Lutsen, Minn.: Rank 1 West of Lake Michigan, 1998


Lutsen may be the best New England-like ski resort outside of New England. In fact, it's been dubbed the "Killington of the Midwest." With trails off four peaks, Lutsen has all the ingredients of a good Eastern skiing experience: a solid vertical drop of more than 800 feet (by far the Midwest's highest); long, rock-ribbed trails flanked by birch and maple trees; and Mid-America's only gondola. Atop Moose Mountain, the views of Lake Superior fill half the horizon, the ski runs the other half. Lutsen is one of few Midwest resorts where you can feel that same delicious thigh-burn you get out West after a long, exhilarating run. It's the Northwoods, with a flannel shirt and wood-smoke atmosphere. But don't let the laid-back ambience fool you: Area lodging ranges from plush to casual, and dining experiences can border on the gourmet. If you want to step back into history, spend a night at Lutsen Lodge. The lodge dates back to the turn-of-the-century; it was built by the grandfather of 1976 Olympic medalist Cindy Nelson, whose parents once owned and operated Lutsen. The beautiful dining room, encased in soft wood tones, serves fresh lake trout and Minnesota wild rice soup.

What's New A three-quarter-mile mogul run on Moose Mountain, plus bathrooms and expansion of the Mountain Top Deli; additional tree skiing.
A Good Deal Two nights' lodging and two days' skiing for two at $99 per person, good anytime except holiday periods; (800) 360-7666.
High/Low Rank Challenge (1), Scenery (1), Snow Quality (2); Accessibility (18).
Don't Miss Reach the summit of Moose Mountain in the morning via Moose Access run instead of the gondola. It can save you 20 minutes on busy weekends.