I was thrilled to hear that Mary Somnis is very likely the new Director of the Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority. Mary considers herself a West Ender, even though she has lived on the Range for the last 20 years.
Back in the day, Mary lived in Tofte and was hired by the newly organized Lutsen-Tofte Tourism Association as a secretary. The LTTA was formed to administer the newly passed bed tax, charged to tourists who rented rooms in the townships of Lutsen, Tofte and Schroeder, used to promote and market the area.
Mary was hired with the idea that she would answer the phones, open the mail, take minutes at the board meetings and that type of thing. Very quickly Mary’s competence and work ethic had her taking on greater and greater responsibility. A misunderstanding of the law created some confusion that made it look like Mary could not be paid in keeping with her actual skills, but after that was straightened out, Mary was named the full time Executive Director of the LTTA. Under her leadership, the Lutsen, Tofte, Schroeder area had the fastest tourism growth in the state for several years in a row. In fact, Mary did such a great job, that she was hired away from us by the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board to run their regional tourism program, which she has done with distinction for almost 20 years.
All through those years, Mary kept ownership of her home in Tofte, visited frequently and took a keen interest in local goings on. She always maintained that her heart was in Cook County and that someday she would like to move back here. Well, that day has come and we will all be the better for it. Welcome home, Mary.
Everyone who loves speed and excitement will be glad to know that the Midwest Extreme Snowmobile Challenge will be returning to Lutsen Mountains April 15th through 17th. This is a huge event that will attract more than 500 riders, including some of the best racers in North America. The Lutsen event is perhaps best known for the hill climbing competition, which provides a thrilling experience for spectators. The purse this year should be around 40 thousand dollars, so you can be sure the riders will be taking this seriously.
A few people have questioned if Lutsen Mountains will have enough snow for the event and the answer is an emphatic yes. The Mountain management plans carefully for this event and with their ever-expanding snow making capability, they have plenty of snow for a great event. You can go to Lutsen.com for details. As I always say, “be there or be square.”
Speaking of snow, there is still at least a foot of snow still covering the ground once you get a few miles back from Lake Superior. Even though it’s melting fast, it is not unusual at all to see significant snowfalls in April and even occasionally in May. In spite of a very warm winter overall, the snowfall back in the woods was pretty hefty. As of this writing, I’ve recorded 85 inches of snow this winter here at Sawbill.
The warm weather, combined with early snow did do strange things to the lake ice this year. The ice never got more than two feet thick, which is at least a foot less than normal and half of what we’ve seen in cold years. The average ice thickness right now on Sawbill Lake is 19”, but some of the narrows are already opening up, making lake travel treacherous already. I can’t recommend going out on the lakes anymore this season, but if you do, go with a friend, take your rescue picks, a throw rope and enough dry clothes in a waterproof bag for a complete change from the skin out. As my dad always used to say, “Discretion is the better part of valor.”
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.