Minnesota's Iron Range wealth once was measured in the tons of iron ore it produced. Today, its wealth is measured in natural beauty and a pristine environment. Winter enthusiasts love its mother lode of craggy peaks, miles of endless forests, and deep snowfall for skiing. The region is home to Giant's Ridge, one of the Gopher State's biggest golf and ski resorts.
The Giant was first developed in the 1980s as an Olympic training site with world- class cross-country trails, much like Finland's terrain. Although not a training site today, America's top athletes still come here for early season training because of the trail system and the-normally-reliable early snowfall. The same holds true for the alpine skiing, which was developed at the same time as the Nordic venue. The view of lakes and forests seems to stretch as far as Hudson Bay on a sunny day atop the 550-foot ski hill.
The 35-some trails that soar off the rocky crest offer some of the best cruising runs around the Great Lakes. Named after - what else? - Olympic sites, blue cruisers like Chamonix, Kitzbuhel, Innsbruck, and Sarajavo are made for long, lazy giant-slalom turns. The North Face area offers some challenging steep. Narrow, white-knuckled, tree-lined chutes like Whiteface, 2002 and Snow Basin will test your mettle. Helsinki, with its varied pitch and headwall, is a great top to bottom, eye watering, fall line run.
Trails like Melbourne, Easy Way and Placid, all sequestered center stage among birch and aspen trees, provide gentle, meandering top-to-bottom runs for novice skiers.
Giant Ridge's terrain park features more than 3,000 feet of free-riding fun for the big air group. It's loaded with a halfpipe and variety of rails, boxes, and even a full-size bus buried in the snow, and is open to boarders, bladers, and skiers.
The Lodge at Giant's Ridge provides luxurious rustic lodging, with a knotty pine interior and lodge-pole pine supports for the high beamed lobby ceiling. Many of the 93 suites feature whirlpools and fireplaces. It also houses a spa and fitness center with a large indoor pool. The lodge's restaurant, Timbers, offers classic specialties with a "northwoods" influence
Dress warmly when you visit Giants Ridge, because the legendary cold the Iron Range is famous for is no myth. These hardy residents take pride in their region's reputation as "America's Icebox."