Northern tourism businesses reap benefits of weekend stormby Jessica Mador, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Not much more than light snow is expected across the state Monday and it's a welcome relief for travelers making their way home after the Christmas holiday.
The already busy weekend was further complicated by a massive winter storm that snarled travel and dumped snow across much of the Midwest. For Minnesotans who stayed close to home, the generous snowfall meant more options for outdoor fun over the holiday weekend. But for weather-dependent businesses along the North Shore, the white Christmas was nice and green - giving a big boost to the start of the winter tourist season.
The rain that followed the snow in the Twin Cities left a thick coating of ice everywhere. Streets across the metro area this weekend were slippery and sidewalks were treacherous.
As light snow fell on St. Paul's Highland Park late Saturday, Mark Fabel braved the cold with his wife and young kids. Fabel said the snow's icy topcoat was probably helping his kids stay up on their skis.
"You know, for them to come out here when it's hard packed like this is probably easier, having it be hard packed and a little bit crusty on top," he said. "If it were too soft they'd sink in and they would probably fall over."
It was his three-year old daughter's first time ever on skis and she was clearly having a great time. The Fabel family wasn't the only ones enjoying the fresh snow. Flashes of color could be seen in all directions as skiers and dog walkers navigated the trails.
The skiers were the lucky ones. With the snow knee-deep in most places, walking wasn't easy.
Out on the street, covered head to toe in the dark blue of the U.S. Postal Service, Gary Rust was making his rounds.
"Sleet, rain and snow, something like that; I don't even know anymore," he said.
Rust has ten years' experience delivering mail in Minnesota winter and he said it's this kind of icy snow that makes his job dangerous.
"It breaks on you and it sticks and you trip and fall through it all day so you can't cut across yards, and the sidewalks are all solid ice so its just about as bad as it gets as far as delivering," he said. "But temperature wise its fine"
National Weather Service officials said the rainfall kept snow totals down. Still, the Christmas snowfall was record-breaking. Most of the Twin Cities metro area got about a foot. The Duluth area got even more snow, with some areas blanketed with about two feet. For tourist businesses in Northern Minnesota, the heavy snow was a surprise Christmas gift.
"Everybody is so happy it's almost ridiculous," said Sarah Hamilton, who owns the Trail Center Lodge on the Gunflint Trail near Grand Marais. "Everybody is just shoveling snow and plowing snow and smiling. It's everything for us to get snow right now for our season."
Hamilton said the weekend's snowfall should bring more people to the resort this week, especially snowmobilers. They account for about 80 percent of her winter business.
"It's so beautiful, it's unbelievable," she said. "Everything is pure white, the trees are pure white, and the bushes are white. It's just gorgeous."
That sentiment was echoed throughout Cook County.
Sally Nankivell, executive director of the Lutsen Tofte Tourism Association, said the weekend's snow was the perfect compliment to the snow they've already been making at Lutsen Mountain.
"Getting this snow is a huge, huge help, especially for our mom and pop resorts, the ones that specialize in cross country skiing or snowmobiling," she said. "Having the natural snow is a huge benefit."
She said the fresh coating of snow has North Shore business owners looking forward to a busy winter season.
- Morning Edition, 12/28/2009, 6:20 a.m.