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Category Archives: ABR Ski Trails

The weekend of the CopperDog 150 Sled Dog Race is usually the weekend that my wife and I make the last ski trip of the season. We usually drive up to Ironwood, Michigan and ski at ABR in the afternoon then drive over to Bond Fall to photograph the waterfall and then head over to Calumet, Michigan. If we have time we ski in the afternoon before heading over to the race in the evening. We try to get to the race venue early so we can walk around and take in the pre-race activities. As you can see by the first shot we were early. We noticed that the starting line had been moved down the street about fifty yards.

More photos from the race can be found on my website.

While the adults were bundled up and trying to keep warm the kids were enjoying the snow.

We walked around watching the mushers get their teams and equipment ready for the race. The mushers usually feed their dogs late in the afternoon and then put them back in their stalls until they are ready to hook them to the sleds.

As race time neared we walked over to the area where we wanted to be to watch the teams start. On the way I noticed the display of dogs in the shop window.

We typically stand across from the announcers booth where the teams will typically be when they leave the starting line.

While we were waiting for the start of the race various groups were getting their photos taken in the starting area. The large group was the volunteer veterinarians for the race.

The color guard was getting ready for the national Anthem for each country represented. This year they they played the U.S., Canada and South African Anthems.

Before the race starts the trail crews and the police head out onto the trail to make sure the mushers have a clear trail.

The official photographer taking photos of the first team out.

The first musher to leave the starting line.

Typically when a team arrives at the starting line the musher walks to to the lead dogs and then walks back to the sled giving encouragement to each of the dogs.

Some of the dogs are a little more excited that others.

Each sled carries an anchor. When the team is at the starting line the anchor is use to anchor the sled so the team can’t take off. As the musher gets ready to leave they are handed the anchor. This musher is putting the anchor onto the sled.

The kids had a front row seat. The adults were freezing and the kids were sitting in the snow.

After watching from the starting line we walked back toward the staging area and watched the volunteers bring the teams to the starting line. Having moved the starting line about fifty yards down the course made it easier to get the teams to the starting line and allowed several teams to be in line at the same time.

After the teams were on the course there were some fireworks which we were able to watch from our hotel while enjoying some hot apple cider.

My wife and I spent the afternoon skiing at ABR in Ironwood, Michigan. This is one of the top cross country ski areas in the country.


Our first ski trip of the season took us to Ironwood Michigan. The drive over to Ironwood was OK but just outside of Ironwood it started snowing. It was snowing so hard that we had trouble following the road to the ABR Ski Trails. The trails had been groomed the night before but by 11 am they had received 7 inches of new snow. It was beautiful on the ski trails but the wax was not working good and it was tough going.

After skiing at After Hours we decided to drive over to Ironwood and ski at ABR in Ironwood, Michigan. It had been a couple of years since we had skied their trails. We were not disappointed. They had even more snow than After Hours. While we enjoy skiing we love to take in the breathtaking scenery. More photos from ABR can be found on my website.

This fence is always a popular spot to stop for a few photos. Another group of skiers passed up by while we were photographing the fence.

At several places on the trail we passed trees with ski poles hanging from the branches.

We discovered there were quite a few new ski trails since our last visit and some of the old trails had been changed. We decided we really need to make another visit.

Both by wife and I had been sick. Mine started at Thanksgiving and lasted into the new year. Once we were both better we needed to get out of the house so we scheduled a Ski trip to the U.P. We don’t have snow around our home and Minnesota doesn’t have much snow on the North Shore so the U.P. was the only alternative.


This was our fourth ski trip to ABR in Ironwood. They have plenty of snow. They had over ten feet of snow by Thanksgiving. We were a little late getting started didn’t arrive until early afternoon. We still had time to get in three hours of skiing before sunset. It was a beautiful day with clear blue skies, something we don’t often see in the U.P..


On our earlier trips some of the trails were closed because of deer hunting so we made it our goal to try out the closed trails. The trails were in tough shape in a few places. My wife took her first fall of the season and I took my first fall in three years.


We have been up to the Ironwood area skiing three times already this year. This is by far the earliest we have skied in a number of years. The ABR Ski Trails are already a winter wonderland with over seven feet of snow so far this season.




When TV news reports show over four feet of snow on the ground in Northern Wisconsin it can only mean one thing. Ski Trip!!! This is the earliest we have been skiing since the Halloween Blizzard of 1991 that dumped over three feet of snow on the farm.ABR-Ski-Trails-14-11-_0645

As things worked out we had tickets for the Dang-its performance of Sweet Dreams & Honky Tonks Revue at the Park Center in Hayward, Wisconsin on Saturday Night. A large crowd was treated to the songs of Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash and a brief history of each.ABR-Ski-Trails-14-11-_0639

The next morning we were up early for the drive to ABR in Ironwood, Michigan. ABR is the premier cross country ski area in the Midwest. They had been struggling to get the trails groomed because the ground was not frozen and they had been getting over a foot of snow every day. They did have open 40 km of trails. Some were still closed because of the ground and it was deer hunting season in Michigan.ABR-Ski-Trails-14-11-_0651

There were quite a few folks out getting their ski legs on their first ski of the season. It was mainly overcast with the sun breaking through late in the morning. At twenty degrees it was just right for skiing. A rare selfie.ABR-Ski-Trails-14-11-_0629

Apostle Islands Ice Caves:

Normally I’m complaining about the lack of a good winter but this year we have had a fantastic winter. Every winter I look forward to photographing the Apostle Island Ice Caves but this is the first year since 2009 that they have been accessible from the ice on Lake Superior. I was very surprised when I checked  the middle of January and found that the ice caves were already open. Normally they don’t open until January but with the cold weather they were early this year.Apostle-Islands-Ice-Caves-14-1-_1471a

We immediately drove up to Cornucopia to visit the caves. This was followed by two other visits to the caves. We weren’t the only ones visiting the caves. Thanks to social media more than 140 thousand people visited the caves before they closed in mid March.Apostle-Islands-Ice-Caves-14-1-_1672

In-spite of the large number of people visiting the caves I was able to get some great photos and, for the first time, my wife was able to visit the caves. As you can see by the number of blogs I wrote on the subject this was my favorite winter activity.Apostle-Islands-Ice-Caves-14-3-_0983

Bald Eagle Watching:

The cold weather has been a boon for Bald Eagle watching since it concentrated the eagles in areas where there was open water. This winter we spent time visiting three locations along the Mississippi River to watch Eagles. Our most productive location was Covill Park in Red Wing, Minnesota where we always saw eagles. There were also a large number of ducks that provided entertainment when the eagle watching slowed down. The water is always open below the heating plant above Covill Park so the eagles and ducks hang out in this area.Bald-Eagle-14-1-_1996

The second best location was Reads Landing in Minnesota. On three occasions we saw large numbers of Eagles at this location. We also saw Trumpeter Swans that were hanging out in this section of the river. Viewing at this location slowed down as the winter progressed.Bald-Eagle-14-1-_0599

Alma, Wisconsin was the least productive area we visited. We only saw a significant number of eagles on one visit. On several other visits we didn’t see any eagles or only saw a few. I found this a difficult area to photograph eagles because you are usually looking into the sun.Bald-Eagle-14-1-_2164

I wrote a number of blogs describing our visits to these locations.

Trumpeter Swans Watching:

We made a number of trips to Hudson, Wisconsin to watch the Trumpeter Swans. Several people had mentioned that Trumpeter Swans hung out on the St. Croix river but didn’t know the exact location. We eventually found them in downtown Hudson.Trumpeter-Swan-Hudson-Wisconsin-14-2-_1125

Because of the very cold weather they were hanging out it a very small area of open water close to shore during the coldest part of the winter. You could walk down along the shore and photograph them and they didn’t seem to be the least concerned with your presence.Trumpeter-Swans-Hudson-Wisconsin-14-2-_1176

These trips resulted in several blogs reporting on our visits.Trumpeter-Swans-14-2-_0592

Lake Superior Ship Watching:

The very cold weather resulted in a lot of ice on Lake Superior. The early ice made for some great opportunities to photograph ships in the cold weather. One of my favorite year around activities is ship watching in Duluth and Superior Harbors so being able to photograph them working in ice was a great adventure.

Baie Cormeau

Baie Cormeau

We were able to watch ships arrive in the harbor during the very cold winter.

Baie Comeau

Baie Comeau

The Coast Guard Cutters were very active this winter and I was able to see them in action as they were breaking the ice and anchored in the harbor.

Coast Guard Cutter Alder

Coast Guard Cutter Alder

Tug Boats were also required to help break the ice when the Coast Guard was not available.

Helen H

Helen H

A large number of ships are in the Duluth/Superior docks either being repaired or for winter layup.

American Spirit

American Spirit

The long winter will continue into spring as the ice breakers are working to free the harbor of ice and the ships in layup are waiting to head out for the 2014 shipping season. The season should start in the next couple of weeks.

Coast Guard Cutter Alder

Coast Guard Cutter Alder


Rush River Ice Formations:

I discovered the Rush River Ice Formations this winter. What a wonderful place to visit. A local land owner has run piping around his property tapping into underground springs. At about two dozen locations on the property he has run vertical pipes with holes drilled into them. The result are some spectacular ice formations.Nelson's-On-the-Rush-River-14-1-_1918

Long Ski Season:

For the second year in a row we have been blessed with a lot of snow. The difference this year is that the ski season started at Thanksgiving and has continued into March. With a little luck we should be able squeeze in at least one more ski trip this year.Boulder-Lake-Ski-Trails-14-2-_1375

Our favorite location this year was the ABR Ski Trails because they usually receive early snow and they do the best job of grooming of any ski location. They are usually able to have good skiing even after warm weather because they have equipment to break up the trail in icy conditions and lay a new track.ABR-Ski-Trails-13-2-_1183

We also skied at The After Hours Ski Trails in Brule a number of times this year. This is a great location because of the large number of trails and its close proximity to Duluth.After-Hours-Ski-Trails-13-3-_3674

We discovered the Boulder Lake Ski Trails near Duluth and made sever visits to these trails. There are enough trails to provide a nice day of skiing without skiing the same trail twice.Boulder-Lake-Ski-Trails-14-2-_1378

We only made one visit, to what we consider, the most beautiful ski trails in the Midwest. These are the Swedetown Ski Trails in Calument, Michigan. They get more snow and beautiful light fluffy snow than anyplace else.Swedetown-Ski-Trails-13-2-_1124


The day after Thanksgiving we took our first ski trip of the season. It was almost a month earlier than last season. Of course last season ended with a blizzard the first week of May.

Our first trip was to ABR in Ironwood, Michigan. It was about the only place with snow and it was crowded with anxious skiers. They had almost three feet of snow by the time we arrived. The skiing was good but the snow was still a little soft.ABR-Ski-Trails-13-12-_0704a

Last weekend we drove over to Brule, Wisconsin to ski on the After Hours Ski Trails. Surprisingly it wasn’t crowded. There was a lot of traffic on the roads but most of the people seemed to be heading to Duluth for a little Christmas shopping. The trails were good but it was very cold. The thermometer at the trailhead read 0 degrees.After-Hours-Ski-Trails-13-12-_0978a

In the winter we frequently travel to the U.P. of Michigan to cross country ski. The reason we like to ski the U.P. is the large amount of snow they get each winter. This year things were off to a slow start but recently it has really started coming down. What amazes me is how it poles up on stumps along the ski trails. Photographing stumps covered with large amounts of snow is one of my favorite activities when skiing the U.P.






Swedetown Backcountry Trail

Swedetown Backcountry Trail