On Trail in Minnesota

  |  Gorp.com
Igloos and snow-built yurts are the four-star hotels of the winter woods - they're warmer and drier than tents.
Gimme shelter!

In the meantime, the troop was in the midst of a crash course in mushing—I'd arrived to find five girls running around the lodge's circular drive, hooked up to a sled, and yapping like Inuit dogs, in an effort to simulate events to come. The exercise was meant to reinforce the four essentials of mushing that Julia, the red-haired resident dog handler, wanted us to memorize: Pay attention, use the brake, keep your line of dogs taut, and if the dogs fight, let Julia, rather than you, get in their faces.

Next up on the day's itinerary was a skiing skills course taught, appropriately, by Schurke's 14-year-old daughter Bria, who was going along as a quasi-guide/camper with the Girl Scouts. A cross-country ski racer with a blonde braid sticking out of either side of her wool hat, Bria schooled us in the finer points of skiing, things she had probably learned as a two-year-old: how to untangle ourselves after face-planting in the snow; how to snow-plow down hills; and eventually, how to kick and glide across the ice.

Surprisingly, after three hours in five-degree temperatures, not one of the girls lodged any complaints about numb fingers, toes, cheeks, or noses. This seems to bear out Schurke's philosophy of dealing with the deep freeze: Winter, he harps, is something to be embraced, not feared. “I try to make it fun [for clients] and establish that attitude immediately,” says Schurke. “Far and away the most common response when people leave here is, 'Geez, I really was afraid of winter, but I learned how to stay warm and had a lot of fun.'” Easy for Schurke to say—the man's core body temperature must hover somewhere around freezing. But one of the reasons Wintergreen has been so successful, other than Schurke's own stellar resume, is because Schurke's approach to winter is not just an exercise in survival.


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