New parking rocks, lift tickets are reasonable right now
Horrible snow, over-crowded, bad management
We hit Lutsen for the firs time this season on Saturday, the 12th of December. We figured it'd be relatively busy since it was a weekend, but were pleasantly surprised when we saw that there was NO ONE in the overflow parking. (We discovered this was due to a fantastic change in the parking situation, but more on that later). Lutsen was reporting a 12-18" base with 18 runs open, so we figured it was worth the 1.5 hour drive north.
We were shocked at how wrong we were. The snow conditions were horrible. To actually call the coverage on some of the runs "snow" is a huge misnomer...how about "marbles" or a "rock garden." The snow had huge, unwieldy chunks of ice as big as your fist instead of the icy snow you'd come to expect from early-season man-made snow. It was actually down right dangerous on one of the runs on Moose Mountain, where people were openly telling others on the chair and at the top of the run to "avoid that run because it's so terrible." What the hell is Lutsen thinking opening up such a horribly groomed run for? What a bust.
Other runs, such as Bull Run (on Moose Mountain) and Bridge Run (on Eagle Mountain) were in much better shape. Bridge run was over-crowded because of it's narrow-ness, so the skiing became dangerous at times as you had newbies taking large, slow turns across the 15-foot wide bottlenecks. The snow was better here, however, but you still had those surprise ice patches creep up on you (you're going to have that anywhere, I guess). Ullr was completely in use by race teams training (why, oh why, would you have race teams training on your limited-open resort on a busy weekend? That was some hugely poor planning), so we made one lap down, avoiding the training gates and racers, and called that mountain quits.
Here's another way the management at Lutsen has their head somewhere other than on their shoulders: the Moose Mountain chalet--probably the best place to warm up and grab a bite to eat on the entire resort--had ONE SINGLE CASH REGISTER OPEN. What the hell? The line stretched across the chalet for people to get simply a bag of chips or a bottle of water. They have two other registers, both of which were not open. Why didn't they open them, and cut down the line? I've never heard so many gripes and complaints from patrons in the Moose Mountain chalet (and usually there are plenty of them, because of the long register lines when ALL the registers are open, and the horribly limited amount of tables & chairs). They lost a lot of friends that day in the Moose Mountain chalet, and it could of easily of been fixed.
The two bright spots of the day was that the weather seemed to of warmed up just for us to ride today. The temps were 20 above, with no wind, and just a little gray, overcast sky. The sky made the lighting poor for seeing the varied terrain (seriously, run a groomer over some of those huge rollers on Moose! That's treacherous when the light is too flat and you can't see the terrain in front of you!). The other great thing was the parking situation seems to be a little less screwy...Lutsen put in parking spots on either side of Ski Hill Run by the bridge so people can now park in the upper lot AND along side of the road (that's why overflow parking was empty!). An outstanding--and long overdue move.
In summary, Lutsen's staff must of completely forgot how to manage a ski resort over the summer...shoddy grooming, general mis-management (SERIOUSLY, get the racers OFF THE HILLS during the weekend when you aren't FULLY OPEN, and OPEN UP SOME MORE REGISTERS so patrons can give YOU MORE MONEY for your OVERPRICED FOOD in the Moose Mountain chalet). These things were a huge detraction to the first day of riding at Lutsen. But I kept thinking positive, and the $39 all-day lift ticket--reasonably priced, I might say--didn't dissuade me from returning to Lutsen. When Lutsen is good, it's great. When you get it when there's fresh 8" of snow, all the terrain is open, it doesn't matter what the chairs are like or what the cost of food is at the chalet. The only thing that matters is how big your smile is when you are skiing the best resort in the Midwest.