Lutsen Mountains wants to nearly double its ski area

It's not going to happen tomorrow, but Lutsen Mountains has big expansion plans.

Lutsen Mountains got an early OK for its plan to expand from 180 skiable acres all the way up to 320.

The North Shore ski resort has ambitious plans to expand in the coming years – nearly doubling the amount of skiing area, more types of slopes (including novice and intermediate runs to bring in new skiers), plus additional parking and service buildings.

But the space they need to do this isn't private land – it's Superior National Forest land. And the government of course has a specific, detailed process to actually approve things like this.

What needs to happen still?

Lutsen Mountains needs permission from the U.S. Forest Service, and this week they got an early affirmative. Business North says the Forest Service accepted Lutsen's master plan.

Now comes the next step – applying for a special use permit that allows Lutsen to operate ski trails on that land. Getting an answer on that could take awhile. Lutsen says the process can stretch as long as three years.

Lutsen has to provide a bunch of details, as you can see in this 13-page application document.

So what will this expansion look like, if it gets approved?

This map is pretty confusing, but basically the areas within the orange borders are where Lutsen wants to expand.

Lutsen Mountains rise as high as 1,088 feet above the Lake Superior coast, and the resort's current total acreage is about the same size as downtown Minneapolis.

Lutsen has recently made other improvements, including this new gondola, and says it has spent $25 million over the past decade on upgrades.

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Lutsen Mountains ski resort currently makes snow by pulling water from a protected trout stream that's suffering from drought. Governor Dayton wants the state to spend more than $3 million on a pipeline that would bring Lake Superior water to Lutsen. But competitors around the state have banded together to oppose the subsidy.