Terrain, snow conditions, grooming
Lift lines, lack of apres, price
After skiing fresh lake effect snow yesterday, we hunkered down for the night at the Mountain Inn, located just off Ski Hill Road nearby Lutsen. The price was right: $109 for the night. So we holed up with a few beers and watched the new snow come down. We were excited: they expected 6" for the night, on top of the 4" or 5" they had received in the last 24 hours.
In the morning, I woke up and snuck out without waking any one up (you know what they say, "no friends on a powder day") and clicked my skis into touring mode, then made the 5 minute hike across Ski Hill Road and through the Caribou Highlands area to catch the cat track to Moose Mountain. The winds were brutal, so I figured the gondola wasn't running. I trekked to the lift and found the place nearly empty. I had missed first chair (I'd say I had "third chair"), but there were only two sets of tracks down Bull Run. I quickly exited the chair, and lapped Bull as much as I could until i was just too tired and too cold. There was no doubt--the snow was fresh. The wind had yet to get up to full-strength for the day, so the snow was still ankle deep on average.
With deep turns, the snow splashed up to your knees, and only a handful of other and myself enjoyed the soft early-morning turns. My trekking paid off, because indeed the gondola was stopped because of high winds. I took the return cat back to the Mountain Inn to check out and pick up the other skiers. I had got my fix of fresh snow for the hour :)
By the time we got checked out of the hotel and back on the hill, the winds were now literally howling out of the north making skiing on Eagle impossible. We stayed on Moose and lapped Bull and the other run to skier's left of Bull, where the snow was shin-deep on the sides. We never hit the ice underneath the snow. It was perfect! We braved the wind at the top of the chair for the fresh snow for the remainder of the day.
We had a few beers at Papa Charlie's while we warmed up, and also ate their buffet. While the buffet was good, it was expensive: $13/person! Beer was also expensive: $5.75 for a 12oz plastic glass. Papa Charlie's needs to get some competition up at Lutsen, so they can stop robbing people blind, I think. Any takers? Open a pizza place along ski hill road and charge for cheap PBRs and you will own the mountain. At least, as far as the food and drinks business goes. ;)
Today the only complaints on the hill was the lift line management at Bridge Chair: what is surely the busiest chair on the mountain is also the most mismanaged chair on the mountain. The lifties let singles go up constantly when there is a huge line waiting to upload. Pair up people! Make a singles line and put someone in the middle to make the most out of your slow double-chair! It's painful to make the long trek from Moose along the return cat only to have to wait in line forever for a chair up to the top of Eagle!
Also, why not a tow rope at the end of the return cat from Moose Mountain? Is it that hard? It would probably make people ski longer since they wouldn't have to exert the remaining energy they had hiking the cat out from Moose because the gondola was shut down. Just an idea...