Looking for Snow? Find It In Cook County, Minnesota

Winter activities in full swing along the North Shore and Gunflint Trail

Grand Marais, MN – January 10, 2012 – With unseasonably warm temps in the Twin Cities and minimal snow forecast in site, winter enthusiasts need only head a few hours north to Cook County, Minnesota to experience winter the way it should be: with snow. In fact, Cook County has the only significant accumulation in the entire state, with up to 16” throughout the North Shore in Lutsen, Grand Marais, Gunflint Trail and Grand Portage.

Skiers and snowboarders can hit the slopes at Lutsen Mountains, the largest ski resort in the Midwest, which currently has more than 50 runs open reachable by seven lifts on three mountains. All primary runs are groomed nightly so each morning delivers four inches of newly packed snow.

Cross-country skiers have the largest cross-country ski trail system in North America at their ski tips. The northeast end of the North Shore has received snow with accumulations inland and along the northeast end of the shore, allowing for cross-country skiing up the Gunflint Trail and inland at Sugarbush in Tofte and Cascade in Lutsen- plenty of trails for any skill level.

No need to cancel that ice fishing trip. In fact, Cook County is celebrating the trout opener this weekend on Musquash Lake, with ice houses and fishing gear available for rent. If more adventure is preferred, consider dog sledding through remote forests or ice climbing currently accessible on the upper Cascade River.

Last but not least, celebrate winter way north of ordinary with Winter Tracks, a 10-day family-friendly festival from February 3-12, 2012 featuring the Volk Ski 400, Lutsen Mountains Family Fun Fest, Ridge Riders Snowmobile Fun Run and Easter Seals Snowarama, along with a Plein Air Painting Competition, snow sculptures, luminary lit ski trails, guided snowshoe tours, dog sled or horse-drawn sleigh rides, live music and more.

All of this plus great restaurants, shopping and entertainment can still be yours this season. Book your winter getaway today at VisitCookCounty.com.

Cook County Visitors Bureau

Formed in May 2010 through the merger of The Cook County Events and Visitors Bureau, Grand Marais Area Tourism Association, Lutsen-Tofte Tourism Association, Gunflint Trail Association, Grand Portage Tourism, and Lutsen Mountains Corporation, the Cook County Visitors Bureau (CCVB) is a tourism organization dedicated to economic development and maintaining the vitality of Minnesota’s North Shore and the Gunflint Trail. For more information, head online to visitcookcounty.com.

Media Contact Jodi Petrich jodi@marketingmatters-mn.com 612-868-7541

Winter Tracks Festival Takes Winter Way North of Ordinary

Grand Marais, MN – Hold on to your long johns because you’re about to experience a Cook County winter like no other. From February 3-12, 2012, the Cook County Visitors Bureau will host the Winter Tracks Festival, a countywide annual celebration of winter.  This 10-day celebration of the season highlights the best of what winter has to offer with downhill and Nordic ski events, snowmobiling, live music and many more family-friendly activities scheduled throughout the week.

“From more than one hundred inches of snow annually and the state’s only true high-country peaks to North America’s largest network of cross-country ski trails, winter doesn’t get any better than it does in Cook County,” said Sally Nankivell, Executive Director of the Cook County Visitors Bureau. “Winter Tracks is our way of introducing families and snow-lovers to the excitement and adventure of winter in a way that can’t be matched anywhere else in the upper Midwest.”

One of the week’s signature events is the fourth-annual Volks Ski 400. Held on Saturday, February 11, this non-competitive Nordic ski event brings enthusiasts together in an attempt to cover the county’s 400km of professionally groomed ski trails – North America’s largest ski trail system – in a single day. Skiers may sign up to ski sections of the network as individuals, form a team or join one of the local resort teams to cumulatively cover the county’s trails. Like the

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European tradition of Volksmarching after which the event was modeled, the Volks Ski 400km is

open to first-timers, seasoned skiers or anyone who wants to get out and enjoy the beauty of a Cook County winter. Skiers also have the option of participating in the individual Volks Ski challenge, a season-long effort to cover as much of the 400km system as possible, along with logging miles and daily trail notes at VolksSki.com

The festival kicks off on Friday, February 3 with the Lutsen Mountains Family Fun Fest, a chance for families to experience downhill skiing in a fun and affordable way. On Saturday, February 4, snowmobilers can tour some of the area’s 450 miles of groomed trails with the Ridge Riders Snowmobile Fun Run beginning at the Devil Track Resort or Hungry Jack Lodge, or participate in the Easter Seals Snowarama at Grand Portage Lodge & Casino.

In addition to skiing and snowmobiling, venues throughout the county will offer activities and events for the whole family throughout the 10-day festival. In addition to featured events, guests can visit specially commissioned snow sculptures throughout the county, follow luminary lit ski trails, participate in guided snowshoe tours, listen to live music, take dog sled or horse-drawn sleigh rides, and other scheduled activities. More information on Winter Tracks and a full schedule of events can be found at: VisitCookCounty.com/WinterTracks.

About The Cook County Visitors Bureau

Formed in May 2010 through the merger of The Cook County Events and Visitors Bureau, Grand Marais Area Tourism Association, Lutsen-Tofte Tourism Association, Gunflint Trail Association, Grand Portage Tourism, and Lutsen Mountains Corporation, the Cook County Visitors Bureau (CCVB) is a tourism organization dedicated to economic development and maintaining the vitality of Minnesota’s North Shore and the Gunflint Trail. For more information, visitcookcounty.com.

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Anna Klobuchar 218-387-2788, ext 114 anna@visitcookcounty.com

Making Tracks: Volks Ski 400km Takes Place February 11, 2012

Grand Marais, MN With the snowy season fast approaching, Nordic skiers will soon have the chance to make tracks and history on the nation’s largest groomed ski trail system. The Volks Ski 400km will be held on Saturday, February 12, 2012 as part of Winter Tracks, the county’s 10-day family-friendly celebration of winter.

This non-competitive Nordic ski event brings enthusiasts together in an attempt to cover the county’s entire 400km of professionally groomed ski trails in a single day, a feat that has yet to be accomplished. Skiers will pre-register for sections of trail, ensuring that every kilometer of the system is crossed by a set of skinny skis at least one time during that day and may sign up as individuals, form a team or join one of the local resort teams to cumulatively cover the county’s trails. Both team and individual awards will be given, including the most remote trail skied. Inspired the European tradition of Volksmarching, a non-competitive walk or hike, the Volks Ski 400km is open to individuals of any age and ability.

“Because we have such an extensive and diverse network of trails, veteran skiers, first-timers and everyone in between will find something suitable, fun and breathtakingly scenic,” said Sally Nankivell, Executive Director of the Cook County Visitors Bureau. “The Volks Ski event

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is a chance to get out on those trails, enjoy a Cook County winter and join together to accomplish something that’s never been done before.”

Volks Ski 400km participants must sign up in advance online and in the process, can select specific sections of the trail system, including Sugarbush, Cascade River/Deer Yard Lake, Bally Creek, Pincushion, Upper and Central Gunflint and the Banadad trail systems. Skiers may participate as individuals or teams. A Minnesota ski pass will be necessary for participants to ski Cook County’s public trails such as Pincushion, Cascade, Sugarbush and Banadad. Ski passes for public DNR trails are available on a daily, seasonal or three-season basis and can be purchased online, by phone or at a number of Cook County businesses.  The upper and central Gunflint Trail systems are privately maintained and require a separate ski pass, which may be purchased at participating cross-country ski resorts on a daily, multi-day or seasonal basis.

Returning to Volks Ski this year is the individual 400km challenge. Rather than covering the network of trails in a single day, individual challenge participants are invited to register and log their Cook County skiing mileage throughout the winter season, with the same goal of covering as much of the 400km system as possible. Detailed trail maps and interactive mileage tracking will be provided to all competitors.

More information on the Volks Ski 400km single day and individual challenges can be found at VolksSki.com

About The Cook County Visitors Bureau

Formed in May 2010 through the merger of The Cook County Events and Visitors Bureau, Grand Marais Area Tourism Association, Lutsen-Tofte Tourism Association, Gunflint Trail Association, Grand Portage Tourism, and Lutsen Mountains Corporation, the Cook County Visitors Bureau (CCVB) is a tourism organization dedicated to economic development and maintaining the vitality of Minnesota’s North Shore and the Gunflint Trail. For more information, visitcookcounty.com.

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Anna Klobuchar 218-387-2788, ext 114 anna@visitcookcounty.com