Photographs courtesy of Giants Ridge
If Lutsen is the Vail of Minnesota ski towns, Biwabik is the Whitefish, Montana. While Lutsen has parlayed its popular terrain into becoming an urbane oasis in the hills, Biwabik’s no-less-epic slopes haven’t undone its small-town charm. Taking its name from the dull blue ore of the open-pit iron mines cratering the land around it, Biwabik (like Whitefish is to skiing the Rockies) is the best Minnesota ski town nobody ever talks about. Take the easy, three-hour drive to the Bavarian hamlet of 1,000 on the southeast edge of George Washington State Forest and use this itinerary to explore it for yourself.
Flick on the fireplace in your suite at The Lodge at Giants Ridge and get ready for a day of playing in the snow. Bordered by Sabin and Wynne Lakes in northern Biwabik, Giants Ridge caters to outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. Downhill skiers and snowboarders have 35 runs and three terrain parks to choose from; Nordic skiers, fat-bike riders, and snowshoers can spend hours exploring 30-plus miles of trails. For kids (and their adults), there’s a tubing park. There’s also more than 2,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails, not to mention ice fishing, sledding, and ice skating within minutes of the resort.
Downhill hill runs at Giants Ridge
In addition to 35 downhill runs, Giants Ridge has 30-plus miles of Nordic trails.
Fuel up at The Sleeping Giant Restaurant & Bar (the lodge’s restaurant) with homemade pancakes or the sizable Mesabi Scramble—ham, bacon or sausage, onions, red and green peppers, and tomatoes on top of country potatoes with melted cheese, two eggs, and toast. Wash it all down with a Scandinavian bloody mary, made with Tattersall Aquavit, then choose your winter sport of the moment and head outdoors.
Ski up to Giants Ridge’s brand new $12.7 million chalet for lunch at Burnt Onion Kitchen & Brews. The locally cured charcuterie is a solid choice. Wash it down with a Castle Danger Cream Ale, brewed in nearby Two Harbors, then get back on the slopes while there’s still daylight. After, soothe your tired muscles with a stone massage and rosemary-mint body wrap at the onsite Laurentian Divide Salon and Spa.
Drive five miles to downtown Biwabik and take a stroll along picturesque Main Street. The whitewashed, brown-trimmed buildings and tidily decorated storefronts show off the city’s Finnish and Eastern European roots, both past and present. (Some of Biwabik’s 1,000 or so residents still speak Slavic at home.)
Photo courtesy of Mark Sauer
Honk the Moose at Biwabik Park
Honk the Moose is like the Paul and Babe of Biwabik.
Stop by Biwabik Park and take a selfie with Honk the Moose, Biwabik’s version of a Paul and Babe statue. Honk is the main character of the eponymous 1935 children’s book written by State Fair author and former Biwabik resident Phil Stong, and based on the true story of a starving moose who shacked up for a winter with the horses in a Biwabik stable.
Just down Main from Honk is Vi’s Pizza and TNT Bar, a Biwabik legend. Vi’s recently moved to a new location—and slightly changed its moniker—but don’t fret: the pizza that people drive for hours to eat hasn’t changed, and is still as good as ever. Get the Vi’s Special, loaded with pepperoni, Italian sausage, beef, onion, mushrooms, and green pepper.
Photograph courtesy of Vi’s Pizza and TNT Bar
Vi’s Pizza and TNT Bar
Vi’s Pizza and TNT bar
If you’re not feeling pizza, grab a table down the road at The Biwabik Pub. It’s all about the “sammiches” here: one-of-a-kind combinations of meat, cheese, sauce, and extras, of which substitutions are strongly frowned upon. Pair your sammich of choice with some spicy waffle fries and a Grain Belt Premium.
Back at the lodge, have a nightcap at the bar, then fire up the whirlpool and unwind before heading to bed and dreaming of another day in Minnesota’s great outdoors.
Take an afternoon away from the slopes to see a bit more of the Iron Range. Grab some Polish sausage jerky for the road at the family-owned Koshar’s Sausage Kitchen in Gilbert, then hop on Highway 37 to Eveleth, home to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Museum—and the second-largest hockey stick in the world. A 30-minute drive west of Eveleth brings you to Hibbing, best known as the childhood home Bob Dylan. See a copy of his birth certificate and other memorabilia at the Hibbing Public Library. Swing through Virginia on your way back and load up on potica (po-TEET-sah) from The Italian Bakery, which started in 1965 with a traditional Slovenian family recipe and has only gotten better over the years.