PR: Dark Sky Festival Returns to Cook County, MN Dec. 9-11, 2021

Dark Sky Festival

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Dark Sky Festival Returns to Cook County, Minnesota Dec. 9-11, 2021

Three-day event will celebrate the county’s world-class dark sky

 

Cook County, Minn. – Dec. 1, 2021 – Cook County’s Dark Sky Festival will return Dec. 9-11, celebrating the area’s world-class dark sky with programs, activities, dinners and more.

This event is especially fitting as Northern Minnesota was recently named one of the “25 amazing journeys for 2022” by National Geographic because of the region’s lack of light pollution and dark skies.

This year’s festival kicks off Thursday, Dec. 9, with a special night along the Gunflint Trail at Gunflint Lodge & Outfitters, next to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, one of only 15 International Dark Sky Sanctuaries in the world. The evening will include a Dark Skies Dinner with a Constellation Presentation and a guided Celestial Legends night hike. Reservations can be made via Gunflint Lodge. Visitors can stay in a lakeside fireplace cabin Dec. 8-10 with Gunflint Lodge’s Dark Skies Package, with dark sky dinner, presentation and night hike included.

On Friday, Dec. 10, Grand Marais will celebrate the Dark Sky Festival with “Turn Out the Lights!” an event in Harbor Park where attendees will watch the city go dark for a few minutes to enjoy a darker-than-normal sky over the iconic harbor. Following “Turn Out the Lights!” a Star Party with staff and students from the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium will be at Voyageur Brewing Company, which will include telescope viewing and a live star/constellation show under the stars.

The weekend will be full of other programs that are free but with limited capacity for safety with masking required. Early sign-up is recommended.

 

Friday, Dec. 10

4:30 p.m. | Winter Constellation Stories with Emma Adams | Studio 21, Grand Marais

 

Saturday, Dec. 11

3 p.m. | Animals and Dark Skies with Steve Robertsen | Studio 21, Grand Marais

4 p.m. | Saving the Dark – a Documentary Movie and Q&A with Starry Skies North IDA | Johnson Heritage Post Art Gallery, Grand Marais

7 p.m. | Asteroids, Meteors and Comets Oh My!! with Emma Adams | Studio 21, Grand Marais

8 p.m. | Dark Sky Adventures with Travis Novitsky | Johnson Heritage Post Art Gallery, Grand Marais 

The festival will conclude with a Night Sky Walk along the Lake Loop Trail in Sweethearts Bluff Nature Area with Starry Skies North and Superior National Forest employee Caroline Torkildson and dark sky photographer Travis Novitsky.

“We are excited to once again bring our community, partners and fans of our dark skies together to celebrate,” said Linda Jurek, Visit Cook County Executive Director. “While all presentations on Friday and Saturday are free, space is limited so register early.“

See the full schedule, details and registration information for presentations: https://www.visitcookcounty.com/darkskyfestival/

 About Visit Cook County 

Visit Cook County encompasses the northeastern Minnesota communities of Lutsen, Tofte, Schroeder, Grand Marais, the Gunflint Trail and Grand Portage, commonly referred to as “the Arrowhead” and the “North Shore of Lake Superior”.  Grand Marais, Minn., has earned several national accolades — most recently it was named USA Today’s Best Midwestern Small Town, Outside Magazine’s The 16 Best Places to Live in the U.S. 2016, and Budget Travel’s 2015 Coolest Small Town in America. Rekindle your sense of adventure by exploring the Superior National Forest or paddling through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Discover what makes the communities of Cook County, Minn. “Naturally Unforgettable.” Connect on social media using #donorthmn, Twitter @CookCoVisitors, Facebook, or Instagram @donorthmn. Learn more at www.visitcookcounty.com

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PR: Grand Portage, Minnesota Artist George Morrison to be honored by the Postal Service with Forever Stamp issue

George Morrison US Postage Stamps Release coming in 2022

Grand Portage, Minnesota Artist George Morrison to be honored by the Postal Service with Forever Stamp issue

 

George Morrison US Postage Stamps Release coming in 2022

George Morrison US Postage Stamps Release coming in 2022

November 15, 2021 – Grand Marais, Minn. – The United States Postal Service has announced several new stamps to be issued in 2022.  Among those being honored is renowned American artist George Morrison (1919-2000).

Born in 1919 to Native American parents James and Barbara (Mesaba) Morrison, in Chippewa City, near Grand Marais, Minnesota, Morrison lived a truly extraordinary life.  One that took him from humble beginnings in the wilderness of northeastern Minnesota, to the epicenters of the post-World War II Modern Art movements in New York City and Paris.

Morrison is widely considered one of the nation’s greatest American Abstract Expressionist painters and the founder of what is now known as Native Modernism.  He was a contemporary of artists such as Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Franz Kline, and Willem de Kooning, and is best known for his abstract landscapes and monumental wood collages. Morrison was also a revered college professor at several prestigious institutions, including Cornell University, the Rhode Island School of Design, the Dayton Art Institute, and the University of Minnesota, where he also taught American Indian Studies.

Of Anishinaabe descent, Morrison returned to Grand Portage, MN in his later years, where he built Red Rock, a home and studio overlooking Lake Superior, and continued making art until his passing in 2000.  His son Briand Morrison, a respected jazz guitarist, and composer now resides there with his partner Roxann Berglund.  They have been working with the Postal Service over the past several months to help facilitate the upcoming stamp release.

“I think the images that were chosen are a good representation of his work, his paintings,” said Morrison. “If you look at his legacy, and the art that he did do, the Abstract Expressionist style, combined with his take on it, he is world-class.”

Five of Morrison’s vibrant and colorful landscape paintings will be featured in the Forever Stamp release, scheduled for Spring 2022. “The new 2022 stamps are miniature works of art, designed to be educational and appeal to collectors and pen pals around the world,” said USPS Stamp Services Director William Gicker. “As always, the program offers a variety of subjects celebrating American culture and history.  The vivid colors and unique designs of this year’s selections will add a special touch of beauty on your envelopes.”

George Morrison at work on a wood collage in his Grand Portage studio. Photo from the Morrison estate

George Morrison at work on a wood collage in his Grand Portage studio. Photo from the Morrison estate.

More information about the date of the official stamp issue and location of the First Day Release Ceremony to honor George Morrison will be announced by the Postal Service in the coming weeks.

About Visit Cook County

Visit Cook County encompasses the northeastern Minnesota communities of Lutsen, Tofte, Schroeder, Grand Marais, the Gunflint Trail and Grand Portage, commonly referred to as “the Arrowhead” and the “North Shore of Lake Superior”.  Grand Marais, Minn., has earned several national accolades — most recently it was named USA Today’s Best Midwestern Small Town, Outside Magazine’s The 16 Best Places to Live in the U.S. 2016, and Budget Travel’s 2015 Coolest Small Town in America. Rekindle your sense of adventure by exploring the Superior National Forest or paddling through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Discover what makes the communities of Cook County, Minn. “Naturally Unforgettable.” Connect on social media using #donorthmn, Twitter @CookCoVisitors, Facebook, or Instagram @donorthmn. Learn more at www.visitcookcounty.com.

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MEDIA CONTACT

Linda Jurek | Visit Cook County                       Kjersti Vick | Visit Cook County

Phone#: 218.387.2788 ext. 101                         Phone#: 218.387.2788 ext. 104

Email: linda@visitcookcounty.com                  Email: kjersti@visitcookcounty.com

 

 

Additional Stories:

MPR News “Renowned Minnesota Native artist George Morrison to be honored with new stamp

Star Tribune “Minnesota artist George Morrison to be honored with postage stamps.”

PR: Cook County Looks Forward To Welcoming Canadian Visitors Once Again Starting November

Grand Portage Lodge & Casino

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The US/Canada Border to Reopen for Non-Essential Travel 

Cook County looks forward to welcoming Canadian visitors once again starting in November.

 

October 13, 2021 Grand Marais, Minn. Starting in early November, the United States will lift restrictions on its land borders with Canada for allowing fully vaccinated Canadians to travel by land or ferry for non-essential or leisure purposes. In border communities like Cook County, this announcement is exciting. 

“We have been waiting for this announcement for 19 months,” said Linda Jurek, Executive Director of Visit Cook County.

The border closure has impacted many communities that rely on Canadians for patronage, friendship and workforce. In Grand Portage, MN, a gateway community, the impact was significant. Todd Ford, Marketing Director at Grand Portage Lodge & Casino had this to say “We were thrilled to wake up to this wonderful news this morning. The border closure has certainly had a significant impact on us, as it has with so many businesses on both sides of the border. We look forward to welcoming our friends back with open arms.”

 “We’re excited to not only welcome our friends and neighbours back but we’re also excited to show them the newly finished Highway 61 corridor through downtown Grand Marais,” continues Jurek. The two-year highway reconstruction project is in the final stages of completion. The project included improved roadways, sidewalks, and a new bike path that connects Grand Marais to Cutface Creek – about 5 miles of new paved bike trails to explore. 

Along with vaccination requirements, Canadians will find that COVID-19 protocols remain in place throughout many local businesses to keep both visitors and residents safe. 

“While an exact date has not been announced, early November cannot come soon enough” added Todd Ford. 

 

About Visit Cook County 

Visit Cook County encompasses the northeastern Minnesota communities of Lutsen, Tofte, Schroeder, Grand Marais, the Gunflint Trail and Grand Portage, commonly referred to as “the Arrowhead” and the “North Shore of Lake Superior”.  Grand Marais, Minn., has earned several national accolades — most recently it was named USA Today’s Best Midwestern Small Town, Outside Magazine’s The 16 Best Places to Live in the U.S. 2016, and Budget Travel’s 2015 Coolest Small Town in America. Rekindle your sense of adventure by exploring the Superior National Forest or paddling through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Discover what makes the communities of Cook County, Minn. “Naturally Unforgettable.” Connect on social media using #donorthmn, Twitter @CookCoVisitors, Facebook, or Instagram @donorthmn. Learn more at www.visitcookcounty.com

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Talking Tourism: Catalyst for Change

Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.

Originally published: October 2021

Talking Tourism: Catalyst for Change – Two Strong Organizations – One Executive Director

By: Linda Jurek, Executive Director of Visit Cook County

 

Visit Cook County launched as an independent 501(c)(6) in the spring of 2010. The convergence of three tourism associations and strategic partnerships with Grand Portage and Lutsen Mountains resulted in an award-winning Destination Marketing Organization. Building upon that momentum, the Cook County Chamber of Commerce was established three years later to support the internal needs of the business community that traditionally come from a Chamber. When established, the mission of the Chamber was intentionally prioritized around policy and advocacy with Jim Boyd assuming the leadership role as the Chamber’s new Executive Director.

With the recent announcement of Jim’s desire to step down to part-time employment, the Chamber’s Executive Committee began entertaining an idea of one Executive Director leading both the Chamber and Visit Cook County. This organizational model is very common elsewhere, particularly in smaller communities and/or in communities that struggle to sustain two separate organizations both focused on one primary economic driver. Cook County, Minnesota is a shoe-in for both of these circumstances. 

Although there is a difference between the missions and visions of the two organizations, there is notable overlap in membership. As the main driver of the local economy is tourism, the work  on policy, workforce housing, road construction and business communications are only a sample of the intersections these two organizations experience on a daily basis. The Chamber is an inward facing organization; promoting member business, advocacy and policy. Visit Cook County is an outward facing organization; providing area branding, supporting events and programming, providing communications, and soliciting visitors to our areas. 

Under this new model, both organizations will maintain their autonomy and will continue to have two separate boards of directors. Each board will continue to guide the mission, work, and focus of the independent organizations. A new position, Director of Policy and Advocacy, will be created for the Chamber where Jim will remain to continue providing his expertise and leadership in the policy sphere. The seasoned and talented team at Visit Cook County will step in to begin supporting the administrative and membership work of the Chamber. Education and social networking events will be added as a benefit of Chamber membership. 

The single director model provides opportunities for both organizations. Visit Cook County is continuing to work toward a more balanced tourism economy with efforts toward sustainable tourism and destination management beyond destination marketing. These are inward facing initiatives (outside of VCC’s normal scope) but align with the work of local businesses, which in turn affects the Visit Cook County outward facing marketing and branding efforts and tactics. The synergy of work with the Chamber is naturally there, and is a proactive and timely response to the conditions set before us all in working to manage Cook County as a prosperous, safe, friendly, and sustainable destination and home for residents.

Visit Cook County is a firm believer in community engagement and actively seeks diverse voices. Under the leadership of Linda Jurek, Visit Cook County hopes to enhance our tourism partnerships. With strong partners, Visit Cook County continues to work toward the goal of creating balance between a thriving year-round tourism economy and extraordinary visitor experiences while maintaining the quality of life for residents. Boards of both organizations have voted to move forward under this new single director model and believe that Linda will be able to effectively and expertly utilize the strengths of both organizations to be successful together and separately.  

An FAQ has been prepared and can be found here: FAQ Shared Director

Hospitality workers get a free cup of coffee courtesy of Visit Cook County September 12-17, 2021

For immediate release

Hospitality workers get a free cup of coffee courtesy of Visit Cook County September 12-17, 2021

Grand Marais, MN – September 7, 2021 – As the busy season begins to wind down after another record-breaking year, Visit Cook County wants to champion those who continue to be the “heart of hospitality” in the community by offering a cup of coffee for hospitality industry workers September 12-17, 2021.

“Celebrating the hard work of those in the hospitality industry is important,” said Linda Jurek, Executive Director of Visit Cook County. “It has been a challenging year with increased demand for outdoor destinations and evolving COVID restrictions. The employees and owners who have worked so hard to provide a great visitor experience really deserve to be recognized.”  

Outside of government, education and healthcare, the main industry in Cook County is tourism. There are over 1,000 employees in the hospitality industry in Cook County, according to an Explore Minnesota report, which is about half of the working population in Cook County. 

Who is eligible? Front and back of house staff that work in hospitality based industries like dining, retail, lodging and activities. A shortlist includes servers, bartenders, housekeepers, receptionists, cooks, clerks, guides and so much more. 

Where? Java Moose in Grand Marais (hours: 7am – 3pm Friday – Wednesday, closed Thursday) and Fika Coffee in Lutsen (hours: 7am – 12pm Thursday – Monday, Closed Tuesday & Wednesday) are prepared to offer complimentary coffee beverages to hospitality workers. One coffee/drink per location.

This event is part of a greater program initiated by Visit Cook County titled the “Heart of Hospitality” to celebrate the workers in the hospitality industry. Launched in 2019, local business owners and managers are asked to nominate employees who they believe exemplify hospitality excellence. An award is given to an employee from each tourism district. Nominations for this year’s “Heart of Hospitality” awards are open. Deadline for 2021 nominations is October 4, 2021.  To learn more about the award or to nominate an individual, please click here. Winners are announced in late October.  

 About Visit Cook County 

Visit Cook County encompasses the northeastern Minnesota communities of Lutsen, Tofte, Schroeder, Grand Marais, the Gunflint Trail and Grand Portage, commonly referred to as “the Arrowhead” and the “North Shore of Lake Superior”.  Grand Marais, Minn., has earned several national accolades — most recently it was named USA Today’s Best Midwestern Small Town, Outside Magazine’s The 16 Best Places to Live in the U.S. 2016, and Budget Travel’s 2015 Coolest Small Town in America. Rekindle your sense of adventure by exploring the Superior National Forest or paddling through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Discover what makes the communities of Cook County, Minn. “Naturally Unforgettable.” Connect on social media using #donorthmn, Twitter @CookCoVisitors, Facebook, or Instagram @donorthmn. Learn more at www.visitcookcounty.com

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Kjersti Vick

Marketing & Public Relations Director, Visit Cook County

kjersti@visitcookcounty.com

(218) 387-2788 ext. 103

PR: Cook County Accommodations Have Rare Openings Heading into the Fall Travel Season

Gunflint Trail Resort on a lake

Cook County Accommodations Have Rare Openings Heading into the Fall Travel Season

Gunflint Trail Resort on a lake

Gunflint Trail Resort on a lake

Cook County, Minn. – Sept. 2, 2021 – Now is the time to plan a fall getaway. Cooler temps mean leaf change is on the horizon, the U.S. Forest Service just announced the reopening of portions of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and local resorts have rare openings during peak season for reservations.

Amid concern regarding the wildfires in northeastern Minnesota, lodging properties in Cook County have seen a recent spike in cancellations despite no imminent threats. While the Greenwood Lake, Whelp and John Ek fires all remain active, they are between 5-40 miles away from the homes and businesses in Cook County. Due to drought conditions, the U.S. Forest Service had closed the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) until Sept. 3, however on Sept. 2, the closure order was lifted beginning Sept. 4 for the majority of the BWCAW with the exception of a few notable areas.

Local resorts, lodges and other accommodations are ready to welcome those who have been waiting for a reservation opening.

“Suddenly we have availability – something that’s been tough for people to find this summer. We’re open and ready to host visitors during what most consider the best part of the season,” said John Fredrikson, owner of Gunflint Lodge and Outfitters on the Gunflint Trail. “Now is the best time to visit with cooler temps, fresh air and fall colors.”

Although the drought will likely change the timing and vibrancy of Cook County’s fall color experience, fall colors will occur. Visit Cook County will be posting fall color updates on our social media outlets. Check out our fall color blog from last year for a breakdown of the fall color progression.

“Our local webcam library is another great way to track the fall color progress” said Kjersti Vick, Marketing & Public Relations Director. “These cameras are placed in several locations around the county providing a true snapshot of what is occurring right now in each community.”

To view webcams, including a live video feed of the Grand Marais harbor, visit https://www.visitcookcounty.com/resources/webcams/.

For coordinating interview with local lodging owners, as well as photos of Cook County, please contact Visit Cook County Director of Marketing & Public Relations Kjersti Vick at kjersti@visitcookcounty.com

About Visit Cook County 

Visit Cook County encompasses the northeastern Minnesota communities of Lutsen, Tofte, Schroeder, Grand Marais, the Gunflint Trail and Grand Portage, commonly referred to as “the Arrowhead” and the “North Shore of Lake Superior”.  Grand Marais, Minn., has earned several national accolades — most recently it was named USA Today’s Best Midwestern Small Town, Outside Magazine’s The 16 Best Places to Live in the U.S. 2016, and Budget Travel’s 2015 Coolest Small Town in America. Rekindle your sense of adventure by exploring the Superior National Forest or paddling through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Discover what makes the communities of Cook County, Minn. “Naturally Unforgettable.” Connect on social media using #donorthmn, Twitter @CookCoVisitorsFacebook, or Instagram @donorthmn. Learn more at www.visitcookcounty.com.

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Stories: 

Bring Me The News: https://bringmethenews.com/minnesota-lifestyle/arrowhead-resorts-see-spike-in-cancellations-despite-no-imminent-wildfire-threat

Talking Tourism: Leadership Changes for Visit Cook County

Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.

Originally published: March 12, 2021

Leadership Changes for Visit Cook County

By Linda Jurek, Executive Director, Visit Cook County

March 2020 marked the 10th anniversary of Visit Cook County. It was our plan to host a small celebration and thank all of our tourism partners for the outstanding work accomplished in the  promotion of tourism in northeastern Minnesota.  Of course, COVID sent us down a much different path and now, nearly one year later, we want to take time to express our gratitude. The Board of Directors for Visit Cook County gathered virtually via zoom on January 20th for their annual board retreat to set strategic goals and priorities for the upcoming year.

Since the foundation of Visit Cook County, there has been significant leadership changes as businesses change ownership and individuals take turns leading the organization. Because of the evolution of the organization, the Visit Cook County team prepared an in depth Organizational Guidebook which highlights the milestones of our organization’s change and growth. This guidebook exemplifies the work that has been done by this organization and the journey of the board leadership. It is a foundational tool to reflect on as we look forward to the future of tourism in our community.

In addition to the guidebook, we also created a community assessment portfolio. This portfolio provides a summary of marketing efforts as well as growth in visitor numbers and lodging tax collection. Together these help to provide a sense of the full marketing scope. Both documents can be found on our website in the Marketing section of the Media Room.

Leadership of Visit Cook County

The leadership of Visit Cook County is composed of many leaders from every corner of Cook County. Our board of directors includes representation from three tourism associations, Grand Marais Area Tourism Association (GMATA), Lutsen Tofte Tourism Association (LTTA) and the Gunflint Trail Association (GTA), as well as contributing partner Lutsen Mountains. Each association receives a seat at the table and the number of seats per association is assigned based upon the percentage of lodging tax contributed by that community. Each association is responsible for electing their representatives to the Visit Cook County board.

At the time of the Board Retreat, the board recognized the resignation of Beth Kennedy and the new appointment of Eric Humphrey. Welcome Eric! Beth Kennedy, who started several businesses in Grand Marais and successfully passed them on to her children, was named the Cook County Chamber’s Community Business Leader of the Year in 2016. Beth has a long-term commitment to our community, especially for her work with Empty Bowls and Ruby’s Pantry, and her “passion and caring about the lives of others”. And at a recent meeting of LTTA, the board accepted the resignation of Dennis Rysdahl and the appointment of Katie Krantz. Dennis sold Bluefin Bay approximately one year ago and has been serving in a transitional advisory capacity. He has served on numerous boards of directors and is recognized for his leadership skills and generous gift of his time. In November 2020, Dennis was selected as the Business of Leader of the Year, Cook County Chamber of Commerce.)

Current board leadership of Visit Cook County:

  • Jennifer Kennedy, Chair (GMATA)
  • Charles Skinner, Vice Chair (LTTA)
  • John Fredrickson, Treasurer (GTA)
  • Carl Madsen (GTA)
  • NEW Katie Krantz (LTTA)
  • Thom McAleer (LTTA)
  • Mike Larson (LTTA)
  • Bryce Campbell (LTTA)
  • Emily Haussner (LTTA)
  • Jim Vick (Lutsen Mountains)
  • Dave Tersteeg (GMATA)
  • NEW Eric Humphry (GMATA)

In addition to Visit Cook County board meetings, each association meets a few times per year. This spring, each association has met and nominated new board members. Two new board members were welcomed to the Grand Marais Area Tourism Association. Rachelle Christiansen (Skyport Lodge/Raven Rock Grill) and Eric Humphrey (Lake Superior Trading Post), joined a board of seasoned hospitality leaders including Jennifer Kennedy (East Bay Suites), Sara Hingos (Crooked Spoon), Dave Tersteeg (GM Recreational Park), Tom Nelson (Nelson’s Travelers Rest), and Chris Mehlhaff (Best Western). The leadership of the GTA includes John Fredrickson (Gunflint Lodge), Carl Madsen (Rockwood Lodge), Nancy Waver (Trout Lake Resort) and Deb Mark (Seagull Canoe Outfitters).  LTTA leadership welcomed Katie Krantz (Bluefin Bay) as a new board member in January.  Katie joined the following individuals in providing leadership from our “west end” communities: Mike Larson (Cascade Vacation Rentals), Bryce Campbell (Lutsen Resort), Emily Haussner (Caribou Highlands), Jim Vick (Lutsen Mountains), Charles Skinner (Eagle Ridge), Kim Corliss (North Shore Winery), and Thom McAleer (Cascade Lodge and Restaurant).

That’s 32 individual leaders providing advice and direction to the Visit Cook County team. We encourage you to read the Organizational Guidebook and Community Assessment. And as always, give us a call or email if you have cool ideas to share, questions on tourism, or have an interest in joining one of the boards.

Gunflint Trail Cross-Country Ski Resorts Invest in New Infrastructure to Enhance the Ski Experience

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 Gunflint Trail Cross-Country Ski Resorts Invest in New Infrastructure to Enhance the Ski Experience

Meet the MVP of Cook County Ski Trails: the  Pistenbully PB 100

Meet the MVP of Cook County Ski Trails: the  Pistenbully PB 100 – photo by Ruth Wagner of Golden Eagle Lodge

February 11, 2021 – Cook County, Minn.     Visit Cook County invites cross-country ski enthusiasts to experience a transformed, modern ski experience in Minnesota’s arrowhead region. After investing in new grooming infrastructure, the trails in Cook County are expertly groomed and ready to be skied. Spend your days exploring over 400km of beautiful trails throughout the region and embrace Hygge and all things cozy once the sun goes down.

“Whether you’re a new skier or an experienced veteran, you’ll find endless opportunities for adventure in Cook County this winter,” said Linda Jurek, Visit Cook County Executive Director. “Resort owners throughout Cook County have made significant investments to our grooming equipment, so visitors can enjoy the very best skiing in the state. Head north! We’d love to see you.”

Cook County sees an average of 120 inches of annual snowfall in the stunning Superior National Forest. Come February and March, the trails truly transform into an epic winter wonderland. Our large network of trails is meticulously groomed all season long, creating optimal conditions for the perfect ski.

Meet the MVP of Cook County Ski Trails: the  Pistenbully PB 100

The key to an excellent cross country-ski experience is flawless grooming. In the last few years, significant investments into grooming equipment were made to both the Central Gunflint and Sugarbush Ski Trail Systems, replacing equipment that was from the 1980s. The Central Gunflint Ski Trail System, managed cooperatively by Bearskin Lodge & Golden Eagle Lodge, are known throughout the state for their impeccable grooming. By investing in upgraded equipment, conditions are only getting better.

The Pistenbully is quiet, fast, powerful and eco-friendly, and it streamlined grooming work instantly with a larger and improved tiller. An attachable cutter blade helps break up ice or packed snow with ease all right from the groomer cockpit saving both time and energy. With a firm base, smooth snow and 12’ wide trails, skiing between Golden Eagle and Bearskin is excellent.

“This winter started out strong with good snow early, but then we had a few weeks without significant fresh snowfall and warmer weather. However, because of the new grooming equipment the trails have remained in great condition because we are now able to break up the snow crystals and set them into a strong base,” explained Ruth Wagner, owner of Golden Eagle Lodge. An incredible cross-country ski experience draws hundreds of visitors each winter, and lodge owners have taken time to curate truly magical adventures. Extend your cross-country adventures into the evening and try night skiing with old-fashioned kerosene-style lamps along the 3km Wolf Point trail, or other lit trails near Bearskin Lodge.

Track Your Progress with GPS Mapping

One of the best parts about cross-country skiing is spending hours deep within the wilderness, but it’s nice to know where you’re at on the trail. The Sugarbush, Norpine, Bally Creek and Pincushion trails have georeferenced digital maps available for download and use with apps like Avenza. Once downloaded into a phone or digital device, a wayfinding app can place a dot on the map right where you are, even without a cell or wifi connection. Cell coverage is spotty deep within the Superior National Forest, so these maps are essential to a safe and fun journey.

Head up to Cook County for a cross-country ski getaway! Browse trail conditions in Lutsen and Tofte, Grand Marais and the Gunflint Trail for updated grooming reports, insight from fellow skiers and ideas on where to start your next cross-country ski adventure.

View the Cook County Ski Trail Map and plan a trip north today.

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 Visit Cook County, Minnesota

Visit Cook County encompasses the northeastern Minnesota communities of Lutsen, Tofte, Schroeder, Grand Marais, the Gunflint Trail and Grand Portage, commonly referred to as “the Arrowhead” and the “North Shore of Lake Superior.”  Grand Marais, Minn., has earned several national accolades — most recently, it was named USA Today’s Best Midwestern Small Town, Outside Magazine’s The 16 Best Places to Live in the U.S. 2016, and Budget Travel’s 2015 Coolest Small Town in America. Rekindle your sense of adventure by exploring the Superior National Forest or paddling through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Discover what makes the communities of Cook County, Minn. “Naturally Unforgettable.” Connect on social media using #donorthmn, Twitter @CookCoVisitorsFacebook, or Instagram @donorthmn. Learn more at VisitCookCounty.com.

Nothing better than a freshly groomed trail - by Ruth Wagner of Golden Eagle Lodge on the Gunflint Trail

Nothing better than a freshly groomed trail – by Ruth Wagner of Golden Eagle Lodge on the Gunflint Trail

New Fat-tire Biking Opportunities Fill The Winter Void on the North Shore

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (from MN State Parks)

New Fat-tire Biking Opportunities Fill The Winter Void on the North Shore

Winter groomed fat tire bike trails

Winter groomed fat tire bike trails on the Norpine Ski Trail system in Lutsen

There is always something to do outdoors in the State Parks along the North Shore. This year’s snowfall has not set records, but that does not stop people from enjoying the great outdoors in the north-country. The fat-tire trail conditions at Split Rock Lighthouse and Cascade River state parks are in great mid-season form – – packed and firm – – and the summer crowds are gone, so now is the perfect time to explore these Minnesota State Parks.

Fat-tire bikes are an off-road bicycle with oversized tires, designed for low ground pressure to allow riding on soft, unstable terrain, such as snow, sand, and mud. The wide tires can be used with low-inflation pressures to allow for a smooth ride over rough obstacles. The sport is growing in popularity and more trails are accommodating this new outdoor winter sport.

At Split Rock Lighthouse State Park north of Duluth, 8.2 miles of fat-tire biking is available on multi-use trails where fat-tire bikers, hikers and snowshoers can all enjoy the same designated, packed trails. The trails are family-friendly and offer a great first-time experience for beginners. The trails meander through the park, follow the shoreline of Lake Superior, and offer amazing views along the way. A valid MN State Park Pass is required and parking can be found in the park at either the Trail Center or the Pebble Beach parking lots.

At Cascade River State Park, a partnership with the Norpine Ski Association has permitted 11 miles of new fat-tire bike trails (also see Facebook Norpine Ski Association) on select cross-country skiing trails. A generous accommodation has been made alongside the ski trails so that fat-bikers can also use the trail.  These trails are some of the most scenic along the Sawtooth Mountains. These multiple-use trails are experimental and may provide an avenue to maintain and grow outdoor winter activities and trail grooming – please be courteous when using the groomed trails. Fat-bike trail users are asked to consider buying a Great Minnesota State Ski Pass to help support trail grooming efforts. The trails can be accessed from several trailheads along Highway 61 and County Road 45 near the town of Lutsen. Call Cascade River State Park to learn more about winter activities at the park.

There is still plenty of winter left to try fat-tire biking. If you don’t own a fat-tire bicycle, several bicycle shops in Duluth, the surrounding area, and along the North Shore rent them. Additionally, hotels and other lodging facilities are catching onto this sport and can often time help bikers find the best trails in the area.  Make a plan to visit the North Shore this winter and find out why so many people return year after year.

More information about these trails is available by calling or emailing Split Rock Lighthouse State Park or Cascade River State Park.

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

Phone: 218-595-7625

Email:  SplitRockLthouse.StatePark@state.mn.us

 

Cascade River State Park

Phone:  218-387-6001

Email: cascaderiver.statepark@state.mn.us

 

Fat Bikes can be rented at: 

Sawtooth Outfitters, Tofte, MN | (218) 663-7643

Spokengear Cyclery & Outdoor, Two Harbors | (218) 834-2117

Continental Ski & Bike, Duluth | (218) 728-4466

 

Talking Tourism: A New Year by Linda Jurek

Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.

Originally published: January 15, 2021

Talking Tourism – A New Year

By Linda Jurek, Executive Director of Visit Cook County MN

It takes a distinctive person to call northeastern Minnesota home. It also takes business resiliency that is understood but sometimes not recognized.  That is, until faced with a pandemic that set all of us reeling. In March we closed. And I mean truly closed. This decision was difficult and scrutinized by leaders from every sector (healthcare, government, tourism). After heartfelt and respectful conversations, it was agreed that this would be best for our community. When your economy is vastly dependent on tourism, closing takes on a whole new meaning.

As a person who leads an organization that promotes our area, this has always seemed like a no brainer. Why wouldn’t a person want to visit here?  For those of us that are fortunate enough to call this area home, we understand the allure; the inland lakes, THE LAKE, the BWCAW, the highest falls, the miles and miles of hiking trails; the list is extensive.  Early during the closure and as I participated in industry calls from across the nation, I learned that the tourism persona would change. Our visitors would likely travel from a home base radius 250-300 miles from their homes, they would load the family in the car and drive and they would check items off their personal travel and “back yard” bucket lists . That is precisely what happened.

The shift began. Working together, we established protocols that would keep our community safe while allowing our businesses to operate.  In May, as lodging worked diligently to implement new COVID protocols, it became a question of not how to open but rather when. We are a vocal community and there was a certain amount of fear regarding public scrutiny and opening your business during a pandemic.

However, we figured it out. We opened. And the people came. And COVID remained at bay. Over and over again, when engaged in tourism industry calls, I heard how many areas in Minnesota, surrounding states and across the nation struggled mightily with decreased visitors. Areas that were reliant on conferences and major sporting events were ghost towns and were operating at 20-30% over last year. Cook County is fortunate. We have the vast outdoors and many lodging opportunities that are either remote or spacious. We continued to be vocal about our expectations for behavior. A united community voice was heard stating we expect social distancing – One Moose Apart. We expect masks on in our stores. There was a spirit of cooperation that I believe will continue long after we emerge from the restrictions imposed by COVID.

While many businesses continue to struggle and have questions about future workforce, there is a glimmer of hope. The occupancy rates of our lodging facilities outpaced most of Minnesota. Bringing your own linens and not “turning stayovers” helped set a new and accepted hospitality protocol. The determination displayed during the past 10 months will continue. Our people are the heart of hospitality day in and day out and we thank you.

Although festivals and events may look different in 2021, they will return and we will recover. We will continue to welcome tens of thousands of visitors to our area. The determination and strength displayed by our business owners will prevail. The pandemic helped us truly understand the ups and downs and ins and outs of a tourism based economy, and I believe we all have a deeper appreciation one another.

I look forward to greeting you all again in the near future. Happy New Year.

Socially Distant and Amazing Cross-Country Ski Trails in Cook County, Minnesota

Socially Distant and Amazing Cross-Country Ski Trails in Cook County, Minnesota

January 1, 2021 – Cook County, Minn. Visit Cook County invites all levels of cross-country skiers to kickstart a
much-anticipated new year by enjoying over 400km of trails throughout Cook County, Minnesota. With an
average of 120 inches of annual snowfall in the stunning Superior National Forest, the opportunities for
adventure are endless.

“Fresh air and exercise are essential to mental and physical wellness, as we’ve all learned this past year,” said
Linda Jurek, Visit Cook County Executive Director. She continued, “A cross-country ski adventure in Cook County
is the perfect opportunity to get out and enjoy the season.”

Five Great Reasons to Try Cross-Country Skiing This Year
1. It’s affordable and fun!
2. View wildlife and nature up close
3. Endless adventure opportunities
4. Full body workout
5. Aprés ski
Read our blog post to learn more.

Whether you’re an expert looking to stretch your legs and skills, a family hungry to get outside safely, or a
couple looking for a romantic ski through the trees, the perfect cross-country ski adventure awaits in Cook
County. The best part? With so much open space on the trails and ample lodging, you can remain as isolated as
you need to be to feel safe.

Three Lesser-Traveled/COVID-Friendly Cross-Country Ski Trails in Cook County

  • Norpine System, Lutsen Area – This stunning 58 +km network of trails surrounding Cascade River State
    Park has some of the state’s best views.
  • Central Gunflint Ski Trail System – Located in the heart of the snowbelt of the North Shore, it doesn’t get
    more peaceful than 70 km of trails along the Gunflint Trail and BWCA.
  • Banadad Trail System, Gunflint Trail – Ski to your heart’s content on 43 beautiful kilometers in the
    Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

View the Cook County Ski Trail Map and plan a trip north today.

###

Visit Cook County, Minnesota
Visit Cook County encompasses the northeastern Minnesota communities of Lutsen, Tofte, Schroeder, Grand
Marais, the Gunflint Trail and Grand Portage, commonly referred to as “the Arrowhead” and the “North Shore of
Lake Superior”. Grand Marais, Minn., has earned several national accolades — most recently it was named USA
Today’s Best Midwestern Small Town, Outside Magazine’s The 16 Best Places to Live in the U.S. 2016, and
Budget Travel’s 2015 Coolest Small Town in America. Rekindle your sense of adventure by exploring the Superior
National Forest or paddling through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Discover what makes the
communities of Cook County, Minn. “Naturally Unforgettable.” Connect on social media using #donorthmn,
Twitter @CookCoVisitors, Facebook, or Instagram @donorthmn. Learn more at www.visitcookcounty.com.

 

https://www.skinnyski.com/notices/archives/cookcty20210105.pdf

Press Release: Empty Bowls Cook County “Give Together” 2020

Empty Bowls Cook County “Give Together” 2020

Empty Bowls 2020 will once again raise critical funds for our community’s hunger needs this November. In lieu of a soup meal get-together, Empty Bowls 2020 will be an online “give together” to raise the $30,000 necessary for Empty Bowls to continue its work in Cook County. All funds raised support the Cook County Food Shelf and other community organizations working to alleviate hunger in Cook County.  

The current global pandemic may have cancelled Empty Bowls’ in-person fundraiser, but it’s also responsible for an uptick in food insecurity both locally and nationwide, making it more important than ever for Empty Bowls to continue its work in Cook County. Empty Bowls urges everyone to donate at www.emptybowlscookcounty.org to make sure Cook County’s hunger needs are met in the coming year. Alternatively, send checks payable to “Empty Bowls Cook County” to Empty Bowls, P.O. Box 294, Grand Marais, MN 55604. Empty Bowls Cook County is 501c3 non-profit and donations to Empty Bowls Cook County are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.

To help with this fall’s fundraising, beautiful handmade bowls from the Grand Marais Art Colony and other local potters will be sold online. The bowl sale will go live at www.emptybowlscookcounty.org in mid-November. A selection of gift certificates and other donated items from local businesses can also be purchased on the website to support Empty Bowls Cook County. 

With a fundraising goal of $30,000, Empty Bowls urges individuals and businesses 

to sponsor Empty Bowls’ 2020 efforts at one of the following levels: Event Sponsor $1000+, Business Sponsor $500 – $999, Table Sponsor $250 – $499. Please send a check payable to Empty Bowls Cook County to P.O. Box 294, Grand Marais, MN 55604 or give online at www.emptybowlscookcounty.org.

Empty Bowls addresses Cook County’s food insecurity through several community hunger programs. Funds from last year’s Empty Bowls event were distributed to Birch Grove Community School, Cook County Food Shelf, Cook County Public Health and Human Services, Cook County Ruby’s Pantry, Cook County Schools, Cook County Youth Agency Coalition, Cooperation Station Daycare, Great Expectations School Lunch Program, Oshki Ogimaag Charter School, and the Violence Prevention Center. 

Empty Bowls in Cook County started in 2006 and works in collaboration with the Grand Marais Art Colony and the generous donations of local businesses. Currently, the Empty Bowls steering committee plans to do a drive-thru soup meal event fundraiser in spring 2021. 

 

Contact: 

Empty Bowls 2020

P.O. Box 294, Grand Marais, MN 55604 

218-370-9581(Ada Igoe, Empty Bowls marketing) 

emptybowlsgm@gmail.com

www.emptybowlscookcounty.org

Press Release: Lutsen Mountains Prepares for a Safe 2020-2021 Ski Season – Opening Date November 14, 2020

Photo - Lutsen Mountains opens Nov 14 2020

Lutsen Mountains Prepares for a Safe 2020-2021 Ski Season Investing Over $400,000 in Improvements to Infrastructure.

Expanded outdoor seating and daily capacity limits are elements of COVID-19 operational plan.

October 27, 2020 – Lutsen, Minn. After months of planning and preparation, Lutsen Mountains has announced it’s target opening date and is preparing to welcome guests for the 2020-2021 ski season. With expanded indoor/outdoor seating and dining areas, contactless reservations and daily capacity limits, Lutsen Mountains is poised to offer an enhanced winter season experience for families, friends and everyone looking to get away. 

“As the weather turns colder, it will become increasingly important for people to get outside, breathe fresh air and exercise,” said Linda Jurek, Visit Cook County Executive Director. “I am proud of how  quickly our local business community quickly adapted to the covid-19 restrictions. We saw record breaking demand this summer and expect that trend to continue into the winter as guests seek to find the perfect place to naturally social distance in the outdoors.” 

After closing last winter season early due to COVID-19, Lutsen Mountains management and staff began making preparations for the 2020-2021 season early on. To date, Lutsen Mountains has invested over $400,000 in improvements to new and existing infrastructure. In addition to increased cleaning and safety protocols, new this year: 

  • Daily limits. Utilizing the data from their new RFID ticketing system, management reviewed past traffic trends to set daily capacity limits based on how many people the chalets can serve safely.  
  • Expanded seating capacity. Following state and national indoor capacity guidelines, expanded indoor and heated outdoor seating areas have been added. Wind barriers have been installed to the deck expansions at both the Summit and Scandinavian Chalet. Outdoor heaters are poised to extend the comfort range for outdoor dining.  And the Village Chalet at the base of Eagle Mountain will be reopened. 
  • No contact check-ins. Eagle Ridge at Lutsen Mountains has taken steps to make staying on property safer with contactless registration and keyless entry using bluetooth technology. 
  • Enhanced Chalet Services. Guests entering the chalets to warm up will be greeted by a host and escorted to a table with their party. Guests wishing to purchase food or beverage may do so by utilizing the new online ordering system. Meals will be made to order.  
  • Apres Ski Entertainment. Live music is part of the apres ski culture at Lutsen Mountains, therefore, Papa Charlie’s will continue to offer live music on select dates. Capacity restrictions will be in place and guests will be assigned seating to comply with social distancing requirements. The Monday Night Songwriter Series, featuring marquee songwriters from throughout the midwest, will continue with advanced reservations and ticketing.  

“We’re excited to welcome guests to a reimagined, pandemic-conscious Lutsen Mountains,” said Jim Vick, Lutsen Mountains Director of Sales and Marketing. “Our team has been working tirelessly to transform the resort and plan for the season.”

News of capacity limits has already spurred early lift ticket sales; many are looking forward to a slice of normalcy this winter. Please note that ticket and lodging reservations are strongly encouraged prior to visiting Lutsen Mountains. Reserve early and explore a mid-week getaway to ensure space is available.

“For new and returning guests, we’re encouraging booking early this season” continues Vick. “We’re already seeing increased demand for the season. And with 5” of fresh snow already on the ground and snowmaking just beginning, we’re on track for a great start to the season.” 

About Visit Cook County 

Visit Cook County encompasses the northeastern Minnesota communities of Lutsen, Tofte, Schroeder, Grand Marais, the Gunflint Trail and Grand Portage, commonly referred to as “the Arrowhead” and the “North Shore of Lake Superior”.  Grand Marais, Minn., has earned several national accolades — most recently it was named USA Today’s Best Midwestern Small Town, Outside Magazine’s The 16 Best Places to Live in the U.S. 2016, and Budget Travel’s 2015 Coolest Small Town in America. Rekindle your sense of adventure by exploring the Superior National Forest or paddling through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Discover what makes the communities of Cook County, Minn. “Naturally Unforgettable.” Connect on social media using #donorthmn, Twitter @CookCoVisitors, Facebook, or Instagram @donorthmn. Learn more at www.visitcookcounty.com

 ###

 

MEDIA CONTACT

Linda Jurek | Visit Cook County

Phone#: 218.387.2788 ext. 101

Email: linda@visitcookcounty.com

 

Kjersti Vick | Visit Cook County

Phone#: 218.387.2788 ext. 104

Email: kjersti@visitcookcounty.com

 

Photo - Lutsen Mountains opens Nov 14 2020

Photo – Lutsen Mountains opens Nov 14 2020