Minnesota is known for many things. Winter and snow? Yes. Skiing? Not so much. But don’t let that stop you from checking out one of the several popular ski areas in the state.
I was grateful to squeeze in an awesome weekend at Spirit Mountain just before winter wraps up, and I am here to say it was easily one of the best outdoor experiences I’ve had since moving to MN.
Spirit Mountain stopover in Duluth, MN
Spirit Mountain is right in Duluth, about two hours north of the Twin Cities.
We headed up on Friday night and stopped into OMC Smokehouse (which stands for Oink Moo Cluck) in the up-and-coming Lincoln Park neighborhood. It was pretty busy so we waited at the small bar in the back for a table and passed the time sampling the four equally delicious house-made sauces on crispy pork rinds. When it came time to dig in, I went for the highly recommended brisket and Travis had the half rack of ribs. Good stuff all around.
The next morning we headed straight for the mountain and got suited up in rental ski gear. It was exactly my fourth time skiing in my whole life, and while I absolutely love it, I’m clearly not a professional.
The runs at Spirit Mountain are pretty short—naturally, this is MN after all. They were shorter than I what I learned on in Big Bear, Calif., which sufficiently exhausted me, and thank god much shorter than the ones I barely survived “skiing” in Squaw Valley.
I thought they were quite perfect, as was the snow condition, and I quickly gained confidence with run after run, hopping right back on the lifts with hardly any lines.
After a full day of skiing—during which we were blessed with beautiful weather in the mid 30s and nothing but sunshine—we went back to the hotel and showered before venturing to hip and happening Canal Park for dinner. It was St. Patrick’s Day and lots of people were out in their greenest attire.
Glow tubing at Spirit Mountain
I’m no more a psychologist than an Olympic skier, but if you are unhappy, stressed out, heart broken, or generally going through a tough time in life, I highly suggest you go tubing. Nothing makes you feel like a kid again quite like sliding down a hill of snow and ice on an inner tube—I guarantee you this.
At Spirit Mountain, it’s available all day and a great option for families who want to be out on the slopes but might not be up for skiing. Though I have to say I was seriously impressed with all the tots out there dominating the mountain on their mini skis and snowboards!
Wait ‘til the sun goes down and add some neon lights to your tubing adventure, and it’s a recipe for the best damn time ever. Unlike when you were a kid, though, you don’t have to hike your tube back to the top for another turn. It attaches to a handy dandy conveyor lift while you sit back and marvel at how great life is.
Then the happy helper at the top—who has been outside in the cold for hours entertaining kids with an unwavering smile and enthusiasm—asks if you want to be spun and if you like it fast or slow. Then you do it all over again, laughing your way to the bottom. We shut the tubing hill down but could’ve easily stayed another hour or more.
On Sunday morning we wanted to get a few more runs in before heading home to the cats. It was a little cooler (high 20s) and overcast with the tiniest bit of snow. So, another great day for skiing. We got in a few hours on our favorite runs before calling it a day. A very successful two days, actually.
I can’t believe we didn’t go skiing earlier in the season, but after this little trip to Spirit Mountain, I feel less anxious about next winter. It’s really something to look forward to and there’s a lot that we didn’t get to explore like the Nordic skiing.
Spirit Mountain Nordic Center
Spirit Mountain has two locations for Nordic skiing with wooded cross-country ski trails—double tracked and skate line—plus a new Grand Ave Nordic Center with snowmaking and world-class grooming. A new 2.5 km loop was built this fall and is completely skiable with a snowmaking section and dark-sky LED lights on part of the trail with more to come.
Spirit Mountain is a winter lover’s wonderland, and if you’re not a winter lover, go and see if it doesn’t help you love the season a little more.
With 22 runs traversing 175 acres of snow-covered terrain, skiers and snowboarders of all ages and abilities can enjoy the beautiful, crisp outdoors at Spirit Mountain.
There’s also fat biking, which I will have to wait until next year to try. In the meantime, there’s also great hiking and mountain biking in the summer, so I do hope to get back up there again this year!