By Melanie Radzicki McManus | Photo by GottaBeSuperior.com
Winter enthusiasts, take note: Superior, a city in Wisconsin’s northern tier, recently dubbed itself “Wisconsin’s Winter Capital,” then made it official by trademarking the name.
While this moniker is part of a recent new tourism campaign aimed at highlighting “Snowperior” as a destination for winter enthusiasts, it truly is a fantastic cold weather locale, says John Gidley, town native and executive director of the Superior Tourist Information Center.
“Winter’s kind of our jam up here in the North,” Gidley says. “Superior’s great in the summer, too, don’t get me wrong. But in the winter there’s snowmobiling, sliding, ice fishing, ice racing – you name it, we’ve got it.”
Superior isn’t Wisconsin’s snowiest city; that designation goes to Hurley, where an eye-popping 155 inches of snow fall each winter. Nevertheless, Superior still gets plenty of the white stuff, and sometimes several feet at a time, Gidley says. But most importantly, the city offers visitors numerous ways to enjoy the snow and ice.
For one, the area is home to a popular downhill skiing, snowboarding and tubing resort. There are miles and miles of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails in and around the city limits, including the trails winding through Superior Municipal Forest, the nation’s third-largest municipal forest.
You can try your hand at ice fishing, or zip along the hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails crisscrossing the region. You can even try winter surfing – yes, surfing – on Lake Superior.
Need gear? UW-Superior rents cross-country skis, poles and boots, plus snowshoes. Ski waxing is also available.
If you’re overwhelmed by all these options for wintertime fun, here’s five of our favorites to warm up your itinerary for a visit to the new “Winter Capital.’
- Spend a Snow-mazing Day at Mont du Lac Resort
Mont du Lac, perched over the St. Louis River, is the locals’ favorite spot for downhill skiing, snowboarding and tubing. The resort’s eight traditional ski runs range from easy to difficult, with the longest stretching 3,000 feet and sporting a 320-foot vertical drop. Two additional bowl-style mogul runs are perfect for those who enjoy skiing on ungroomed terrain and zigzagging around trees. A terrain park includes more than 20 elements, while the tubing park boasts eight runs, including kids’ and speed slide lanes, plus the nation’s only crossover tubing run. Daily skiing and snowboarding lessons are available, too.
- Explore Miles of Snowmobile Trails
Superior offers easy access to more than 300 miles of snowmobile trails. Fly along the Tri-County Corridor Trail, which runs through Amnicon Falls State Park, where you can check out its impressive frozen waterfalls. The 104-mile Wild Rivers State Trail unspools southbound to Rice Lake, leading you through towns such as Solon Springs, Minong and Spooner, while the Gandy Dancer offers 98 miles of groomed trail connecting Superior and St. Croix Falls, passing through a slice of Minnesota along the way.
- Wander the Wintery Woods on Skis or Snowshoes
Skiing and snowshoeing options abound in the Superior area. The 4,400-acre Superior Municipal Forest is a rare, boreal forest containing both conifers and hardwood. Explore this picturesque landscape via 36 kilometers of cross-country ski trails, groomed and tracked daily. You’re welcome to snowshoe here, too. Nearby, the Brule River State Forest features 25 kilometers of classic and skate skiing trails, plus 4.2 kilometers of snowshoe trails. You can also ski and snowshoe at Pattison State Park, home to Big Manitou and Little Manitou Falls. Big Manitou is Wisconsin’s tallest waterfall, at 165 feet.
- Celebrate Superior’s Signature Events
Superior’s signature winter celebration is the Lake Superior Ice Festival, held in late January on Barker’s Island. The bash includes ice sculpting and trivia contests, ice golf, fireworks and more. Make sure you snap a selfie sitting on the ice throne. The Midwest Ice Racing Association also holds several races in winter, during which you can watch a variety of motorcycles, quads and UTVs speed across frozen lakes.
- Warm Your Taste Buds at Anchor Bar
Featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” Anchor Bar is known for its quality burgers and hand-cut fries. It’s also the place where you can indulge with a Pancake Breakfast Shot, which is crafted from butterscotch and strawberry schnapps, then topped with a piece of bacon. The Anchor is also famed for its nautical décor, which includes one of the three remaining life rings from the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, a famous Great Lakes freighter.
Melanie Radzicki McManus is an award-winning outdoor adventure writer, speaker and author of “Thousand-Miler: Adventures Hiking the Ice Age Trail.”