Extensive features make Mont du Lac a year-round attraction

The Trophy Lodge opened in 2017 at the top of the Mont du Lac ski slope. This is just one of many recent developments that have dramatically changed the recreation area. (Photo by Jayden Erie)

For nearly 75 years, Mont du Lac was primarily known as a neighborhood ski resort. A recent series of features added to the private recreation area, however, changes this image.

This year, for the first time in the history of Mont du Lac, more revenue should be paid to the company during the summer than during the winter.

What causes the change? For more than a decade, the owners have been slowly expanding the offering, which now includes a hilltop lodge, log cabins, a boat dock on the St. Louis River, a campground, a park aquatic and RV parking areas with full hookups.

Left: The Mont du Lac ski area before development. Right: Scene from the 1950 Central United States Intercollegiate Downhill Slalom Championships. (Upper Telegram images via Upper Public Library)

The best ski accommodation

Mont du Lac began its tenure as a recreational ski area in 1948, making it one of the oldest still-operating ski resorts in the United States. It would be another quarter century before Spirit Mountain’s largest ski run opened about six miles away.

Geographic footnote: Mont du Lac looks like part of the Fond du Lac neighborhood of Duluth, but is actually on the Wisconsin side of the border in Superior Township.

“Mont du Lac will offer winter sports enthusiasts the best ski accommodations” and “provide plenty of space for experts and novices alike,” first ski resort manager Tony Wise told the Superior. Evening Telegram in 1949. The resort started with three runs and had two tow ropes to take skiers up the slopes – a 1,200 foot rope for the two larger hills and a 400 foot rope for the beginner hill.

Additional runs were groomed and lights for night skiing were added shortly after it opened, helping to make Mont du Lac “one of the best centers of its kind in the entire North region. -West,” according to a 1952 article in the Telegram. It hosted the 1950 Central United States Intercollegiate Downhill Slalom Championships.

Skiers now enjoy a range of 10 to 12 distinct runs according to owner Larry Pulkrabek, but the breadth of winter attractions doesn’t stop there. Guests can also race down the 500-foot lanes in the “Out of Bounds” tube park.

The Base Lodge at Mont du Lac. (Photo by Jayden Erie)

The chalet at the foot of the hill has been an integral part of the resort since its opening. The length of the hill-facing wall in the historic building is lined almost entirely with windows and offers visitors the same all-encompassing view of the ski slope that early skiers enjoyed in the late 1940s.

The biggest difference between the view then and now is mainly characterized by two structures – the resort’s chairlift, built in the late 1970s, and the Trophy Lodge which opened to the public in 2017 on the hill station.

New era of summer leisure

Mont du Lac’s tradition as an alpine ski destination shows no signs of waning, but the initiatives of the current owners have greatly expanded the scope of its outdoor offerings. As skiers continue to shred its legendary slopes in winter, a new era of summer recreation has arrived.

When Larry and Donna Pulkrabek purchased Mont du Lac in 2008, becoming only the third owners in the resort’s 62-year history, they were primarily drawn to its river access and sprawling, protected wooded surroundings.

“When you get to the top of the mountain and look around, there are very few signs of civilization, and going forward that’s not going to change,” Larry Pulkrabek said.

Mont du Lac is bordered by Jay Cooke State Park and other state-owned lands that are protected by conservation initiatives, giving the property a unique position at the center of immense undeveloped wilderness. .

Mont du Lac pleasure docks on the Saint-Louis River. (Photo by Jayden Erie)

Since purchasing the resort, the Pulkrabeks have taken advantage of the area’s scenic environment and access to the river in a way that is quite unique in the history of Mont du Lac – in the transforming it from a ski resort into a year-round recreational resort and festival ground.

In the past, Mont du Lac held bike races during the summer months, but for the most part it was closed, Pulkrabek said. The attempt to “diversify into a four-season facility” over the past 12 years has resulted in a significant expansion of activities suitable for the warmer months. The Pulkrabeks have added archery targets, disc golf courses and mountain biking trails. Their new water attractions include fishing, boating, and tubing on the St. Louis River, as well as the new “Big Kahuna” floating water park set on a man-made pond in the RV park.

Pat Ocken oversees equipment rentals at the Mont du Lac Marina. (Photo by Jayden Erie)

Pulkrabek said most ski operations in the Midwest fail because of the roughly 100-day win period offered by the ski season. This motivated him to expand the resort’s summer offering, including developing a unique regional event called bow party.

Bowfest brings together archery enthusiasts of all skill levels for a four-day festival with a variety of hunting vendors, four archery courses with over 60 targets and opportunities to win prizes in competitions . The event usually ends with a performance by a high profile country music star.

The resort’s grounds are also being transformed into a space for musical performances with the aim of creating a “festival of music and archery, neither one more than the other”, Pulkrabek said. “It incorporates not only the filming, but also the activities of people getting together with like minds who can talk about things they love to do and hopefully enjoy the music and atmosphere of Mont du Lac. .”

Pulkrabek started Bowfest six years ago with the aim of giving back to the archery industry, in which he has been intimately involved for most of his professional career.

He has been a bowhunter all his life, and his talent for coming up with new design approaches to solving problems has contributed to his success in making and selling outdoor equipment. He started his company Field Logic out of his garage in 1997 and brought to market a variety of innovative hunting products that proved popular in the archery community. These included their block targets, animal targets, IQ bow sights and other archery tools and accessories.

He sold Field Logic, now known as FeraDyne Outdoors, in 2015. He launched Ravin crossbows soon after and sold that company in 2018. Both are still at Superior.

Pulkrabek said the change to Mont du Lac doing more business in the summer than in the winter reflects the transformation the resort has undergone and lends credence to the larger goal he has had since the start – “Make a low cost option for families to bring people outdoors.”

Keith P. Plain