What the weather service said was going to be a bad day on the slopes, turned out to be amazing. Rain and wind were projected, and neither surfaced at Lutsen today. The sun managed to poke through and turned Lutsen's hills into a spring time haven for fantastic turns.
Nearly every aspect of Lusten's terrain is open. With the exception of a few glades that are closed because of lack of coverage, everything else is well covered and well groomed. And when all the lifts are turning at Lutsen, you won't have to stand in line too terribly long to reap the benefits either.
We started the day early, before there was any sun on anything. It had sprinkled rain early in the morning, and the weather was dark and overcast. We hopped the gondola to check out Moose Mountain. When we clicked in at the top of Bull Run, the snow was hard and marbly, and rutted out from the people who were there the mere 30 minutes since resort opening before us. We decided to push over towards Wolf chair to see if maybe there was anything else in good shape. We were surprised to find a lot of the connecting runs around the Caribou chair in better shape. We lapped a few here, and then went for the long run under the Wolf chair and made some big, arcing turns for about 45 minutes. Then we traversed back over to Bull Run, watched a buddy rip the hardened mogul run in front of the new chalet, and then traversed back to Eagle chair.
Once we got to Eagle chair, we found Bridge run to be in the best shape. Soft, coarse snow, perfect for making turns on. On top of that, there were plenty of small rollers and natural jumps along the run, so we were hopping around and enjoying the day. We lapped Bridge run a few times and then went to get some lunch.
After lunch, the sun had peaked out and was warming up the day. We wanted to try Mystery Mountain and see if there was anything exciting there and took the chair up past the park and went into Dan's dive. As it turns out, fat twin tips don't go very fast in the new snow conditions that awaited us: pure mashed potatoes. My skis woefully tried to push through the soft, slushy snow. Since the latter half of Mystery (to skier's right of the terrain park, that is) is mostly flat, I was pushing my skis every so slowly down the run. We hoofed it back to Eagle chair, and then started lapping Koo Koo off of Eagle Mountain. Here, the soft, super-glue-sticky snow didn't matter because the run was steep enough to get speed.
We arched some giant turns on Upper & Lower Koo Koo for a few runs and then headed back over to Bridge Run to check it out again with the new snow conditions. At the top of the Eagle chair, Lutsen has a up-down fat rail, and some sort of ribbed, black plastic piping with a step-up on it. We weren't entirely sure what this ribbed plastic piping was (probably for snowboards to ride), so we just cut 90 degrees across it and jumped the pipe before heading the rest of the way down Bridge. Unfortunately, Bridge wasn't steep enough for fat twin tip skis to maintain any sort of speed, so we finished the day on the ultra soft snow of Upper and Lower Koo Koo.
Lutsen had all the chairs running today. This was a surprise for me, since the resort wasn't very busy at all (probably the weather was a factor in limiting peoples' time on the slopes). But because they ran all the chairs, there was only a one- or two-person wait to get a chair. It was nice, and helped us get more laps out of the day. With the weather cooperating, and the snow in terrific shape, we had a strong day skiing.
Lutsen's staff is seemingly growing friendlier (to us) at least. It seems to me that just last season, I was posting on this site about how the Lutsen lifties constantly cast dirty looks at us for skiing "those trick skis," or even non-race skis. Now, we don't feel ostracized in the least bit. Perhaps the staff has accepted this is the 21st century, and this is how skiing is going to be like for the future. Or perhaps they're drunk. Either way, it was great to see constant smiles on the lifties, a friendly "howdja do?," and a prompt chair under your ass.
Lutsen--this season alone--has propelled itself to my #1 resort in the Midwest (besides Mount Bohemia, which is in a category of it's own). I have a season pass for Spirit Mountain (my home mountain) and Giant's Ridge, in addition to Lutsen, but I've been to Lutsen more than any of those places this year. By improving their grooming and their lift operations, they've cleaned up their act and started acting like a resort that really WANTS to have people travel and visit it...and have fun no matter what ability. Secondly, by having a staff that is more acceptive of The Way Skiing Was and, now, The Way Skiing Is, they've opened themselves up to a new generation (a terrain park, however poor it is this year, helps as well). The future only holds better things for this resort.
To digress this review even further, I would like to present a small "Lutsen Wish List." First, if the rumors are true about a high-speed quad to replace the Eagle chair, please let this happen. When the skiers are pushed off Moose and don't want to take the gondola, they traverse out on Moose Return. Help alleviate this pinch point and throw in a quad. Additionally, some of the best runs (Hari Kari, Koo Koos, Chris' Colouir) are on Eagle. Give the patrons of this mountain a quicker response time to the top. Second, I see all this glading going on in the trees...under the Caribou chair, over on Eagle...if you are planning on opening up some glade skiing, let this happen next. People can come for the groomers, but let those of us who want to get "off piste" at Lusten have their dues. Third, lower the price of beer at Papa Charlie's. I mean, seriously...it's Coors Light, not Dom.
Returning from my digression, let me wrap by saying today was a very good day. The weather broke and was warm, the crowds were minimal, and the snow was your typical spring snow. Bring a good pair of carving sticks to Lutsen over the next week (only one week left before closing weekend! The 13th!) and slay some corn snow.