[Katie here] Last winter we had taken our daughter, who is 7 now, skiing for the first couple times. This was a hobby that my husband and I enjoyed as kids and together in college, but then over the years we stopped skiing as frequently. After taking our daughter several times last winter, we knew it was something we wanted to do more of again.
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In college, we visited Lutsen for a long ski weekend with a bunch of friends and I loved the area so much. There are views of Lake Superior (which may be my favorite lake of all time), from the ski hills. At that time when we visited we had unlucky weather with frigid temperatures, so I didn’t ski as much that weekend as I would have liked. I knew I always wanted to go back, and there you have it, a weekend in Lutsen, MN.
We had also been to the UP of Michigan skiing several times, which is a great option, but there was something different about Lutsen. My brother traveled with us, who has been to the UP a lot of times skiing and agreed that Lutsen Mountains is better.
Lutsen Mountains has four different “mountains” and one of the things we loved about skiing here was the variety of runs. I never got sick of any of the hills. Well, maybe the bunny hill :). There were a lot of lodging options, hiking trails, and snowmobile trails in the area.
WHERE WE STAYED:
Because of the pandemic, it was important for me to book a ski-in ski-out option. I did not want to have to go inside for anything, unless absolutely necessary. I also wanted space and bedrooms to spread out. I ended at Caribou Highlands Lodge. We stayed in a 4-bedroom poplar ridge condo.
Overall, I was extremely satisfied with our lodging. It was clean and really convenient. One thing that I loved, was that each bedroom had its own full bathroom, which is just an added bonus when traveling.
The lodging was expensive, so I’m not sure if I’d stay in the same place again because of the cost. However, the location was important to me, given the pandemic, to be that close. Another downside was that check in is not until 4:30 pm. This was a negative because it was cheaper to buy our ski tickets for three days with the ski and stay package. We stayed Friday – Monday, so our lift tickets for Friday Saturday, Sunday. We had a 6+ hour drive from Madison and the lifts close at 4pm. Because of traveling with my kids and not wanting to use the indoor facilities on the mountain, I ended up not using one day of my ski tickets. My husband drove up early from Madison and skied all day with my brother. I drove with my mom and kids and got there later to check in. I called in advance to ask for early check in, which was not guaranteed but they suggested calling day of and asking again. We arrived to the resort at around 2pm, I checked in and we were told our lodge was not ready, which was fine. However, our lodge was still not available even at the check in time. We weren’t able to get into our lodge until after 5pm. The front desk staff was apologetic and offered for us to use their indoor conference room, but we were more comfortable waiting outside. This was not ideal to the start of our trip. I imagine without COVID it wouldn’t be an issue as we would just go to the ski hill and grab a bite to eat.
After check-in everything was perfect and ran smoothly. The kitchen was well stocked with appliances and amenities. Everything was nice and clean. We enjoyed that there were outdoor lockers for ski/board equipment to lock up at night and not bring into the lodge. The basement of our lodge also had a sauna that was used in the evenings. Overall, it felt private even though we were connected to other condos. There was a deck off the main level with a gas grill and a walk out basement. The room with the two twins was fun for the kids! There were a lot of hooks throughout the condo which might sound silly, but it does make a big difference with all the gear to hang up. Also, on the main level was a wood burning fireplace with provided free wood! We had that burning to warm up at night and keep us cozy during some après ski.
Getting to the ski hill from our condo.
The easiest way to get to the hill from the Poplar Ridge Condos, was behind the condo using the Moose access route to Moose Mountain with the 6-person high speed chair lift. This did require a little cross country skiing and without enough momentum snowboarders had to take their boards off at times. We did take this route with our daughter and had to help her a long a little bit, but it wasn’t too bad. This would not have been a good option for our son who is only 3. When we took him, we had my mom who traveled with us drop us off at the gondola base near the magic carpet.
Tip: the parking lot fills up EARLY, if able have somebody drop you off with little kids!
There are no ‘greens’ on Moose Mountain so once we got to the top, we we had to take the ridgeline pass to the gondola and then the gondola over to Ullr Mountain right away. It says Ridgeline pass is a blue, but it wasn’t steep at all and doable for my beginner daughter.
On the grounds of Caribou Highlands Lodge
We didn’t spend much time on the grounds of Caribou Highlands, except when we were waiting for our room. Attached to the main lodge and check in area, is Moguls Grille and Tap Room. We did not eat here but they did offer a takeout menu. Outside was a picturesque ice skating rink, fire pits, outdoor yard games, a little stand offering hot chocolate and snacks, and of course string lights.
SKIING AT LUTSEN MOUNTAINS
In our opinion, Lutsen offers some of the best skiing in the Midwest that we have done. We loved the variety of runs, views, and how spread out, yet easy runs were to get to.
Tickets and Logsitics
The policies are continually changing so be sure to check Lutsen Mountains website for the most up to date information. The line to pick up the tickets was a little long, but all outdoors. The waiver needed to be filled out online ahead of time, and I did see a few people sent back to the end of the line if they didn’t have their waivers filled out by the time they got to the ticket window.
There are no longer “ski tags” instead it is RFID cards that you just keep in a zipper pocket, which was really nice. However, it was a little challenging for my daughter because she is a little short to reach the sensors. The sensors are all on the left side, so we put her RFID card on her left side chest pocket. She was then able to just turn slightly towards the sensor to get through the gates for the chair lifts.
Masks are required at on all chair lifts and areas where lots of people are present, such as the base of the ski hill.
We all had all of our own equipment so we did not utilize the rentals. Check out the website for more information.
Our Favorite Hills for our Beginner Skiing Kids.
Big Bunny on Ullr Mountain was our favorite ski hill with our 7 year old daughter. She had only been out one time this year before we headed up to Lutsen.
The Ullr chair lift moves slower for children so it was easy for her to get on and off. We even used this chair lift with our 3 year old son. There is a fairly flat part of this hill that was a little slow and held people up.
Tip: When we took our three year old up for the first time, we just asked the person at the lift to slow it way down, and they happily did that. At the lift they also communicated to the top of the hill to slow down again. For an extra reminder, we waved to the person at the top and they slowed it way down for us. again to get off.
Mogen was another fun green but if you don’t pay attention you end up at the bridge lift. That lift was very crowded and only a 2 person lift that moved slowly. At the top of the bridge lift, there isn’t another green to get over to the main area easily. Because of it being harder to navigate, we didn’t do Mogen as much, but I do think its a nicer green – maybe slightly more difficult than Big Bunny.
Magic Carpet We took our three-year old son out for the first time and primarily went on the magic carpet. (When we took our daughter skiing for the first time, she was older and COVID wasn’t yet here, so we paid for her to get lessons.) We did not do this for our son, but he magic carpet is right by the main gondola base and easy to get to. We did not find the magic carpet that busy for a weekend day. The views are even great from the magic carpet!
Our first time skiing with our 3-yr old at Lutsen Mountains:
A few tips that were helpful with our 3-yr old:
– My husband didn’t wear his ski boots at first while helping our son. He just ran behind him and that seemed easier.
– We used this ski harness and that helped him from going too fast. This was recommended by a friend, and we would use it again.
– Go slow, don’t over do it at first. We just started really easy and took our time. By the end of the morning, our son was begging to go on the chairlift to the big bunny hill. If you go down too steep of a hill and the child isn’t ready, you end up just pulling them backwards with the harness and they lose their balance.
Shop some of our favorite ski gear for our kids!
Our (adults) Favorite Runs:
My husband says his favorite runs were all of the black diamonds on Eagle Mountain, that you can get to with the 10th Mountain Chair. He is a little more advanced than I am though. I did one of those and I looked a little silly. If I had to choose a favorite run, I think I’d say Charlotte’s Web or Moose Meadows.
In case you forget anything:
We visited Lutsen Recreation, Inc that is located just a mile or two down the road from Lutsen Mountains. They had gear and rentals. This seemed like a great option for renting to avoid the rush at the ski hill rental shop.
One of the worst things about skiing and/or snowboarding as a hobby is the cost. There’s no way to sugar coat it – it’s not an inexpensive hobby. We found it worth it for us to buy our own gear. We bought used skis and boots from a friend for our kids. This was their Christmas gifts, along with some other gear such as helmets, googles, etc.
We purchased our skis and boots from Erik’s Bike and Board Shop in Madison, WI and had a great experience there. We have been told that Zeller’s in Green Bay offers a nice leasing program for skis that we might look into when our kids outgrow theirs.
Overall it was a great trip, and we are already planning a weekend to go back! Highly recommend!
Here are some of the items we used and loved during our weekend in Lutsen