Giants Ridge slopes look out over endless forests and lakes. (Jim Balfour)
Minnesota’s Iron Range is home to Giants Ridge, one of the Gopher State’s largest snowsports resorts. Winter enthusiasts love its craggy peaks, endless forests and abundant snowfall. The resurgent resort is once again on the Heartland’s radar with a new 33,900-square-foot chalet housing skier services and new restaurant, renovation of the old South Chalet that houses the Nordic center, and two new quad-chairlifts, one a high-speed, scheduled to be added next spring. Dress warmly. Hardy locals take pride in the region’s reputation as “America’s Icebox.”
Trails. The 35 trails that soar off the rocky crest are some of the most exhilarating cruisers around the Great Lakes; varied in pitch, a headwall here, a small bowl there. Melbourne, Easy Way and Placid, sequestered among aspen and birch, offer gentle runs off the top of the ski hill. The North Face runs offer short, steep chutes that appeal to advanced skiers and boarders. Four terrain parks feature more than 3,000 feet of boxes, rails and jumps with a skate-park flow, catch big air on 30-foot jumps. Two are learning parks.
Eats. Don’t miss the Burnt Onion Soup, a rich stock of caramelized onions in the new chalet’s Burnt Onion restaurant. For breakfast the Mesabi Scramble at the Sleeping Giant restaurant in the Lodge, a combination of meats, onions, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and eggs kick starts your day. For dinner the wild rice meatloaf is made with a Minnesota staple, locally gathered wild rice. A trip to nearby Gilbert to sample the eclectic Whistling Bird authentic Jamaican jerk food is a must. It’s been drawing patrons from all over the state for over 20 years.
Play. In addition to skiing and boarding over 60-kilometers of Olympic quality cross-country trails, fat tire biking and snow tubing are available.
Stay: The Lodge at Giants Ridge offers attractive ski-in/ski-out one to four bedroom accommodations close to everything. The nearby Villas offer multi-bedroom condominiums within easy walking distance, perfect for families that like to eat in.
Deals. Midweek ski two days and spend a night for under $100 dollars. Friday nights, $16 lift tickets and $16 ski rentals were available last season.