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Curt Johnson: A snow season minus hibernation

Sledders are eager for snow this year, after some lean winters. When the snow finally comes, find a new trail to explore, or get the update on where the best snow conditions are, and track down a trail network in that area.

Sledders are eager for snow this year, after some lean winters. When the snow finally comes, find a new trail to explore, or get the update on where the best snow conditions are, and track down a trail network in that area.

It's easy to do online at www.dnr.state.mn.us . On the main page, click on Outdoor Activities, then on Snowmobiling, and finally, on Snowmobile Trail Maps. This brings you to Snowmobile Compass, an interactive map of snowmobile trails throughout Minnesota. It includes all state trails, plus grant-in-aid trails maintained by local snowmobile clubs.

Bears hibernate in the winter. But the human species in the Midwest does not. In fact, many look forward to the snow season for the opportunity it brings to take a trip to a favorite place with their favorite people.

Groups of skiers, snowmobilers and anglers head out for a special getaway when they can truly savor their sport. Couples cozy up in a favorite B&B for a quiet, romantic stay. It happens all over Minnesota, and for some, it becomes a tradition.

The Klackers, a group of Twin Cities women who gather twice a month, have been taking a winter ski weekend together for over 10 years near Detroit Lakes. Each January the friends share a cabin in the north woods.


"Really good skiing is the No. 1 draw," said Klacker Deb Dyson.

They've added snowshoeing to the weekend activities, soak in the enormous outdoor hot tub, and every year, a couple of them work up the courage to jump in the lake after a steamy sauna. Many of them are busy moms, who really enjoy the chance to get away and spend some extended time with good friends.

One Klacker who recently moved to Illinois still comes back for the ski weekend.

This winter will mark the 12th ski trip for another group of friends, singles and couples from the Twin Cities and St. Cloud, who gather each year at at Little Marais along the North Shore of Lake Superior.

"We all have so much fun together," said Barb Szurek, of Mounds View. "Before we check out of our hotel, we make reservations for the following year, and at some point I guess we all realized it had become a tradition."

What draws them together each year?

"It's a wonderful combination of things. Great times with good friends, excellent scenery right outside our door, some wonderful cross-country skiing," explained Barb.

Last year, the snow didn't cooperate, so some hiked at Tettegouche State Park, and others went shopping in Grand Marais.


"No weekend is exactly the same, and that's what makes it an adventure," Barb said.

Some other folks may be starting new winter getaway traditions. Steven and Susan Roe, of Brooklyn Park, decided to take their first Minnesota winter break last January after finding Lanesboro on the Internet. They are both from a little town and "it was fun to go back and recreate that" in the bluff country village of Lanesboro, said Steven.

The area offers great places to dine at any one of the great restaurants in town, there's the excellent Commonweal Theater, or a horse-drawn sleigh ride. On a chilly winter night, the Roes bundled up and enjoyed their ride.

"A full moon lit up the sky," said Steve. They are planning to return again this year.

Lori and Charlie Smith of Bloomington have settled into a comfortable pattern of regularly checking into their favorite B&B in Duluth, which they discovered three years ago with their in-laws from Florida.

"Duluth is wonderful," said Lori. The group strolled along Lakewalk, hiked in a city park, took a scenic drive up the North Shore. When they weren't out exploring, Lori said.

"We sat in front of the fireplace and had hot chocolate and cookies; there's not much more you need to do," she said.

Now their Florida sister-in-law regularly asks, "When are we going back?"


Winter in Minnesota is a great time to enjoy the outdoors from Grand Forks (the Minnesota side of town, of course ) to Red Wing and everywhere in between. Don't hibernate with the bears, break away from your sofa or recliner and experience what you're missing. And, bring along your ice-fishing gear.

Johnson, who works with the Minnesota Office of Tourism in St. Paul, can be reached at (651) 297-3488 or via e-mail at curt.johnson@state.mn.us

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