Today I was reminded, yet again, of what an amazing group of guests Bearskin Lodge is blessed to have. Every day at Bearskin we are surrounded by happy, contented people. Whether they are out on the ski trails, riding in the dog sled, eating a fine Chez Jude meal or Ryan’s special chili, snuggling up with a book by the fire, or laughing uproariously with a group of friends in a lodge, guests at Bearskin all seem to enjoy themselves. You could do far worse than to work at a place where everyone thanks you for the nice time they just had.
We are finishing up our 4th winter at Bearskin. Each season presents unique challenges on the Gunflint Trail, but winter is by far the toughest. There are ski trails to groom, roads to plow, steps and paths to keep clear and sanded, cars and trucks to start, cabins to keep warm, and water to keep running — no small challenge when it snows constantly and routinely gets to -20 degrees.
Apparently most people didn’t know it (or so they say now!), but our first winter at Bearskin was extremely difficult. We ran the resort with a few part-timers and 4 full-time employees: Sue, Bob, Quinn and Andy. Dee, the trusted and beloved long-time Bearskin manager, was diagnosed that January with pancreatic cancer. Every piece of important information about how Bearskin was run resided in her brain. Nothing was written down. We guessed at how everything was done, or else we made it up on the spot — not always successfully. There was no other choice. We went through that winter in a fog of overwork and confusion.
Luckily, all but a few regular guests stuck with us anyway. We learned. We got better at this. We gradually hired more great employees. We consistently added new items in cabins and lodges. We fine-tuned our trail grooming skills and added new equipment. We experimented with new ideas. (Some of them even succeeded!) We added mushing and dining. We increased the snowshoeing options. With hard work, Bearskin’s winter business just gets better and better every year. There can’t possibly be resort owners anywhere on planet Earth who are more grateful than we are to have such a consistently delightful group of returning and new guests.
We’ve been doing weekend wine receptions sporadically this winter, in an attempt to replicate the guest interaction and mingling that occurs during summer picnics. At the picnics we are always amazed by how many guests can tell about coming to Bearskin for 10,20 or 30 years, but we may not have realized how many winter guests also have such extensive Bearskin histories. During the wine receptions we’re finding that a large number of our winter guests have been coming for decades.
Computer records for all seasons at Bearskin only go back to 2004. Barb and Dave have kept many hand-written records from the past, but at this point the only complete records of Bearskin longevity are held in our guest’s minds. So tell us! Winter or summer, how long have you been coming to Bearskin? What year did you first visit Bearskin Lodge–and was there a reason?
We’re going to put this info into our permanent records. Then maybe we’ll do something fun with it. To let us know, just e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, the first year you came to Bearskin and how many years you have visited (they don’t need to be consecutive, just total years). Toss in anything else good we ought to know — you came for a honeymoon, you started as a kid, you came with a group of college friends, or whatever makes the story even better. We don’t honestly know what we’ll do with this info yet, but we are certain it is going to be fascinating!