Snowshoe season is here!
We’re wrapping up the ski season on the Central Gunflint Trail System. While it’s true that we still have a great deal of snow (with more in the forecast), grooming conditions have become quite difficult. Due to the daily freeze /thaw cycles that we experience now, the skiing may actually be better on ungroomed sections. It’s adventure skiing now!
We will concentrate our grooming efforts on Summerhome, Campground, and Oxcart Ski Trails until snow temps approach 32 degrees, at which time we’re done for the day. We will continue to try to groom those for as long as we get passable results; no promises on how long that will be at this point, as it just doesn’t groom up to our high expectations in these conditions.
The good news: this is the only time each year when we open up our ungroomed trails for snowshoeing. It’s a great opportunity to get back into the deep woods trails that you can normally only experience on skis. Snowshoes and trail passes are complimentary for our guests. Stop by the front desk to get them. If you’re staying elsewhere, trail tickets are half price, and we do rent very nice snowshoes.
Please stop by the front desk at Bearskin for trail maps, trail advice, and information about the ever-changing spring conditions. Snowshoeing on this ski trail system only happens once a year, so take advantage of this fun spring opportunity!
We can also advise you about what is still open in the area. April is the off-season on the Gunflint Trail and in Grand Marais; the majority of resorts and businesses are now closed until sometime in mid-May. We’ll be happy to help you find the restaurants and lodges that are still open for business during this quiet time.
Finally, it’s quit snowing! The Central Gunflint Ski Trail System received almost 17 inches of fresh new snow over the last 7 days. Our total snowfall since last November 1 is a little over 88 inches, as measured by the Baumann family at Golden Eagle Lodge.
Groomers from Bearskin and Golden Eagle Lodges have been grooming daily to pack as much snow as possible into the trail base. At this point the packed trail base measures 15″ – 18″. The snow in the woods is often over 3 feet deep, or even deeper in drifts. Classic ski conditions are fantastic, but due to the large amount of powdery snowfall we received in such a short amount of time, you can expect skate skiing conditions to be a little soft. We will continue to groom throughout the week in order to further pack down the base.
The pine trees in the woods are so beautiful, coated with what must be close to the maximum amount of snow that each pine bough can hold. Until the wind lifts the snow off the branches, expect every trail to be Christmas-card picturesque. Here’s a picture taken by the Baumann’s on Ridge Run Trail yesterday:
With over 50 inches of snowfall already since November 1st, this is a snowy winter to remember.
The Central Gunflint Trail System was lucky to have snow during the past 2 winters, when much of Minnesota had minimal snowfall — but it wasn’t snow like this! We continue to get fresh snow every few days, which keeps the grooming crew very busy.
We’re finding that after dealing with endless piles of Twin Cities’ urban and suburban snow, many of our guests are arriving at Bearskin in a winter-weary state. Once they get out to ski or snowshoe on our beautiful trails, amidst the snow-covered pines, the fun aspect of winter seems to return. It’s more fun to play on beautiful snow than to shovel it!
The Baumann family from Golden Eagle Lodge does a great job of keeping meticulous snowfall records. Here are the snowfall numbers so far for this winter season, as of January 22nd:
November 2013 – 7.25 inches (about 3 inches on the ground at the end of Nov.)
- Dec 2 – Dec 8: 13.25 inches
- Dec 9 – Dec 15: 3.65 inches
- Dec 16 – Dec 22: 8.75 inches
- Dec 23 – Dec 29: 3.4 inches
- Dec 30 – Dec 31: 0.0 inches
December 2013 – 29.05 inches
- Jan 1 – Jan 5: 6.0 inches
- Jan 6 – Jan 12: 0.5 inches
- Jan 13 Jan 19: 7.6 inches
- Jan 22: 1.25 inches
January 2014 – 15.35 inches
2013-2014 YTD Snow Total – 51.65 inches
All of our 70+ km of trails are open. Conditions are excellent for both skate skiing and classic skiing. A Central Gunflint Trail Ski Pass is required; you can buy your pass at either lodge.
It’s been awhile since we filed a ski report. We’re in one of those happy winter cycles where nothing changes significantly. It keeps snowing, we keep grooming, and then it all happens again. The Central Gunflint Ski Trail System continues to get a new boost of snow every few days, without any major melting or raining interspersed as has happened some years. It’s a snowy winter at its best.
Earlier in the week Golden Eagle Lodge reported that we had received 42.90 inches of snow since November 1. Of course, it’s snowed since then but it gives you a rough idea. The base is especially solid making for fantastic skate skiing. The classic tracks are holding very strong as well. Many guests are reporting this is the best snow they’ve experienced in several years.
We had some gorgeous days of skiing recently, with picturesque frosted trees and bright blue skies. Our guests were ecstatic about conditions.
We have a run of 3 warm days in the forecast. The Central Gunflint Ski Trail System has a lot of snow. We can lose some snow and it won’t matter. By the end of the week we’ll be back in more typical winter temperatures.
Bearskin Lodge is participating in this year’s Volks Ski 400 resort challenge, an event to see which resort in Cook County can log the most kilometers on Cook County ski trails in February.
Bearskin guests have totally risen to the challenge. Every night guests come into the lodge with their pencils, calculators, and trail maps to gleefully add up their daily totals. It’s great fun to ski on our trails, so people can accumulate a surprising number of K in a day. We’re on our 7th page in a spiral notebook of daily totals, with a few more days to go.
As of today, Bearskin guests have logged 5032 K of distance on our trails. The next runner-up has 674 K. This seems to be where you come if you really want to ski.
It’s been a frigid week, but the weather forecast now looks very promising. Trails were groomed during and after the snowstorm last weekend. We did a little touch-up grooming in spots during this week, but with 5 days of subzero highs, there wasn’t much activity anywhere on the trail system.
Thursday night we received about 4 more inches of new snow. The snow has stopped now, and groomers are out on the trails this morning. Conditions for the weekend should be excellent.
We’ll have soup, chili, hot chocolate, and wine and beer available in the lodge all weekend. There’s still a little room to join Scott Bergstrom for Saturday night dining. He’s offering a very interesting, different menu for the next two weeks. Ski for the day, and dine with us on Saturday night.
Two days of odd moisture and warm weather, followed by a precipitous drop in the temperature, left us with hard, icy tracks on the ski trails and few options for repair. Quinn went out with the groomer and did what he could this morning. He reported that conditions were better than he expected. Not ideal, but not nearly as bad as he thought they might be. A sprinkling of new snow in the tracks has decreased the iciness today. The skiers who went out today generally reported that conditions were OK ,and that the snow in the tracks was really helping.
Conditions are better for skate skiers. “Still hard pack, but edge able with some concentration” one skier reported online. A few crust skiers have been out on East Bearskin Lake,also.
We still have some of the best snow in the area, but these are not “dream-come-true” winter ski conditions. We need a blockbuster winter storm to come through! It’s hard to imagine that here on the excessively snowy Gunflint Trail we’re wishing for more snowstorms, but it’s yet another example of the weird weather pattern we are experiencing across the country these days.
At the moment, it’s snowing quite nicely here. Let’s hope that this continues.
Trail report from Golden Eagle:
New Snow Last 24 hours: 0 inches
New Snow Last 7 days: 1.0 inches
Trail Base: 4 to 6 inches
Snow in Woods: Average 10 inches, 12 inches high
Groomed with classic tracks: 36K
Groomed for skating: 50K
Surface Conditions: Hard Packed
Snowshoe trail: Open
Total snowfall since November 1: 18.75 inches
Conditions: Poor to good, please check with Golden Eagle Lodge or Bearskin Lodge for specific info on each trail.
Comments: The following trails have been tracked: Old Logging Camp from GEL to Deer Mouse (good shape), Deer Mouse (good shape), Red Pines from west end of Deer Mouse to GEL, Wolf Point (snowcat groomed), Summer Home Road (good shape}, Campground Loop (good shape), Lit Loop,Ox Cart, Beaver Dam Trail, and Bear Cub. The rest of the system has been packed with no tracks.
First trails groomed this weekend. We’ve had 8-15 inches of snow, depending on where you measure, and it has continued to come down daily. Most of our trails are being packed and rolled–they’ll need more snow before the big groomers can get out on them. But we were able to get out on Summer Home and Campground with the G2 groomer. Skiers reported back yesterday that they thought conditions were quite good after the first grooming. Tracks should have set up a bit overnight and should be even better today.
You can tell snow season must be right around the corner because the first surefire sign of winter is occurring everyday now: Bearskin and Golden Eagle are trimming the trails.
Most skiers don’t realize how much work goes into maintaining our 70+ K of trails in the fall. Early in the fall we drive on all the trails, looking for fallen tress and giant limbs blocking the paths. It is not unusual for us to clear extremely large fallen pines and birch from the trails after a long windy summer. It would be nice if one pass would be enough, but our autumns are often very windy. Since the first time Bob and Quinn cleared all the fallen trees from the trail in early September, many more have gone down. It’s a constant battle.
Next, the long grass and little bushes that have grown up all summer within the trail need to be mowed down. In one summer a bushy little tree in the midst of the trail can grow 3 feet or more. Bearskin and Golden Eagle share a large “Tiger Mower,” similar to the type you might see mowing the roadsides along a highway. Running the mower always takes a great deal of concentration. The trail is studded with big rocks and fallen limbs — mowing here is very different from the type of trail mowing done at many cross-country ski areas where the trails are actually through grassy fields.
Mowing is too difficult on many areas of the trails, so for much of September and October we regularly send staff members out on the trails to trim by hand with a weed whip. Whoever does this job usually ends up with a few good “too close to a moose/bear/mystery wild animal” stories by the time the trimming is complete.
Boughs, branches and limbs from trees along the trails are constantly growing over and into the trail space. An overhanging branch that appears to be well out-of-the-way becomes an impediment when it’s loaded with snow or ice. It’s difficult to keep our trails from getting narrower over time. Our trail clearing crew for “Work Weekend” will walk the trails with nippers and saws, cutting back encroaching branches.
Everyone gets excited when the snow finally comes and the big grooming machines make the first runs on the ski trails. But by that time, Bearskin and Golden Eagle have been preparing the trails for many months.