Closed Businesses + Thousands Of Layoffs In ‘Worst Minnesota Winter Ever’
This mild winter in Minnesota has devastated many people who rely on winter activities for their business. I reached out to several resorts and winter-related businesses to see what impact the weather has had, and it's pretty grim for many.
Snowmobile rental companies hit hard.
Snowmobiling has been hit the hardest, with very little rideable snow or trails. Warm temperatures and rain have pretty much canceled the season. My friend Jason Barstow, owner of Timber Ghost Tours in Beavery Bay was forced to close the business. With no snow, he hasn't been able to rent snowmobiles. He'll be putting a different business in that building.
Pequaywan Inn and Restaurant last year invested in buying snowmobiles to rent out. They rely a lot on snowmobile traffic in the winter months for business. The restaurant is still open for business and offers great food.
Layoffs happening at resorts and restaurants.
Rachelle Christianson and her husband own Skyport Lodge & Raven Rock Grill.
The weak winter weather has forced them to implement across-the-board labor reductions. She said that they have regrettably had to lay off several essential staff members. Fortunately, they were still able to have some cross-country skiing and snowshoeing weather. Other places haven't been so lucky.
"Worst winter we ever had."
A manager of multiple hotels stretching from Duluth to Grand Marais said it's the worst winter they've ever had. They've had to lay off many employees because the business just isn't there. Rooms are sitting empty.
Tourists don't come without the snow.
I posted the question on a North Shore Facebook group, "How has this winter's crazy warm weather affected resorts and businesses in your area?"
Catharine Bliss mentioned that tourists don't come without snow.
Businesses have had to adapt to what they offer.
Sue commented that businesses up on the Gun Flint Trail have had to be creative in what they offer.
Stephanie Shea, co-owner of Borderland Lodge on the Gunflint Trail shared with me how they have had to adapt. It's only their second winter being open (previous owners closed during winter months.) They had to cancel a special dog sled weekend planned for February 10th.
Their lodge is on the Gunflint Lake and it's typically the last to freeze. This Christmas resort just ten miles down the road had ice, while they had open water shore-to-shore.
Stephanie did share a positive strategy they used. They have a forager coming in to provide education and lead guided foraging hikes. They're calling it a foraging weekend, and it takes the place of President's Day weekend. She says it sold out, and they're working on more weather-independent strategies and partnerships.
They also are teaming up with The Crooked Spoon to come and provide pop-up dinners reminiscent of their previous brick-and-mortar restaurant. They've also opened up their breakfasts on the weekend to the public when it was previously just for guests.
Should the State Of Minnesota help these businesses?
The state of Minnesota has bailed out resorts in the past when they have faced challenges. For example, when the walleye season was canceled on Mille Lacs, the state bailed out businesses. Should there be a fund set up for this so the state can aid? Or is it up to the business owners to plan for weather issues?
How can you help?
I also asked folks from resorts how people can help. They are still open, there are still incredible views of wildlife and Lake Superior. The food is still great, and it's a wonderful getaway regardless of the weather. Think of your favorite restaurants, resorts, and shops. See if they have online shopping and put in an order. Buy a gift certificate for a friend. Spend money, and help out these businesses hurting across the state.