Finally, snow! Minnesota’s north country celebrates March storm

Two people hold dogs in the snow
Mariah Christiansen (left) and David Baldus took their dogs Beans and Inga for a ski at Chester Bowl in Duluth on Monday during a snowstorm.
Dan Kraker | MPR News

The biggest winter storm of the season slammed the Brainerd Lakes area, Duluth and the North Shore of Lake Superior Monday, dropping nearly a foot of heavy snow in places, with more still falling. The storm closed schools and caused dangerous travel conditions. It also provided a last dose of winter fun that many people longed for.

At Chester Park on Duluth’s hillside, Rachael Kresha waded through deep snow, her puppy bounding behind her.

“We’re surrounded by cedar trees and pine trees and just all the branches are covered with this thick layer of snow and it just looks like a painting. You can hear the wind, but you don’t feel the sting on your face. And there’s just that wonderful crunch, crunch of the snow, and I just feel like I’m a kid again.”

A professional musician, Kresha has lived in Duluth for about 20 years. This is the storm she’s been waiting for.

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

“I love the challenge of it. And I just love how it just shifts everything and you have your winter routine, and your winter mindset. And we’ve all been feeling a little off, and so now we finally got our winter experience,” Kresha said.

Nearby Mariah Christensen and David Baldus hiked up the Chester Bowl ski slope, and skied back down, their dogs chasing them from behind.

“It’s slow skiing, but that makes it kind of fun and playful,” said Baldus. “It looks like midwinter, even though it’s the end of March, snow’s up on all the trees. Dogs are all wet. Everyone’s having a great time.”

A few blocks down the hillside, Ben Pelerin shoveled the concrete-like snow off his sidewalk. Lift from the legs, he recommended.

Pelerin had the day off — the first snow day of the school year in Duluth.

“I’m just glad that we’re getting some moisture because it’s been so incredibly dry,” the middle school choir teacher said. “And yeah, just you know, find a way to enjoy it. It’s gonna happen one way or another.”

Snowy woods
Chester Creek in Duluth, shown on Monday after a major snow storm dumped nearly a foot of snow on the region.
Dan Kraker | MPR News

Officials with the U.S. Forest Service and Minnesota DNR earlier said that wildfire conditions were running about two months ahead of normal.

MPR News meteorologist Sven Sundgaard said this snowfall will help.

“The liquid equivalent in all this snow, now over an inch in the Twin Cities, and there are some spots closing in on an inch and a half of water in southern Minnesota. And we were behind by an inch or two year-to-date precipitation,” Sundgaard said. “We’re wiping out some of those deficits in parts of the state. So I think we're going to see a much improved drought monitor come Thursday.”

This storm means Duluth will not see a record for the least snowy winter. Still, the lack of snow has hurt small businesses across northern Minnesota that rely on spending from snowmobilers, skiers and other winter enthusiasts.

Peter McClelland owns White Wilderness Sled Dog Outfitters outside Isabella. He told Minnesota Now that he lost 60 percent of his typical business. The new snow may be too little, too late.

“You know we’re going to try to run a trip on Friday, but generally speaking, these late snowfalls aren’t that useful, because usually no matter what the winter is, by the time you’re hitting April, people are done with winter. So even if your conditions are great, they don’t show up for it,” McClelland said.

Even as the storm relents, National Weather Service Meteorologist Woody Unruh in Duluth said cold overnight temperatures mean the snow should stick around for a while.

“At least for the next week, it definitely will start melting, it’s not going to be likely disappearing entirely at least for the foreseeable future.”

Which means even if some people are done with winter, winter is not done with northern Minnesota.