The Ely Area received another couple of inches of snow overnight. We are at about 10+ inches of snow on the ground. There is a 30% chance of more snow tonight. Don’t miss out on the Fun Run Snowmobile Ride this Saturday, January 26 in the Ely Area. The temperatures are expected to be mild, trails are groomed, chances for great prizes and great fun! It’s not too late....you can sign up on the day of the event at any one of the checkpoints. Come on out and support trail grooming!
A winter vacation doesn’t have to require a trip to the airport or a long car ride. Ely offers a variety of activities that keep the whole family entertained close to home. The secret to winter fun? The six S’s.
- Ski — Consider the trails within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. This 1.1 million acre space within the Superior National Forest provides a chance to experience the pristine splendor of our wilderness trails. Keep an eye out for wildlife, too, as the stillness of winter often persuades those animals that aren’t hibernating to make an appearance. And remember: Ely’s cross country ski season is longer than anywhere else in Minnesota and the trails are open before other areas even see snow.
- Snow — If you’re looking for something new for your snowmobiling adventure, try the 180-mile Taconite Trail, the 80-mile Tomahawk Trail or the many miles of local club groomed trails. Whether you’ve snowmobiled before or you’re a first-timer, you can plan a trip customized to meet your needs. If you’re looking for more of a workout on your vacation, snowshoeing may be your best option. We have plenty of scenic overlooks that will give you a great hike and beautiful views.
- Sleep — If you’re looking to get away from it all, you can find lodging that ranges from a quiet, isolated cabin overlooking a river to a luxury lodge with all the amenities. After dinner, sit back and enjoy a crackling fire as you drift off to sleep in the peaceful winter night.
- See — There are many things to see and do in the Ely area, from amazing trails to hike, ski, snowshoe or dogsled, to interesting destinations where the whole family can learn more about the animals and culture of the region. For example, the International Wolf Center provides answers about some of the mysteries and misconceptions that people have about this beautiful animal. Come, meet some of the wolves and learn about how they live.
- Sled — It’s a sight you have to experience in person, the pent-up energy of a pack of sled dogs waiting to go out on the trail. As Sled Dog Capital of the World, Ely offers many outfitters with a variety of packages to match every budget.
- Sit — After a busy day exploring the great outdoors, there are plenty of delectable dining options in Ely. Enjoy a juicy steak and a cold beer, or pizza. There’s something for every palate in Ely.
Click here to discover how you can enjoy Ely’s secrets to winter fun!
Ely is the sled dog capital of the world, so a local expert helped answer some of these frequently asked questions about this wonderful family activity.
What do I need to know when planning a dog-sledding trip?
Most sled dog trips are hands on. You will be out all day with the dogs and participate in all aspects of the trip. There are day trips, trips to lodges or yurts, and trips for ice fishing. Your outfitter will handle all of the details, so you can just show up and know that everything will be taken care of for you, with no experience required.
So a trip can last for more than one day?
Yes. Weeklong trips that travel between lodges or campsites are available. Whatever your comfort level, there is a trip to match it.
What will I get to do on a trip?
You will learn everything you need to know from your guide, including how to harness your team and guide your sled. You’ll also experience the fun of silently swooshing through the snow behind your dog team.
How do I get the sled dogs to go where I want?
The dogs in the front of the team are the lead dogs and they follow voice commands. “Gee” (pronounced “jee”) is used for right and “haw” is used for left. Your guide will show you how to control your team before you start.
Who can participate?
Anyone can participate, from young to old. With a bit of instruction, even the kids can drive the sled. People with disabilities also enjoy the activity. No special fitness ability or skills are required. How should I dress?
Dress in layers. Remember, you won’t just be out in the cold, you’ll also experiencing wind chill as the sled travels through the snow. It’s best to wear multiple layers so you can shed them if you get too warm. Are sled dogs friendly?
Yes, absolutely. Sled dogs are trained to pull, but they are social animals and enjoy interacting with guests, including children. In fact, interacting with the dogs is a big part of the fun.
Will we see wild animals on our trip?
Trails run through wilderness areas, so it is possible to see wildlife. Dogsleds are also one of the few ways to get into the Boundary Waters Wilderness, so you will see parts of nature that few others get to see.
Do sled dogs ever get cold?
Sled dogs are a Northern breed of dog and have thick, double coats like wolves and other animals. It is more important to make sure dogs do not overheat.
How are sled dogs different than my dog at home?
They are working animals that know their job. Living in a kennel with many other dogs, they are more dog-oriented than a pet, even though they are still focused on people.
Where did the winter go?
I took my last fishing trip up to Basswood three weeks ago, the morning of February 25. The temperature was 24 degrees below zero when we arrived at the Fall Lake landing at 8:00 AM. It was a perfect day for the teams. We had three teams, a total of eighteen dogs. All were in prime end-of-the-year condition and ready to roll.
Many teams had gone out ahead of us, and the landing was full of excited, barking, howling, dog teams. We unboxed and harnessed the dogs and waited our turn, helping others get dogs hooked up and ready to go.
Orion is spanglier than the rhinestone cowboy tonight as he jumps up into the eastern sky and the crescent moon lends a little illumination to what would be a lovely snowshoe stroll.
But I am not strolling.
I am being pulled along lickety-split behind Mantis the recreational skijoring dog. Neither one of us has a headlamp, and she sometimes switches tracks which I find only by feel and luck beneath my skis.
After an evening with friends, made lively by a tumble of dogs and kids in a small house, one of them says, “Want to go for a ski sometime this week?”
So I clip an hour off the end of a workday, and we slide around the Trezona Trail.
Our pace varies with our conversation, and at times we come to a full stop so that we can face each other. The warmth of the sun is helping balsam and pines release snow loads from branches. We hear the occasional shoosh, plop of a clump of snow tumbling to the ground. Sometimes we catch sight of a spray of snow crystals as the branch springs up, bouncing gently with relief.
Doesn’t it get cold there?
We nod and pull long faces. “Yeah, it does.” We walk away feeling tough and stoic.
We don’t confess that when the ice comes on we hope for cold that will give some thickness to the ice, then we hope for snow and more snow, then more cold.
I am dogsitting Nacho, a former Iditarod dog, this weekend, so when I found a friend willing to try skijoring we set out from Fall Lake. The friend hadn’t skijored before. I thought of Nacho as a steady puller so she hooked up to him while I harnessed myself to my dog, Mantis.
There were several trucks already in the lot with dog boxes, meaning there were at least two teams already out on the trail. Another truck with a team pulled in just as we were filling out our BWCAW permit. This was a big ice-fishing weekend.
I think all of the sled dog activity reminded Nacho of his former life, and he was ready to pull. Sue scooted along behind him at a fast clip, trying to slow him down by holding a snowplow position, but the track was well worn and solid, not giving her much purchase. Once Mantis realized she wasn’t going to get the lead, she trotted along behind, happy to be out for an adventure.
I am sliding along behind my dog, Psycho Mantis. She’s trotting through 3 inches of powder and my weight’s drag on the skijoring rope is slowing her down while I work each mitten through the straps on my ski poles. Finally, I yank my hat down more firmly over my ears and pull my neck warmer up over my chin. “Thanks, Mantis. Now we can go.” I alternate between classic strides and double poling behind her. This is our first venture out onto Burntside Lake this season. Snowmobilers, snowshoers, and skiers have been braving the ice for several weeks now, giving me confidence that we won’t break through today.
Tracks lace the ice along the shoreline and I have to pay attention as Mantis chooses first a snowshoe track, then a snowmobile track, then back to snowshoe track as her trail. Sometimes she ignores them all and blazes her own way through the powder again. When she drops her nose to a set of deer prints that jump up into a jumble of boulders, I slide forward quickly to call her attention to a new direction. There is no quick release on my skijoring set up and I don’t want to do an uphill slalom on this shoreline.
The wind is sharp. I pull my hand out of my mitten to warm my cheeks a couple of times. Still, this is a good place to be. There are only a few hours left to this short winter day. Sunlight leaps off of the snow out in the channel and casts red light under the red pines at the end of an island. Small bays are blue with shadow but when we scoot out into a larger bay we find light glinting off of windblown ice. Without Mantis’ power, skiing this distance would have been a good work out for me and turning around an easy decision. Now I must gauge whether to turn back on other commitments.