Winter Tourism Heats up Ely Businesses

Out-of-Towners Discover Winter Sports in the Northwoods

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Ely is typically a tourist destination aimed at people wanting to rough it out in the Boundary Waters.

When the lakes freeze over and snow covers the untouched woods in the Boundary Waters, it’s a one of a kind sight that attracts a different kind of tourist to Ely.

You can find racks and racks of snow covered canoes, but it’ll be another few months until they’re able to get out on the water.

It takes a special kind of tourist to bundle up and take a winter trip all the way up to the Northwoods.

The locals say there are more people traveling north this time of year.

“It’s never going to be like summer,” said Steve Schon, a salesman at Piragis Outfitters. “More people are realizing that winter camping is a fun thing to do.”

The days are slowly getting longer and the sun is getting stronger, but the crisp Ely air remains cold.

“Right now we’ve got a lot of snow and we are getting calls from all over for people in search of snow,” said executive director of Ely Chamber of Commerce, Cherie Sonsalla.

“It’s more of a challenge and fun if there’s a couple feet of snow out there,” said Schon.

From snow shoes to cross country skis, Peragis Outfitters is renting out everything they’ve got nearly every weekend.

“No mosquitoes. No crowds,” laughed Schon. “The portages are nice and free and open.”

Thanks to events like Ely’s Winterfest, hotels are packed and businesses see it as a good thing.

“Last year we had tons of snow, but it was very hard to get out there and enjoy it when it’s below zero like it was,” said Sonsalla. “This year we’ve been lucky in the weather.”

It’s once in a lifetime experiences like dog sledding, and cross country skiing across a frozen lake that makes the cold bearable and a winter trip to Ely worth it.

“It is just awesome,” smiled Sonsalla. “Breathtaking scenery and fun activities.”

Ely locals say winter is still the slowest tourism season, but they’re happy to see more people bundling up and taking the trip to the Northwoods in below zero temperatures.

The Ely chamber expects strong tourism through the end of the winter season.

For more information on attractions in Ely, click here.

Categories: Community-imported, Weather-imported