Lutsen promotes North Shore for cheaper, closer ski vacations

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Avid skiers and snowboarders in search of powder and mountains can get in their cars instead of boarding airplanes. That's the pitch from Lutsen Mountains, which wants to entice winter-loving vacationers to drive up the North Shore rather than fly to ski resorts in the Rocky Mountains.

To divert tourists from western ski vacations, the Star Tribune reports the owners of the 120-year-old resort overlooking Lake Superior have sunk about $20 million in improvements in the runs, including a new high-speed ski lift, a new gondola and equipment to double snow-making capacity. Lutsen Mountains promotes a four-day, four-person skiing package at $1,467 compared to the $5,108 estimated cost of a comparable Colorado vacation that includes airfare.

The owners predict Lutsen's upgrades will increase visitors from about 83,000 ski-visit days last winter to about 125,000 by 2022.

“We feel we are the best ski area in the Midwest,” said Lutsen co-owner Charles Skinner. “We’ve got 100 runs and great scenery."

Meanwhile, the Duluth News Tribune reports that the Copper Peak ski jump in Michigan's Upper Peninsula is considering renovations to attract athletes for ski jumping.

Copper Peak, which opened in 1970, features a 267-foot steel jump structure built atop a 365-foot rock outcropping. The plan would reshape the hill to change it from its present status as a ski-flying hill to the largest ski-jumping hill in the world. There also is talk of making Copper Peak a national training center for USA Ski Jumping.

In conjunction with the switch from ski flying to ski jumping, the plan would include the addition of summer ski jumping, a sport that is growing in popularity in Europe.

Over the weekend, ski resorts around the region opened, including the one at Afton Alps, which offers visitors a number of upgrades for this year's season.

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