I recently travelled to Lutsen Mountain for a few days of skiing and I present to you my Lutsen ski resort review!
Lutsen Ski Resort Review — Review Disclosure
We undertook this trip at the suggestion of a friend. I have received no payment, comps, or other considerations for writing this review. I have no financial interests in Lutsen Mountain. The funding for this trip came from the personal funds of my wife and myself.
While at Lutsen Mountain I never announced to anyone my intent to write this review.
Lutsen Ski Resort Review — A Trip Overview
On February 28th my wife and I completed our final packing and headed out. We stopped picked up my brother and his wife around Green Bay Wisconsin and then met up with a lifelong friend and his wife in Chippewa Falls Wisconsin. We took a stop in Duluth Minnesota for some browsing in the shops, to stretch out, to get a few drinks, and some food. We then drove for about another two hours and arrived in Lutsen, checked in and unloaded.
We then spent Monday February 29th and Tuesday March 1 skiing at Lutsen Mountain. We packed up and departed on Wednesday March 3rd simply reversing course (but we did not stop for the extended break in Duluth this time).
The trip was blessed by calm winter weather the only troubled driving was brought on by a few whitetail deer. The lows were sub-zero and the highs were in the 20s and the days were near perfect bluebird.
Lutsen Ski Resort Review — Getting There
Getting to the resort was easy for us, we drove and it pretty much was two right turns and a left turn. From Duluth you take MN Highway 61 which is four lane for the first 40 minutes or so and then reduces to a two lane road. There are a few tunnels and the road follows the Lake Superior shoreline and forest lines the road or least it does when the road is not framed by rock.
The road is reasonably straight, well maintained, and moderately hilly. The way is punctuated by an occasional town or industrial type facility. One was a powerplant and the other appeared to be a station where iron ore is loaded onto ships.
As long as the weather cooperates the road is fine. Of course, when there is fresh snow I would expect the road to be slower going. Plus watch for deer and other wildlife, the nearby forest means they will be well within striking distance when you see them.
Lutsen Ski Resort Review — Lodging – Eagle Ridge Condominiums
Our friend has been to Lutsen Resorts a number of times and stayed at Eagle Ridge a few times as well. I looked it over and agreed that would be fine and it was.
We actually did not like the first room we were in and finagled a transfer and the Lutsen management was very gracious and worked with us on the transfer. The first room we were in was for six folks but it had only one room and a full sized fold down bed and a futon for the others. Since we had gone to the trouble of unloading our vehicles I was not agreeable to the move (meaning reloading vehicles and then re-unloading in rapid succession) but I am glad we made it. The second room had two bedrooms (one with a double bed and bunks this room was for up to eight people) and we were able to keep the living area free of gear and bags.
In both units the kitchens were full but small. We brought our own food and cooked breakfasts and dinners. The kitchens were under-equipped and we had to improvise some tools as well as modify our cooking plans to suit the pots and pans available to us. Next time, my food plans will be a bit simpler (we did much of the prep work in advance) maybe hotdishes or spaghetti or similar.
The first room I thought was rather rough, but I wasn’t there for fine lodging but skiing. The second room was much nicer and much closer to the pool and skiing.
Eagle Ridge features and indoor and outdoor pool. Simply get in and dive under the water and a very short swim later your head pops out into the cold winter air. The pool room also features a dry sauna and a hot tub. All was very nice.
With our second room it was definitely much easier to ski in and out. You were not skiing right out the door, but only a short walk away. Review the trail maps to find the most convenient routes to and from your room. The first day my buddy took me on a trail to the road and that was followed by a treacherous walk in ski boots down the switchback driveway the next day I found the trail that took us to the swimming pool which was a short and safe walk.
It was also nice having a lift go by close to the room and on our last few trips our crew was back in the room and we were able to make crazy sounds and gestures at each other!
Lutsen Ski Resort Review — Lifts
The lifts are a mix of fixed grip chairs and detachable high speeds. Including a gondola running from the main lodge & the base of Eagle Mountain to Moose Mountain. However, most chairs are fixed grip chairs.
The Caribou Express chair is the best seat in the house. It serves Moose Mountain and its feast of blue goomer runs (with some double and single black runs included, also some mogul runs and glade runs are in the mix). The Caribou Express chair is a detachable high-speed six seat chairlift and does its best to get you back to the top quickly.
The gondola is (afaik) the only one to be had for Midwest USA skiing. In fact, the gondola is brand new this year replacing their old one. Riding the Gondola brought out the Jerry in me (more on that later) but it was straight-forward to ride.
Many of the lifts close during the week, its not impossible to get on most of the mountain it just takes a bit more work and mapwork.
Lutsen Ski Resort Review — The Skiing, Snow, and Lift Ticket Pricing
First off, I have only true mountain ski adventure in my past and that was to Monarch Mountain in Colorado and that was over ten years ago.
The snow was typical Midwestern hardpack and due the previous warm weather and the current cold weather the snow was very crusty. It was far from boilerplate but it was not soft by any stretch of the imagination. There were patches of exposed boilerplate in the typical spots often right before and on headwalls.
How were the runs themselves? Great, I found the terrain varied and interesting, I would be able to work the terrain to check my speed or to let the speed go. It did not take me long to get a feel for when I could go and when I would have to say no.
Moose Mountain is populated mostly by blue groomer runs but there are occasional sub-runs marked as black-diamonds. Unfortunately, I found a hard time justifying labelling the black-diamonds as black-diamonds and felt them to be more blue than anything. Also, the common practice of renaming and redesignating every branch as a separate run led to some confusion as to what sort of terrain I was on.
We found ourselves on Ullr and its designation as the slow & learners area (this is where I found the blue moguls) is well deserved. It was impossible to go any speed but slow there. Ullr is served by a fixed two seat chair and is accessible from the gift shop/gondola area at the main lodge. Ullr sports a blue mogul run and I went into it. The moguls were big, the slope is enough to keep you moving, and my mogul skiing obviously needs lot of work.
I did not get to ski on Mystery Mountain and most folks we talked to assured us we were not missing much.
I skied few runs down Eagle mountain and this mountain looked to be the experts mountain with a number of steep single and double black diamond runs, with at least one steep mogul run. I did not take any of them on due to limited lift service and my need to stay off the moguls (from what I could see, about 3-4 black groomers funneled you down into the black-mogul run and I wanted to avoid that at all costs) but it does appear one of their steepest runs funnels into the blue & green run I finished both days off with. That would have been something I would have considered had I a bit more savvy on the place.
Lift Ticket Pricing
Single day tickets currently run $82.00/adult and you get a modest discount for multiple day tickets. However, I purchased my tickets in advance off of Liftopia and got a great deal on the pricing. However, remember you risk losing out on it if events prevent you from skiing on the days you select, which came close to happening in my case.
Lutsen Ski Resort Review — The Staff
I had limited interaction with the staff, most of the time the lifties on the Moose Mountain chairs stayed inside their hut paying attention to the things they pay attention to. The operator at the gondola however was kind when my inner jerry came out and he helped us get on in good order (I stabbed my poles into the ski holder on the outside rather than taking them into the gondola with me).
The lifites on the fixies were a mix of local folk and expats, the locals were amiable and chatty and the expats were not.
Check into our lodging was efficient and went smoothly and our buddy reports when he was working with management to get a better room they were professional and willing to help us out (which they did, thank you!). The gift shop staff also was nice to be around and again they were amiable and worth talking to.
Lutsen Ski Resort Review — On Hill Dining
How was the onhill food service? In a word: awful. Awful bad and awful expensive. The food I had at the lodge on top of Moose Mountain was poor quality cafeteria commodity food. The chilli was good (but the price was still too expensive), the chips with my bad chicken sandwhich were not good. Oh yeah, did I mention the food was extremely overpriced (double black diamond overpriced)? I did not drink any beer at the resort but waited until the skiing was over (to drink the beer we brought along) so I don’t know about the selection and I will venture that it too, was too expensive (and my brother confirms this).
I purchased a bowl of chill, a chicken sandwich, a wrap of some sort, a bottle of water for the measly sum of $27.00. I should have saved the receipt for tax purposes. I wish I had packed my own lunch, it would have tasted far better, been way less expensive, and more nutritional.