It’s snow problem! Despite a slow start to winter, there are still plenty of adventures to be had this winter on the North Shore and Gunflint Trail.   

It’s January in Minnesota and the one thing we’ve always been able to rely on is that there is always snow in the winter, in fact the last time there was “a year without winter” was 1877-78! The past few years have been filled with record-breaking snowfalls and mild temperatures, so it feels particularly jarring to still be without snow this late into the season. While we have faith that snow will soon arrive and winter activities will resume as normal, there are several things that you can do this year to make the most out of winter. 

1) Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding at Lutsen Mountains.

Thanks to Lutsen Mountains' investment in high-tech snowmaking equipment, skiing and snowboarding at Lutsen Mountains is possible 7 days a week! This year, Lutsen is celebrating its 75th anniversary and opening of the new six-passenger high-speed chairlift the Raptor Express. 

2) Cross-Country Skiing.

As of mid-January, there is now enough snow to groom a few ski trails! For those looking to get out for those first kilometers of the season, you'll find a few options. Both the Central Gunflint and Upper Gunflint Ski Trail Systems have groomed sections of their expansive trail systems for both skate and classic skiing. Along Lake Superior, both Sugarbush and Pincushion have a few trails groomed as well. For the most current trail reports, visit our Trails Conditions page or call our Information Center at (218) 387-2524.

3) Ice Skating.

One of the benefits of cold temps and little snow is strong lake ice for skating! Wild ice skating is a rare phenomenon that typically occurs in early winter that lasts only a weekend at best. This year, we’ve had several weeks of great ice skating including over 8 miles of trails on Hungry Jack Lake maintained by Hungry Jack Lodge. Of course, proper precautions should be taken for all lake ice skating as conditions can change quickly. For those looking for a family-friendly adventure, several resorts manage ice rinks for guests to use throughout the winter with skates available for rental. 

4) Dog sled adventures.

Thanks to Points Unknown in Hovland, those looking for a dogsled experience won’t go home without a few puppy kisses. Linda Newman and her crew at Points Unknown have come up with a way to share the joy of dogsledding with guests by utilizing ATVs. Guests will still get the full experience of hooking up the dogs and spending time with them in the dog yard. Limited spaces are still available.

5) Ice fishing.

Typically ice fishing in Cook County involves a several-mile trudge through the snow to get to that elusive fishing hole. This year, it is an easy ice skate or walk across the lake to your preferred destination. Now that trout season in the BWCAW is open (all other inland lakes open on January 13, 2024), fishing enthusiasts won’t want to sleep on making plans for their next fishing adventure. Note: ice is still forming on the deeper lakes, so caution and ice safety measures should be in place. 

6) Take a class.

Expand your mind and skills by taking a class at North House Folk School, Grand Marais Art Colony, or Cook County Higher Education. From artisan bread making and woven birch bark basketry to ceramics and focused book discussions, there is something for everyone.

7) Winter Hiking.

From the Superior Hiking Trail to the Border Route or even on a portage into the Boundary Waters, the lack of deep snow makes travel through the wilderness much more accessible. It is recommended that sturdy hiking boots with cleats/yaktrax are worn as sections of the trail may have ice.

8) Biking.

Those looking to dip their toe into winter biking have an opportunity to get out and ride on the gravel roads around the county and single track at Pincushion Mountain (note: Jackpot & High Climber and Britton Peak MTB trails remain CLOSED for the season). While tire pressure needs to be adjusted, the lack of snow isn’t stopping riders from getting out on their bikes! According to experienced riders, studded tires are recommended to handle any icy patches as boardwalks and rock gardens are quite slick.

9) Embracing Hygge.

Winter is all about hygge regardless of how much or how little snow is on the ground. Cozy culture is always embraced during the darker winter months. Whether curling up with a good book by the fire, organizing a sauna session with a group of friends, playing a few games at Grand Portage Lodge & Casino, an afternoon shopping in Grand Marais, or imbibing libations while listening to local musicians - hygge culture is alive and well in Cook County.


Regardless of your activity of choice, snow or no, there are endless opportunities to make the most of winter right here in Cook County, Minnesota. Check out our collection of webcams to see what current conditions are like as well as browse our calendar of events to see what is upcoming in the area.