Wilderness Pursuit, Man versus Dog Ski Race

On the morning of February 13th Bearskin Lodge will host the “Bearskin Wilderness Pursuit, Man versus Dog” ski race. 

Bearskin Lodge, a Gunflint Trail landmark since 1925, specializes in exceptional cross-country skiing as well as outstanding dog sled tours into the neighboring Boundary Waters Wilderness. “Bearskin Wilderness Pursuit, Man versus Dog” will feature both of these activities.

The race will pit mushers and their dog teams against skiers in a unique mass start race. Mushers and skiers will race on separate side-by-side tracks, competing head-to-head, but dog teams will travel a greater distance in consideration of their faster pace. Winning skiers and mushers should cross the finish line at nearly the same time.

Prizes will be awarded for fastest skier, fastest musher, and fastest overall time, as well as various other categories. This race, which starts at 10:30 AM, will be a thrilling event for both competitors and spectators. Most of the race course will follow the shoreline and dip into the bays of East Bearskin Lake. The start, finish, and head-to-head competition will be visible from just in front of the main lodge.

Be part of the excitement. Our mushing teams are already registered, but all levels of skiers are still welcome to join in the competition. For more information or to register for the race go to www.bearskin.com or call (218) 388 2292 or (800) 388 4170.

Let the ski season begin!

Cabin 2, after the snow

 Wow, it’s November 26th and it is already real winter on the Gunflint Trail.  When the Twin Cities was hit with 12 inches of snow earlier in the month, Bearskin received only about 5 inches.  It gave us a wintery appearance, and was enough to give us a start on preparing ski trails, but it wasn’t enough snow to get excited about.  A few inches of additional snow fell sporadically after that, just enough to require repetitive shoveling.

Dad and daughter ski lessons.

 And then our Wednesday/Thursday snow came and suddenly it was truly winter.  We’re grooming ski trails, plowing roads, shoveling steps, sanding hills, and snow-blowing pathways — so totally different from the spring, summer, and fall routines at Bearskin.  We are very busy for Thanksgiving weekend this year, but most of our guests booked a Thanksgiving cabin without any intention to ski. The new snow gave several families an opportunity to try skiing for the first time.

Bearskin had snow last winter when many resorts along the North Shore did not.  We’re lucky that way; we seem to be in a snow belt.  But this early start to the ski season is exceptionally promising.   We’re offering an early season December special between December 1 – 17: three nights for the price of two, an especially good buy because most of those dates are still on Value Season pricing.  Come up and make the most of our early winter skiing.

Pisten Bully, out on the Lit Loop for the first time this season.


We’ve been patiently waiting for snow.  OK, maybe the “patient” part isn’t right but the “waiting” part is true.  We’ve been gradually accumulating snow, but it hasn’t been quite enough to create ideal conditions yet.  Skiers are enjoying memorable conditions. Skiing on the lakes has been “once in a lifetime”  amazing. 

The trail report blog is now up and running:  http://bearskintrailreports.wordpress.com     Watch it for regular updates on the conditions.

Weekend update for January 23-25

The forecast for the upcoming weekend includes some colder temperatures, but with the potential for sunny days. The snow continues to be wonderful. Guests repeatedly tell us that the snow is the best it’s been in a decade and that the quality of the grooming has been excellent.

As I type this, I’m watching a group of women skiers from Cabin 3 glide by on the lake path. Frost is making the trees along the lake’s bank look like white cotton candy today, so right now the skiers appear to be posing for an idyllic Christmas card photo. (Where’s the camera, where’s the camera?  Never nearby when we need it!) To keep up on current trail conditions, check out our trail reports at http://bearskintrailreports.wordpress.com/


Menu for January 23

Chez Jude will be here again this weekend and the menu looks fabulous. See http://www.bearskin.com/ChezJude/bearskin_lodge_menu1.23.pdf   for details. Reservations are available for both Friday and Saturday nights. There are favorable changes in the menu pricing. Also, the kids’ menu is now available online. (http://www.bearskin.com/ChezJude/kidsmenu.html )  Chef Judi Barsness is willing to make accommodations for guest’s special dining needs, as well as for children’s dietary idiosyncrasies. Just let us know ahead of time.

Dog sled trip heading towards Aspen Lake
Dog sled trip heading towards Aspen Lake

Erik Simula will be here this weekend for dog sled trips. While many spots are already full, there are still a few times available. Call our front desk for reservations. Watching Erik go down the lake this week has been breathtakingly beautiful. The snow is so sparkly that it almost looks as if he is mushing through glitter. The dogs seem to be moving quite fast and easily through the deep snow, much more so than they were earlier in the winter when the snow was wetter and less fluffy. It looks staged, it is so perfect.  More mushing info at  http://www.bearskin.com/mushing.html

Learning how to put on a ski -- ski lessons
Learning how to put on a ski -- ski lessons

Quinn has some openings next week for ski lessons. Today he had a first time lesson with an 8 year old who was new to skiing. Quinn started on skis when he was 3 years old, so he doesn’t have much recollection of those “first times.”  He made a plan for a step by step lesson that would teach how to use the skis and the poles individually, and then put both new skills together afterwards. A few minutes into the lesson, his young student was already skiing. It’s amazing how quickly children pick up this skill.

Our massage therapist will also be available on Saturday, as well as next Wednesday. To make reservations for any of Bearskin’s activities, give our front desk a call at 1(800)338 4170.

“Winter Storm Warning” — snow is on the way

There’s nothing indefinite about our weather forecast for tomorrow:


100% chance of precipitation doesn’t leave us with many questions about the day ahead. It will snow.  For sure. A lot.


And blow. And be cold.  Ahhh, winter!

Years of long freeway commutes to my teaching job trained me to dread snow; snow only meant a horrendous drive to or from work.  But a great ski season at Bearskin depends on getting a few nice, big blizzards, so a new mindset is required.  It doesn’t come easy. Quinn is eager to have enough snow to groom.  Bob can’t wait to run his new plow.  Kaitlin spent her last winters in Taiwan, so she’s enthusiastic about experiencing a Minnesota-style blizzard again. And I just think….why didn’t we buy a resort in Hawaii?   

No palm trees and coconuts here.  We have been slowly accumulating a few inches of snow each week, but it honestly isn’t enough to be very good skiing yet.  Looks like that should change on Sunday. Real winter is finally here, just in time for all the post-Christmas skiers. We’ll keep you updated on the outcome of this snowstorm, but with luck (yeah, see how hard I’m trying?) Sunday should bring us the snow we need to make winter at Bearskin the memorable experience our guests come here for.

Addendum, Sunday — time stamp is EST, snow is moving NE:




The New G2

What is it about a Kässbohrer Pisten Bully that skiers love?  It has to be one of the most ungainly looking vehicles ever made.  Coming down the trail, the pisten bully sounds like a space ship has just landed, and especially in the twilight or darkness, it can look like a prop from “Mars Attacks.” 

The McCloughan family actually owns 3 pisten bullies.  Dave and Barb Tuttle originally bought this one for Bearskin in 1987:

Bearskin pisten bully at work

And in the early 1990’s, little Quinn McCloughan used his allowance money to buy 2 pisten bullies like this:


There are times when it would be nice to have all 3 pisten bullies out grooming our trails, but unless you are a plastic Playmobil guy you wouldn’t be too happy skiing in the track left by the ones Quinn bought. 

So recently, after attending a very informative grooming clinic with some of the top names in cross country ski trail grooming, Bob and Quinn made a decision to buy an additional new piece of grooming equipment for Bearskin’s trails  It’s called the Tidd Tech G2 (http://www.tiddtech.com/g2/g2_action.htm) and is pulled behind the heavy duty grooming snowmobile. 


Maplelag, ABR, Birkie Trail, Afterglow, Sugarbush and Lutsen are some of the Nordic ski centers using this equipment now and their groomers give the G2 excellent reviews.  

It so happened that the company brought the G2 out for us to try on 3 days last week when many hours of rain followed by subzero temperatures made grooming very difficult.  Once our groomers got the hang of using the G2 (after a bit of, ahem, “user error”) they were amazed at how well it renovated the trails, even in very undesireable conditions. They especially appreciate that it’s not as great a time and money commitment to take it out to improve just a section of a trail that is no longer top notch.  They also like the idea that both the Pisten Bully and the G2 can be out on the trails at once, which could speed up the time it takes to groom Bearskin’s section of the system.  Overall, we’ve had very positive feedback about the Bearskin grooming this year but the skiers who have been out on the trails set by the G2 this week especially had rave reviews for the results.

But don’t worry–we certainly won’t be giving up on our beloved Pisten Bully anytime soon.  It’s been out before sunrise many mornings recently, chugging along the trails like some weird unexpected apparition.  It will continue to be our primary grooming equipment.  The G2, though, should give Bearskin additional options for creating great skiing conditions on some of the most beautiful ski trails in the Midwest as well as help keep Bearskin at the forefront of current grooming technology.

If you visit Bearskin, be sure to ask Bob, Quinn or Andy about the new G2.  They love talking about it and as they perfect their grooming skills with this new equipment, they will really appreciate your input and opinions on how well the G2 is working. 

High school ski weekend at Bearskin

Cold but happy!

48 loaves of French bread. 72 pounds of chili. 60 pounds of pasta. 50 Sven & Ole’s pizzas. 20 cases of water. 500 cookies.  High school ski weekend is over.  They came, they skied, they ate (and ate and ate), they raced, they skied some more, and they left, exhausted and happy.

The forecast was for bitter cold and indeed, the temperatures hovered in the minus zone for much of the time.  But the sun was brilliant, the sky was clear and thankfully, the threatened wind chills never really materialized.  

At one point we seriously doubted that we should do this weekend. Tales abound on the North Shore and the Gunflint Trail of the infamous “ski teams that wrecked the resort.”  In fact, we had talked ourselves out of it until Adde, event organizer supreme, came to us with her sheets of notes, measurements and ideas to convince us it was “doable.”

So on Friday dozens of Nordic skiers and their parents streamed off the buses carrying their ski bags, high tech boots, wax kits, and gym bags loaded with lycra — as well as pink pillows, fuzzy blankets, light-up socks, junk food and stuffed armadillos. Within an hour there were colorfully clothed clusters of  teenagers out on the trails everywhere, skiing in little groups through the woods. 

Sven & Ole’s pizzas delivered to the cabins on Friday and a Saturday evening dinner in front of a blazing fire at the awesome Old Northwoods restaurant gave them a reason to come in from the cold; otherwise, most of the skiers were out on the trails for hours.

When the buses pulled away Sunday afternoon, we fearfully assessed the damage.  A cabinet door that pulled away from a hinge. A crack in a window that grew a bit. Yellow snow over the edge of a deck.  (Boys. @@ Need we say more?) Flash frozen spilled red Gatorade outside a door. Truckloads of filled trash bags.  And many sparkling, clean cabins, obviously carefully tidied up and vacuumed.

By Saturday night at Old Northwoods, parents were already asking whether Bearskin would be willing to host this weekend again.  At that time, a low point on the exhaustion curve, we weren’t certain the answer ought to be “yes.”  The kids were obviously having a great ski experience; however, one had to wonder if it was worth all this trouble.

But here’s one occurrence that made me think that perhaps our efforts had value. A tall, articulate young skier came into the lodge late one evening in search of some tea bags. We started to discuss the cold and the clear night and the stars.   “You always hear and read about how great the stars are supposed to be,” he said, “but I’ve never really understood why stars are such a big thing. You look up in the sky at home and they’re nothing much.  Then I got up here and looked up at the sky and the stars are incredible. It was really amazing to see.  Now I get it.” 

Ski weekend was a lot of work for what amounted to a few days of skiing. But maybe skiing was only a small part of what high school ski weekend at Bearskin was really about.

The WHS Skiers Arrived Safely

12.7.07 4:15 PM Originally uploaded by Day by Day at Beautiful Bearskin Lodge

 The WHS skiers arrived safely, had a chance to ski and are awaiting the arrival of their Sven & Ole’s pizzas.

Don’t worry, parents, if they don’t call or if you can’t reach your kids. Cell phone service on the Gunflint Trail is just a “someday” fantasy. Everyone seems to be having a great time and they are staying safe.

Let’s ski!

12.02.07 9:08 AM

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winter.

The pisten bully has been out grooming since early this morning and everything will soon be skiable. Let the winter fun begin.

Bearskin has a huge group of high school skiers coming next weekend. We have a memorable weekend planned for them — lots of great skiing through the woods, Sven & Ole’s pizza delivered to their cabin doors on Friday, dinner at Old Northwoods on Saturday.

Everything was in place for a wonderful winter weekend except one thing, enough snow. The snow during the last week put us in an awkward spot:  Enough snow to think the event was possible, not enough snow to make the ski weekend a good one.   It was almost better when there was no snow — at least then it was obvious whether they should come up or not.   But Wayzata high school skiers apparently have the snow gods on their side.  As of last night, this place is a skier’s dream.

Now if we could just somehow arrange for a moose to jauntily cruise through Bearskin that weekend, preferably right when all the kids happen to be watching, we would have a perfect weekend planned.  Someone on the trail should start Rent-A-Moose.  We’d be a frequent customer.

The big 3 questions: #2 Did you stay at Bearskin a lot?

There is remarkable consistency in the questions curious people ask us about buying Bearskin Lodge. The inevitable 2nd question always seems to be whether we were regular Bearskin guests – did we fall in love with the place and decide to stay?

I always feel a little embarrassed to answer, “No,” because we should have stayed at Bearskin.  Our family was perfectly designed for a Bearskin stay. Our kids loved the northwoods, our family enjoyed being together, and we had grandparents living then who would have valued the time spent with us.  But we were teachers, living for many years on one income while I stayed home with our kids.  Decisions were always made based on economics, on how we could get by on the least amount of money. We did a lifetime of fun family trips, but they were always cheap fun trips.  We didn’t repeat enjoyable experiences often enough for them to develop into traditions and it was a rarity that our extended family was included.

Now when we see the families who are here all together — with Grandma and Grandpa, mom and dad, the aunties and uncles, the cousins, the newborn infants — we can’t help but feel a little envious of the memories they are creating together as a family group.  Bearskin is not the least expensive place for people to spend their family time, but it is exceptionally memorable and special.  It’s readily apparent that most families seem extraordinarily contented and close while they are together here.

So no, we didn’t come to Bearskin with our children.  But we really wish we had.  Watching families together at Bearskin, we can see Bearskin is a worthwhile investment in making family memories, the kind of family investment that we now wish we had made more often.

Little Quinn in ski shelter

Here’s a picture of Quinn when he and Bob almost went to Bearskin.  They skied all day at Bearskin, where Quinn encountered his first moose on the Summer Home Road Trail.  They walked around the Lodge and admired the stone fireplace.  They went out again after dark to ski on the lighted trails at Bearskin, an experience they’ve both talked about often ever since.  And then they left and drove to the cheapest Cook County motel they could find. 

While the “cheap” part of the story is endearing now, both Bob and Quinn look forward to repeating the entire Bearskin experience right this winter—skiing the trails for hours, warming up in the sauna, soaking in the hot tub, sleeping in a cozy Bearskin cabin and then doing it all again the next day.  No, we didn’t stay at Bearskin when our kids were little, but we still plan to make Bearskin memories with them.