Talking Tourism: Secret Sauce

Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.

Originally published: February 2019

Talking Tourism: Secret Sauce | by Kjersti Vick

Last week at the annual Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference in the Twin Cities, Visit Cook County was brought up by our peers as a model that is working. Being industry leaders, Linda was asked to present on a panel of experts discussing “Creating Impactful Events” to a standing room only room. The secret is out, what we are doing is working to drive tourism and awareness to our region.

Visit Cook County was founded in 2010 when the three tourism associations decided to stop competing against each other and combine forces to achieve a greater market share.  In our relatively short history, our region has seen unprecedented growth in lodging tax. While the peak summer months still see the largest influx of lodging tax dollars, the months that have seen the most significant growth from 2011, until 2017 are:

  1. April + 60%
  2. June + 59%
  3. May +58%
  4. October +48%
  5. November +43%

We were tasked with driving traffic during the “shoulder seasons” or times of the year when businesses felt an increase in traffic would be beneficial to sustaining their ability to remain open and therefor sustain their workforce. Our team of marketing experts and the board strategized on what we could do to either convert current guests from peak season to shoulder season visitors and/or attract new market segments.

Enter “Waterfall Season.” Utilizing our natural assets, we changed the perspective of mud season by creating a new season embracing what occurs naturally – the melting of snow and ice on the inland lakes rushing down to Lake Superior. In addition to seeing an increase in visitation, we’ve seen more social media posts about waterfalls and received some significant press in major publications like the Star Tribune. On our website, our waterfall map is one of our most sought after downloads.

Beyond our natural assets, we are unique in another way thanks to our locally collected 1% Events Tax. The events tax has allowed us to be a strategic partner with event producers to both enhance the visitor experience and develop events that will attract new visitors to the region. Major events like the Lutsen99er, is one of the biggest successes. Prior to the Lutsen99er, the month of June was a hit or miss and its success was incredibly weather dependent. Since 2011, in the Lutsen-Tofte-Schroeder lodging tax district, June has seen a 64% increase in lodging tax collections. This can be directly attributed to the success of this great event which has also caused a ripple effect of an increased awareness of biking in our community. The result? New single-track mountain bike trails being built as well as new biking events throughout the year.

Because of the foresight of the leadership from our three tourism associations, Visit Cook County has become a premiere Destination Marketing Organization in Minnesota. Our success is one part location and tradition mixed with two parts creative marketing.

2019 Visit Cook County at Explore Mn

Pictured from left to right: Lynn Nelson of LINPR, Kjersti Vick of Visit Cook County MN, Lily Nelson-Pedersen of Visit Cook County, Barb Darland of Giant Voices, and Linda Jurek of Visit Cook County MN

PR | With 7 great events and snow totals 50 percent ahead of last year, 2019 is a great year for snowmobiling on the Gunflint Trail near Grand Marais

Women in helmets on snowmobile hugging

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

With 7 great events and snow totals 50 percent ahead of last year, 2019 is a great year for snowmobiling on the Gunflint Trail near Grand Marais

GRAND MARAIS, MINN. (Jan. 24, 2019)  — This year, outdoor adventure seekers traveling to the North Shore and Gunflint Trail are in for a treat, because snowfall totals in the region have already surpassed previous years by over 50 percent.

It’s a good year to be a snowmobiler as Snowmobile Trails are being cleared around the clock by teams of committed volunteers.  For more information on local trail conditions visit: https://www.visitcookcounty.com/winter-trail-conditions/

From January to March, visitors can participate or join in the fun as spectators at any of the upcoming snowmobile and fishing events throughout Cook County. A crowd favorite for many years are the many “Drag Races” which are timed heats with radar guns.

 Saturday, Jan. 26        Skyport Lodge Drag Races at Devil Track Lake  – https://www.visitcookcounty.com/event/devil-track-snowmobile-drag-races/

Saturday, Feb. 2         Annual Snowmobile Fun Run on Gunflint Trail- https://www.visitcookcounty.com/event/snowmobile-fun-run/

Saturday, Feb. 9         16th Annual Snowarama at Grand Portage Lodge and Casino – https://www.visitcookcounty.com/event/snowarama-at-grand-portage-lodge-and-casino/

Saturday, Feb. 16       Hungry Jack Drag Races at Hungry Jack Lodge – https://www.visitcookcounty.com/event/hungry-jack-drag-races/

Saturday, Mar. 2        Annual Trout Derby Hosted by the Cook County Ridge Riders https://www.visitcookcounty.com/event/annual-trout-derby/

Saturday, Mar. 9        Poplar Haus Drag Races at Poplar Lake https://www.visitcookcounty.com/event/drag-races-at-poplar-lake/

Friday, Apr. 27 – Saturday, Apr. 28       Midwest Extreme Snowmobile Challenge- https://www.visitcookcounty.com/event/midwest-extreme-snowmobile-challenge/

 

The Midwest Extreme Snowmobile Challenge is the best end to any snowmobile season. A two-day event at Lutsen Mountains and your chance to feel like a pro rider. Organized by COR Powersports, entrants in the Hillclimb will face the steepest course in the Midwest. The top 3 riders of this event will earn spots at the Jackson Hole World Championship Hillclimbs. This is an event not to be missed. More information on registration and lodging can be viewed here:

https://www.visitcookcounty.com/event/midwest-extreme-snowmobile-challenge/

 

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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Women in helmets on snowmobile hugging

 

Lynn Nelson | LINPR phone# 612-990-0126 email: lnelson.linpr@gmail.com //// Linda Jurek | Visit Cook County MN phone# 218-387-2788 email: linda@visitcookcounty.com

Talking Tourism: What Shoulder Season?

Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.

Originally published: December 2018

Talking Tourism: What Shoulder Season? | by Amanda Plummer, Guest Services Director & Marketing Assistant at Lutsen Mountains (Guest Author)

Even though our slopes have been open for a few weekends now, this time of year our community takes a collective deep breath as the pace slows down and the seasons change, this is known to most as a shoulder season. A shoulder season is a travel season between peak and off-peak times, a season that many in travel and tourism have come to greatly appreciate and anticipate. At Lutsen Mountains however, our shoulder season lasts exactly three weeks, and even during that time while we may not have guests onsite the action behind the scenes outpaces even summer.

While thoughts of winter are in the back of our minds year-round, the moment the temperature drops we hit high gear as we prepare our slopes for our winter enthusiasts. First up is our snowmaking and maintenance crews, working around the clock to combine the powers of man and machine to create the core of our business, SNOW. We often post through social media to #thankasnowmaker and I know I don’t do it enough myself. What they create is magic and without it we wouldn’t be able to operate from mid-November through May which is an amazing season in the Snowsports industry! But a larger than life pile of snow isn’t all it takes, first we need to get people to start thinking about winter which can be hard to do when they are thinking of turkey and stuffing which is where marketing comes into play. This time of year, we work to increase our digital reach and our share of the winter market through social media, email and our website. The more eyes we have on Lutsen and our snowmaking now, the more skiers and riders we have as we get into the full swing of operations.

Once they are ready to book, they head online for their ski & stay package. We partner with fifteen area resorts from Schroeder to Grand Marais to offer discounted rates when lift tickets and lodging are bundled together. These partnerships are crucial to winters in Cook County as we all work together to fill our lodging spaces as well as secure the commitment from customers for their time spent on the slopes, in our shops, and in our restaurants. With nearly 100,000 skier visits each season, the ripple effect of these guests and the jobs and families they support become a key economic driver in the community.

As the shoulder season fades, peak season is just around the corner (daily operations resume Friday, December 14th) and our team of 50 core employees has grown to 150 including our seasonal staff to meet the added demands of peak winter. While there is a ton of work behind the scenes, in the end, we are sharing an active winter lifestyle, creating memories and building family traditions. See you on the slopes!

Talking Tourism - guest author- Amanda Plummer of Lutsen Mountains

Talking Tourism – guest author- Amanda Plummer of Lutsen Mountains

PR | Snowfall on the North Shore & Gunflint Trail is 50 percent greater than last year at this time

Snowfall on the North Shore & Gunflint Trail is 50 percent greater than last year at this time

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 Snowfall on the North Shore & Gunflint Trail is 50 percent greater than last year at this time

 GRAND MARAIS, MINN. (Jan. 10, 2019) – While most of the state of Minnesota is in a snow drought, the North Shore and Gunflint Trail is experiencing an abundance of early snow with totals to date an average of 50 percent greater than previous years.

Snow totals to date as compared to last year at this time (Oct. – Jan. 10):

                                                2017/18          2018/19          % increase

Lutsen Mountains:                  39”                  59.5”               +52%

Central Gunflint Trail:           25.25”             68.53”             +85%

Upper Gunflint Trail:               33.5”               42”                  +25%

With more snow forecast for this week, the conditions are only expected to get better. The average winter season receives about 91.5” of snow, with the snowiest months of February and March yet to come.

“We are seeing a significant increase in website traffic,” says Linda Jurek, executive director of Visit Cook County. “Being the #1 source for local ski and snowmobile trail conditions, visitors are looking to us to find the most comprehensive condition reports, so they can make the most out of their vacation.”

On the cross-country and snowmobile trails, volunteers have been working around the clock to groom and clear trails for recreation. “It’s a labor of love” says Jeff Lynch, owner of Sawtooth Outfitters in Tofte and member of the Sugarbush Trail Association. “I have been involved with maintaining the Sugarbush cross-country ski trails for 17 years because I love to use them. Easy access to outdoor activities is part of what makes winter great in northeastern Minnesota.”

At Lutsen Mountains, the seasonal snowmaking season is nearly complete. With a solid base of 30-60” on the primary runs and 12-20” base in side country, the conditions are nearing their prime. The alpine season extends all the way into April, and on some occasions into May.

For complete grooming and condition updates visit:

https://www.visitcookcounty.com/winter-trail-conditions/

Or contact the Visitor Center in Grand Marais to speak to an information specialist:

Visit Cook County MN

Phone: (218) 387-2524

Email: info@visitcookcounty.com

Find photos and videos of recent snowfalls:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/5sw9j86nofujnlv/AAA9lkY9EOQ8e4zy3xplNyKFa?dl=0

 

 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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Photo: Snowfall - tailwagging 10inches fell on Jan.7 2019- credit Kjersti Vick

Snowfall – tailwagging 10inches fell on Jan.7 2019- credit Kjersti Vick

 

 

Media Stories:

http://www.netnewsledger.com/2019/01/11/north-shore-and-gunflint-trail-experiencing-50-more-snow/

https://bringmethenews.com/minnesota-weather/want-snow-theyre-buried-in-crazy-amounts-on-minnesotas-north-shore

https://www.boreal.org/2019/01/11/187342/want-snow-theyre-buried-in-crazy-amounts-on-minnesotas-north-shore?fbclid=IwAR24OE3nn0KItfG-nESZB8AKlHsE6KwRqO3PgLuHizRB7TwAtZCq4nqhC3g

MEDIA CONTACTS Lynn Nelson | LIN Public Relations, Inc. PH# 612.990.0126 email: lnelson.linpr@gmail.com Linda Jurek | Visit Cook County PH# 218.387.2788 email: linda@visitcookcounty.com

PR | 2019 Gunflint Mail Run Results – winners of 12-dog and 8-dog races

PR | 2019 Gunflint Mail Run Results – winners of 12-dog and 8-dog races

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Winners of 12-dog and 8-dog races are in

Warm weather and close races were highlight of 2019 Gunflint Mail Run Sled Dog Race

Participants of the 2019 Gunflint Mail Run

Cook County, Minn. – Jan. 6, 2019 — The Gunflint Mail Run kicked off the start of the dog-sled racing season in Cook County yesterday. The original event, which is a 12-dog, 100-mile race included two runs, approximately 50 miles each, over a two-day stretch, and an eight-dog shorter and faster race (65 miles).

The race started and finished at Trail Center Lodge, 7611 Gunflint Trail, on Poplar Lake, Grand Marais, Minn.  (Trail Center Lodge is approximately 30 miles up the Gunflint Trail).  See https://www.visitcookcounty.com/event/gunflint-mail-run-sled-dog-race/ for more details.

According to race director Sarah Hamilton of Trail Center Lodge, “the weather was fantastic for the spectators. The dogs would have preferred it colder, but they did great. We are posting additional photos and videos on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/GunflintMailRun

12-dog teams

Here are the results of 2019 100-mile 12-dog race:

1.) Ryan Redington, Skagway, AK 08:26:35
2.) Ryan Anderson, Ray, Minn. 09:02:56
3.) Erin Redington, Skagway, AK 09:16:51
4.) Frank Moe, Hovland, Minn. 09:38:17
5.) Blake Freking, Finland, Minn. 09:38:21
6.) Sarah Keefer, Minneapolis, Minn. 09:50:51
7.) Ward Wallin, Two Harbors, Minn. 09:58:40
8.) Jennifer Freking, Finland, Minn. 10:29:05
9.) Dennis Tremblay, Saint-Michel-des-Saints, Que., Canada 10:32:30
10.) Mary Manning, Hovland, Minn. 10:32:49
11.) Erin Altemus, Grand Marais, Minn. 10:33:06
12.) Daman Ramaker, Fountain, Minn. 11:53:06
13.) Cindy Gallea, Wykoff, Minn. 11:53:24
14.) Lynn Dohrmann, Wykoff, Minn.
Dusty Klaven, Togo, Minn. (scratched)

8-dog teams:

1.) Martha Schouweiler, Irma, Wis. 5:39:10
2.) Joanna Oberg, Grand Marais, Minn. 5:39:12
3.) Rita Wehseler, Tofte, Minn. 5:56:03

4.) Brain Bergen, Sioux Lookout, Ont. Canada 6:10:55

5.) Andrea DeBoer, Grand Marais, Minn. 6:34:39

6.) Julia Cross, Hovland, Minn. 6:36:37

7.) Steve Peterson, Granby, Colo. 6:49:12

8.) Matt Schmidt, Grand Marais, 6:59:23

9.) Mark Flakne, Maple Lake, MN, 7:03:10

10.) Talia Martens, Brule, WI, 7:10:46

11.) Sarah Smith, Sioux Lookout, Ont. CA, 7:13:43

12.) Travis Vanderhoof, Shell Lake, WI, 7:25:45

13.) Darcy Stanley-Nord, Milaca, MN, 7:35:56

14.) Amy Flakne, Maple Lake, MN, Scratch

Next up: John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon Jan. 27 – 29

The 35th John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon will run Sunday, Jan. 27 – Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019. It is scheduled to start at Billy’s Bar, 3502 Tischer Road, Duluth, Minn. and end at Grand Portage Lodge and Casino, 70 Casino Drive, Grand Portage, Minn.

The John Beargrease has been shortened this year to 300 miles, but is still a qualifier for the famed “Iditarod” in Alaska and remains the longest sled dog race in the lower 48 states.  Two additional race legs are scheduled during the John Beargrease, the Beargrease 120, the most popular competitive mid-distance race in North America, and the Beargrease 40, a recreational class race.  The Beargrease 40 will end at Two Harbors, Minn. Gravel Pit on Sunday, Jan. 27, which will also the serve as an alternate marathon start location, if there are low levels of snow in Duluth, Minn.  The Beargrease 120 will end at Lutsen Mountains, 467 Ski Hill Road, Lutsen, Minn. on Monday, Jan. 28.  See https://www.visitcookcounty.com/event/john-beargrease-sled-dog-marathon/ for more details.

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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Participants of the 2019 Gunflint Mail Run

Participants of the 2019 Gunflint Mail Run

 

 

Media stories:

https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/sports/other/4553023-redington-wins-third-straight-gunflint-mail-run

Mushers, organizers look forward to changes in John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon

http://www.netnewsledger.com/2019/01/04/gunflint-mail-run-kicks-off-dogsledding-season/

SLIDESHOW: Dozens of teams prepare for Cook County’s Gunflint Mail Run

https://www.wtip.org/2019-sled-dog-racing-season-coming-soon-cook-county

PR | Exceptional Ski Conditions in Northeastern Minnesota Winter Storm Drops 24 Inches of Snow on Lutsen Mountains

Lutsen Mountains blanketed in snow after 24" of snow falls in 24 hours - 12.28.18

Lutsen Mountains blanketed in snow after 24″ of snow falls in 24 hours – 12.28.18

Exceptional Ski Conditions in Northeastern Minnesota Winter Storm Drops 24 Inches of Snow on Lutsen Mountains

 Lutsen Mountains – December 28, 2018A winter storm that brought rain and sleet to much of Minnesota and Wisconsin was all snow and smiles for winter enthusiasts on the North Shore.  In total, 24” fell in the higher elevations at Lutsen Mountains over the past two days, fueled in part by northeast winds over Lake Superior that created ‘Lake Effect’ augmentation of the storm.

“The weather forecasters had this one on the money,” says Jim Vick, marketing director for Lutsen Mountains.  “The hour it arrived, the rate of snowfall and the hour it moved out were remarkably accurate.  The only thing missed is how the cluster of four mountains at Lutsen amplified the lake effect, exceeding their storm total forecast by 6 inches.”

The storm was well timed for the arrival of a holiday week crowd.  Lutsen’s primary terrain was 80% open, due to exceptional snowmaking weather in November and early December.  Yesterday’s snowfall adds to a three foot deep base and pushes additional terrain to completion.  Yesterday alone an additional 10 runs were added to the open list with more to follow soon.

New live webcam gives immediate view of conditions

A live web camera was installed at the summit of Eagle Mountain this fall and provides a high resolution peek at current conditions.  Along with tracking snowfall, grooming and weather, the camera has provided a spectacular archive of sunrises over Lake Superior and sunsets over the Sawtooth Mountains.  Connect to the camera at www.lutsen.com/livecam

Images from the past couple days can be found here:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/k762y3y5khndvtt/AABshwURNvb81AZCEJ437pdDa?dl=0

 

About Lutsen Mountains: Lutsen Mountains is located in Lutsen, Minn., along the North Shore of Lake Superior. Four interconnected mountains, 95 runs and 1000 feet of vertical make it the largest ski resort in Mid-America.

For additional information, visit lutsen.com or follow us on Facebook

at facebook.com/LutsenMountains and on Twitter at twitter.com/lutsenmountains.

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MEDIA CONTACTS

Jim Vick | Lutsen Mountains                     Lynn Nelson | LIN Public Relations, Inc.

218.406.1300                                                  612.990.0126

JimVick@Lutsen.com                                  lnelson.linpr@gmail.com

Nothing but smiles on a powder day at Lutsen Mountains on 12/28/18

Nothing but smiles on a powder day at Lutsen Mountains on 12/28/18

PR | Third annual Hygge Festival to be hosted in Grand Marais Feb. 8 – 14 (pronounced hoo-gah and is Danish for cozy)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Third annual Hygge Festival to be hosted in Grand Marais Feb. 8 – 14

(pronounced hoo-gah and is Danish for cozy)

 

Cook County, Minn. – December XX, 2018 — Nowhere else can visitors experience winter beauty, adventure, relaxation and coziness, like they can in the little harbor village of Grand Marais on Lake Superior at the third annual Hygge Festival, Friday, Feb. 8 – Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019.

 

Throughout the week, visitors can indulge in a classic North Shore winter vacation across the county with hygge-themed activities like dogsledding, stargazing, cross-country skiing, and fireside gatherings at well-known northern Minnesota lodges, including the Gunflint Lodge and Cascade Lodge.

 

According to Linda Jurek, executive director of Visit Cook County in Grand Marais, “hygge encourages us to embrace all of winter’s pleasures: Snowshoeing through the woods with someone special, feeling the fresh snow crunch beneath you, savoring each snowflake that lands on your eyelash, that’s hygge.”

 

The third annual festival will feature some new events, and some returning hygge favorites:

  • Fatbiking Up the River with Grand Marais Mayor, Jay Arrowsmith-DeCoux
  • Card writing and knitting by the fire
  • Cross-country skiing tour at twilight
  • Fireplace tour featuring some of the most historic fireplaces in Cook County

 

  • Hygge themed menus
  • Live music, including acapella group SVEA singing Scandinavian folk songs
  • Mukluk ball at Voyageur Brewing Company with live music by Plucked Up String Band

 

For more information on the third annual hygge festival and for dates and times, please check out: https://www.visitcookcounty.com/event/hygge-festival/

 

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 #visitcc, Twitter @CookCoVisitorsFacebook, or Instagram @donorthmn. Learn more at www.visitcookcounty.com.

 

Linda Jurek | Visit Cook County | linda@visitcookcounty.com | (218) 387-2788

PR | Premier Winter cycling: Third Annual Norpine Fat Bike Classic Jan.5

Premier Winter cycling: Third Annual Norpine Fat Bike Classic Jan. 5 in Lutsen, Minn.

 

Cook County, Minn. – Nove. 19, 2018 – Registration is now open for the Norpine Fat Bike Classic, Cook County’s premier winter cycling event happening Saturday, Jan. 5.  The Norpine offers riders a long 24-mile course leaving at 10 a.m. and a shorter 16-mile course leaving at 10:05 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 5 starting at Superior National clubhouse located at 5731 Highway 62, Lutsen, Minn.

 

“Roll into 2019 on the shores of Lake Superior for a frosty, fun filled weekend with Friday night festivities, including beer and wine tasting,” said Peter Spencer, race director of the Norpine Fat Bike Classic.  “There’s an outdoor adventure for everyone in beautiful Cook County – dogsledding, snowshoeing, Nordic, and cross-country skiing, and of course, fat biking!!”

 

Riders will make their way across established Norpine cross-country ski trails, while passing through Cook County’s wilderness landscape on the North Coast of Lake Superior on 3.7-inch or wider tires.

 

45NRTH Post Race Party at Lutsen Resort form 1:30 – 5 p.m. includes a free BBQ, Castle Danger beverages and live music, as well as awards for the top five male and female finishers in the long and short course.

 

For more information on riding or spectating, please visit: https://www.visitcookcounty.com/event/norpine-fat-bike-classic/

 

Bikers and their families and fans also can enjoy the annual Gunflint Mail Run Sled Dog Race Saturday, Jan. 5 – Sunday, Jan. 6. The Gunflint Mail Run kicks off the start of dogsledding season in Cook County, and features two races, the original event, which is a 12-dog, 100-mile race that includes two runs, approximately 50 miles each, over a two-day stretch, and an eight-dog shorter and faster race (65 miles). The race will start and finish at Trail Center Lodge, 7611 Gunflint Trail, on Poplar Lake, Grand Marais, Minn.  (For non-locals, Trail Center Lodge is approximately 30 miles up the Gunflint Trail).  See https://www.visitcookcounty.com/event/gunflint-mail-run-sled-dog-race/ for more details.

 

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 #visitcc, Twitter @CookCoVisitorsFacebook, or Instagram @donorthmn. Learn more at www.visitcookcounty.com.

Linda Jurek | Visit Cook County | linda@visitcookcounty.com | (218) 387-2788

PR | First Annual Dark Skies Festival to be Held Dec. 14-15 in Cook County, Minn.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

First Annual Dark Skies Festival to be Held Dec. 14-15 in Cook County, Minn.

 

Cook County, Minn. – Nov. 11, 2018 — Head north to celebrate some of the nation’s darkest skies on Dec. 14-15. The Dark Sky Festival is the first annual celebration of its kind in the Arrowhead Region, and it will feature presentations from Minnesota’s Dark Sky experts.

 

University of Minnesota – Duluth Faculty Administrator Joel Halvorson, faculty researcher Jim Rock, and their students will bring back the traveling planetarium that visited Cook County in August. They will make stops at area schools, before putting on public presentations over the weekend. On Friday, Dec. 14, starting at 5 p.m., visitors can head to Voyageur Brewing Company, where the GeoDome will be set up until 9 p.m.

 

Halvorson will address such topics as Traveling the Cosmos, uncovering the Dark Secrets of Dark Matter, and the 50th anniversary of the iconic Earthrise photo–our planet’s first selfie. There will be telescopes set up outside to view the night sky during the famous winter Geminids Meteor Shower, which will be at peak during the festival.

 

On Saturday, there will be a night packed full of presentations at North House Folk School in Grand Marais. From 5-6:30 p.m., Cook County photographers Travis Novitsky and Bryan Hansel will have a friendly duel of nightscape images. Novitsky and Hansel are the two most experienced night sky photographers in the Midwest. They’ll also talk about why they love night sky photography, and what drives them to travel the lonely, dark, roads of Cook County in the middle of the night, while sharing images from their night sky adventures. This will be one of the most unforgettable presentations of the year, and you don’t want to miss it.

 

At 6:30 p.m., Jim Rock will talk about Native Skies: the stars and indigenous people. Halvorson and Rock have a unique and expansive presentation that allows viewers to learn about the stars in ways they’ve never imagined. After the presentations, there will be a community bonfire outside of North House for more stargazing and s’mores, weather permitting.

 

Everyone is then invited to Voyageur Brewing for more time with Halvorson and his students in the GeoDome, which will be available to the public until the brewery closes at 10 p.m.

 

 

 

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.

Linda Jurek | Visit Cook County | linda@visitcookcounty.com | (218) 387-2788

Talking Tourism: Knitting Together Education and Tourism

Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.

Originally published: November 2018

Talking Tourism: Knitting Together Education and Tourism | by Lily Nelson-Pedersen

As the daughter of an educator, I was taught young to ask questions and derive joy from learning and interacting with the world around me. Growing up in a tourist community like Cook County (and specifically in the lobby of the East Bay–the hotel my family owned) enriching experiences often came from interacting with the guests and visitors who were traveling to our area. It always felt to me that our community was improved by tourism, bringing with each car traveling up Highway 61 new fashions, new ideas, and new interests from what felt like a very distant place.

One problem in our small community can be a lack of resources to bring that far outside world in. Whether those resources are a lack of people, funds, or knowledge, tourism can be an excellent vehicle for bringing opportunities to Cook County. At Visit Cook County, weaving together chances to enhance the lives of our year-round residents and create memorable experiences for our visitors is a win-win.

One way in which we try to do this is with educational programs and events. We provide scholarships to students as a part of the Lutsen 99er bike race, host presentations on Lake Superior storms, and are newly partnering with the Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium and Astronomer Joel Halvorson of UMD, all to both create a lasting impression for our visitors and also to use the industry and resources of tourism to enrich the lives of locals. Halvorson is bringing up a traveling planetarium, the GeoDome, and making stops at area schools in Tofte, Grand Portage, and in Grand Marais over the week of December 10th – 14th.  Halvorson owns a cabin on the Gunflint Trail, which he visits often, and has big visions for future Dark Sky events and education in Cook County.

My job as Event Resource Coordinator brings with it the privilege of getting to knit together these two worlds of education and tourism, to share with guests to our area and the locals a love for learning and joy from new discovery–just as I did as a child. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be in the position of helping to create and facilitate more of these experiences for all who call Cook County home, even if it’s only “home” for a few days.

Talking Tourism: The Power of Networking | by Linda Jurek

Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.

Originally published: October 2018

Talking Tourism: The Power of Networking | by Linda Jurek

Whether you choose to network at Java Moose over coffee or at one of your favorite watering holes, sharing your business ideas or common interests has been part of our communication processes for what seemingly could be forever. In fact, it is proven that prehistoric man returned to the same location to draw in order to seek comfort, share their stories with a deep desire to connect with others.  The same drawings of the cave walls were also transposed onto earthenware. Was this early social media?

I happen to be of the age where I remember my first Grand Marais home phone number, the rotary phone as well “party lines” and let’s not forget the introduction of the long phone line which allowed a person to venture at least 20 feet from the phone mounted on the kitchen wall. With the surge of social media allowing us to connect via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., the value of a good old face to face may have slipped into the shadows.  But I disagree.

Networking is an experience that might be overstated but is truly a necessity.  If you describe yourself as an introvert, you may also hear yourself saying “I hate networking”.  I like to think of networking with some clear goals in mind. Ask yourself what is it that I want to learn from that person? Make a point of listening and identifying common interests. If you find that common interests aren’t jumping to the surface, think about what you can add to conversation. During my time at the Duluth Chamber, we actually hosted Networking 101 which allowed new and seasoned professionals to connect, meet and share their stories. Being a major extrovert, I often found myself running around and introducing attendees to each other; finding the common link for continued conversation and learning.

And now, while we might not host many formal networking opportunities in our communities, they do exist. Visit Cook County and the Cook County Chamber are happy to host the Fall Gala each year. We have been told time and time again how much people enjoy the opportunity to visit (network) with community members. The Gala includes a social hour, dinner, and music and also allows the opportunity for you to network with local business stakeholders as well as state legislators. We’re excited to host John Edman, Executive Director of Explore MN, as our featured speaker for the event. He will provide us with impactful tourism highlights from around the state.

You won’t want to miss this annual networking opportunity scheduled for Tuesday, October 23rd at 5:30pm at the newly renovated Grand Portage Lodge and Casino. There is still time to register and you can find registration information, lodging and shuttle details on our website at visitcookcounty.com/events

 

Talking Tourism: For the love of Autumn

Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.

Originally published: September 2018

Talking Tourism: For the love of Autumn | by Kjersti Vick

As we roll from the crazy days of summer into the peak weekends for fall colors, we notice a shift in the air and it’s not just the temperature. Time slows down and so do our visitors. While the kids are back in school, the adults will play. From gallery hopping and romantic dinners to wine tasting and leaf looking – autumn is the most anticipated season of the year.

Along with the more relaxed visitor, we see an increase in cultural tourists and we market events to match their interests. The Art Along The Lake Fall Studio Tour, which kicks off September 28 and runs for 10-days, features over 20 different artists who open up their home studios to the public. It is truly inspiring to see the space in which they create. What could be better than local art inspired by a place you love and viewing the fall colors?!

Cook County lives in the hearts of many. As the marketing manager for Visit Cook County, I spend a lot of time engaging with our social media audience. Reading the comments from our followers is both very informative and fun. The stories really start pouring in when I post a photo from one of Cook County’s many iconic landmarks. Everything from “I remember going there with my parents” to “I proposed to my girlfriend here!” A common thread we see is couples posting about how they had their first vacation together as a couple here. I’m going out on a limb here but Cook County might be the best relationship test there is; if you love it here as much as I do, then we are meant to be together.

This August we hosted a contest “Weddings of the North” to find those who dared to take their love of Cook County to the next level by getting married in their favorite destination. We had dozens of submissions and the Top 9 images will be printed in our upcoming 2019 Visitor Guide, due out in mid-October. What was most interesting was seeing the different venues people chose. Some opted for lavish resort based weddings, while others had intimate dock side ceremonies. No matter the size of the wedding party, all emphasized the beauty of the area and the warm memories are what made them choose Cook County to be their third partner.

Whether you’re celebrating your anniversary, traveling with your family, embarking on a solo adventure – you are not alone in your love of fall travel. If you need ideas on how to make the most of fall, visit our website for fall color maps, must-see sites, and complete list of events at www.visitcookcounty.com/fall

Talking Tourism: Walk with me, talk with me

Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.

Originally published: August 2018

Talking Tourism: Walk with me, talk with me | by Anna Klobuchar

Most often than not, a visitor comes through the door, and you can easily strike up interesting and engaging conversations with them.  Ralph Engel came into the Grand Marais visitor center on a deep cold winter’s day two years ago, and we chatted about all there is to see and do in Cook County.  Over an hour later, he left with a stack of printed materials in his hands, and three days later, he called and explained he is owner of RJ Tours and Travel, and asked if I would join the bus tour he would be bringing to our area that summer.  I did. And it was a blast.

This year, a group is again coming to visit, and we will spend one day on the Gunflint Trail, and one day in Grand Portage and also visit High Falls.  As the bus travels, we chat about the area, and I have the privilege of answering any questions they may have as we visit various locations.  One important skill I learned is to have the ability to change things up on the fly, and play off the energy of the group.  Conversely, your attendees will likely feed off your energy as well. And what’s great about accompanying a group is being able to share your own knowledge, experience, and personal anecdotes to the tour.  If you really love what you do, you easily pass that passion onto the guest and they feel it too.  Anyone can memorize and recite facts.  But when you hop on the bus with them, and you share your enthusiasm, that tour will feel particularly special for the guest who is looking for a genuine experience outside those of the typical tourist attractions. Drive by sightseeing is not standard with this group, as they want the time to experience the destination – the flavors, the cultures, and the sights.  And we cover the terrain! From Chik Wauk Museum, in our beautiful borderland, to hopping on the sunset gondola ride at Lutsen Mountains, they want to experience the history and beauty of the area.    On the last day, the group has the time to relax on their own, and enjoy Grand Marais at their leisure.

The tour directors have an entirely different level of responsibility. I gained respect for the level of planning that must go on behind the scenes. Directors would not be able to function if they were not extremely punctual, exceedingly detail oriented, and very, very organized.  From menus to mileage, secured reservations to site restrictions, contract obligations to head counts, the director is meticulous with the itinerary and mother hen to their guests.

Travel is an adventurous education that enriches our lives.  It is an honor – and a whole lot of fun – being able to enhance a visitor’s travel experience by joining them.  Last year, as we were leaving the Grand Portage National Monument, one of the park service employees, dressed in character, spontaneously serenaded us with her fiddle as she walked us to where we were gathering at the bus.  Special touches like that make this place unforgettable, and keep them coming back for more!