks. That didn’t happen here, it just snowed. Constantly. On New Year’s Day, Quinn and I walked out of the lodge in the afternoon as it started to snow…again.  “Oh no, ” we both said simultaneously.  “Oh no” should not be the normal response to snow when you run a cross-country ski resort, but after grooming, plowing, and shoveling as often as we have over the past weeks, “Oh no” is probably the normal reaction.

According to the official measuring stick at Golden Eagle Lodge, we’ve already had 53.875 inches of snow this season.  This last storm added almost 14 inches to an already impressive early season total.  The groomers have been out almost every day, and they will continue to go out whenever it snows significantly.

The negative side of all this snow is that the weight of snow has created a great deal of slush on all the lakes. Slush does not mean the ice is unsafe. Heavy snow pushes lake water up through cracks or edges, creating a layer of watery slush under the snow that sticks to your skis, snowshoes, or boots with every step you take.  Lake crossings are not consistently good right now, so we advise using trails that circumvent the lakes until this stage of winter is over.

The weekend forecast is good, we’ll have soup and chili on in the lodge, and the skiing should be fantastic.  Come up to visit us soon.

Snow Totals from Golden Eagle

October/November Total 2019 – 24.0 inches

December 2019
Dec 1 – Dec 7:  1.0 inches
Dec 8 – Dec 14:  13.0 inches
Dec 15 – Dec 21:  1.125 inches
Dec 22 – Dec 28:  0.0 inches
Dec 29 – Dec 31:  13.75 inches
December Total 2019 – 28.875 inches

January 2020
Jan 2:  1.0 inches
January Total 2020 – 1.0 inches

Total Snowfall 2019-2020 – 53.875 inches

12.14.2019 So much snow!

BE03C97F-EC39-494A-8BB2-6BD5C7A80306We’ve added a great deal of snow since our last post. We’re back to our cycle of snow every few days, and many of those days have seen significant snowfall.

Both sides of the system have been groomed multiple times now.  Skate decks are firm, classic tracks are setting up nicely. Everything was groomed again today, after an 8 inch snowfall overnight. It was still seriously snowing while the groomers were out, so they expect they’ll redo many sections of trail again over the next few days.

At this point there are only a few sections of the trail system that aren’t entirely open.  All trails are groomed except except Poplar Creek (always the last to open because of water issues, but should be ready to go this week); some lake crossings; and the BWCA connector on the west side, which can’t be groomed with the Pisten Bully.  These are the usual last pieces of the trail puzzle and should gradually fall into place over the next few days.

Most of the Central Gunflint Trail System ski trails are groomed for both skate and classic skiing. Conditions are great! Skiers seem very happy.  Trail tickets are available at both Bearskin Lodge and Golden Eagle.

12.3.2019 More trails opened

Oxcart was groomed for the second time with the Pisten Bully on Monday afternoon.  Bear Cub was packed and rolled last week and was also groomed Monday afternoon, so if you love hills, that trail is now available.

Summer Home, Campground, the Lit Loop, and Lower Beaver Dam continue to be in good early season condition.

12.2.2019 Great early season skiing

ski sign green sign with snow

We are happy to say Bearskin didn’t get pummeled with more snow when Duluth received 20 inches this past weekend. The storm did not make it this far north. We added a little more snow to our already substantial base, which is just the way we like it. It’s easier to create a firm base when we are repeatedly grooming smaller snowfalls constantly instead of dealing with a huge amount all at once.

At this point we have excellent early skiing conditions. Many trails are open, with more to come. We have quite a few inches of firm base already, and the trails that are open are groomed for both classic and skate skiing.  We were very busy with skiers all weekend, and they were quite pleased with conditions.

It’s quiet at the resort for the next 2 weeks, so we decided to offer an early season ski special. Rent 3 nights and we’ll give you one of those nights for free. Right now we’re in the cheap season, “Value Season” rates, so getting one night free makes it a super bargain. We’re deep cleaning cabins at the moment and completing some major projects, so not all the cabins are open for this rate.  Early December is always a hard sell, as everyone is so busy with holiday events, parties, programs, and shopping.  If you can make the time for a quick getaway we’ve got the snow, we’ve got the groomed trails, and we’ve got some cozy empty cabins just waiting for some guests. Bonus: moose are everywhere on the ski trails lately!

Bearskin Lodge, voted #3  in the USA Today “2019 Best Cross-Country Ski Resorts” Readers’ Choice Awards.