West End News Dec. 8

It's time for skiing and snowboarding in this week's West End News
It's time for skiing and snowboarding in this week's West End News

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 Mary Somnis sent me an email the other day, calling my attention to a local shopping initiative called “Made On The Range.” It is a website, madeontherange.com – just like it sounds with no spaces or punctuation – that lists dozens of companies that offer holiday goods and services and are based in northeastern Minnesota. The website eloquently says: “The people living in northeastern Minnesota have a long history of resourcefulness and personal innovation culminating in the design and creation of quality and interesting goods and services. This web site is a convenient one-stop-shop for these goods and services and serves as a direct portal to these companies.”

Mary Somnis is in charge of the tourism initiative at the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board. The IRRRB is a state agency that receives a production tax from the iron mining industry that it uses to develop and support a stable economy in northeastern Minnesota. It operates in parts of six counties, including all of Lake County and Cook County. Mary got her start in tourism promotion right here in Cook County where she served as the Executive Director of the Lutsen Tofte Tourism Association. She started at the LTTA as a secretary, but through hard work and talent, rose quickly to the executive position. During her tenure, the Lutsen Tofte Schroeder area led the state in tourism growth. After a few years at the LTTA, Mary was recruited for her current job at the IRRRB, where she has continued her success. She kept a property here in Cook County, which she visits frequently, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see her return permanently at some point.

Again, the local shopping website is madeontherange,com.

The snow cover, or lack there of, is becoming a common topic of conversation around the West End. Of course, most good West Enders are hoping for enough snow to enable their winter sport of choice – especially the snowmobilers and cross country skiers. The down hill skiers are lucky because the snowmaking at Lutsen Mountains Ski Area is well underway and downhill conditions are already excellent. At this writing there is a 12” to 24” base with six lifts operating. There are a number of improvements at the ski area this year, including a beginner’s terrain park on Ullr Mountain, a more advanced terrain park on Eagle Mountain and a boarder-cross course on Mystery Mountain where riders can race down the series of turns, jumps and drops. It’s great to have such a wonderful facility right here in the West End along with the extensive trail systems.

There are other concerns with the low or non-existent snow cover. In the past, when we’ve had little snow and cold temperatures, many people have had their septic systems freeze up. This is a particularly annoying phenomenon with ramifications that are better left unspoken. Local well driller, Bill McKeever, was quoted the other day saying that the wells he’s seeing are the lowest that he can remember. Another long-term worry is what the fire season will be like next year if we have a dry winter and/or spring. I remember reading somewhere that the total winter snowfall on the Superior National Forest in the winter of 1935/36 was 4 inches. 1936 was an epic year for forest fires. After the big Pagami Creek Fire this fall, we could do with a breather in 2012. But, we’re lucky enough to live in a big beautiful forest, so I guess we’ll have to learn to play with the cards that Mother Nature deals us.


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