TBT: Duluth's Oldest Tourist Attraction, How It Helped Form a Ski Resort, & How You Can Ski It Today
The Skyline Parkway is an iconic byway located on the western shores of Lake Superior and is considered to be the oldest tourist attraction in Duluth, Minnesota. But did you know that this Parkway helped found a ski resort, and you can even ski/ride parts of the original road today?
The Skyline Parkway Today:
Skyline Parkway stretches over twenty-five miles along the western shores of Lake Superior. It offers breathtaking views of Lake Superior and the Saint Louis River. In addition, the Parkway has multiple scenic overlooks and historical sites along the route. This includes the Magney-Snively Natural area (an 1800-acre old-growth forest), Enger Tower (an 80-foot observation tower built-in 1939), and, of course, Spirit Mountain but more on that later.
The History of the Byway/Parkway:
The Parkway has a history that dates back to the late 19th century. The road was a vision of William Rodger, who was Duluth's first park board president, and construction started in 1889. Rogers thought it would be an excellent attraction for the city and would highlight its unique topography.
After two years, the Parkway saw its first of many completed sections. It was a three-mile stretch running from Chester Creek to Miller's Creek. Over the next forty-plus years, the Parkway would continue to grow in length under several individuals, but one of the most influential was Samuel Snively. Snively donated what is now known as Seven Bridges Road back in 1890.
When Snively became mayor in 1921, he pushed for the western expansion of the Parkway and eventually helped complete the project that now stretched to Fond Du Lac. In 1929, the seven separate sections of the boulevard were dedicated and named "Skyline Parkway." Over his next several years in office, Snively would continue to build roads to better connect the Skyline Parkway, before he left office in 1937.
Spirit Mountain and The Parkway's Importance:
In the mid-seventies, the city of Duluth began exploring ideas to entice residents and tourists outside during the wintertime. A ski resort was proposed, and the city got to work planning this new resort. When deciding on a location, developers took a drive down Skyline Parkway and thought this area (just southwest of the zoo) was a perfect spot for a ski resort.
After the government approved funding, construction started in 1974, but one problem had to be addressed: the Skyline Parkway ran right through the middle of where the proposed ski runs would go. So the team went to work re-routing the Skyline Parkway to its current location, which runs up and over the resort so the ski runs would be unobstructed.
Skiing/Riding Over & On The Original Skyline Parkway Today:
After the ski resort opened in 1974, this original section of the Skyline Parkway has been long forgotten. However, you can still see it (and even ski it) if you know it is there. The old section of the Parkway starts in the North parking lot and runs across the entire ski hill. The path is still maintained as a maintenance road, and if you look at summer photos, you can see where the once section of Parkway reconnects with the current Skyline Parkway.
That said, every run downhill of Spirit's Upper Mountain lodge crosses over the original section of the Skyline Parkway. So next time you're skiing or riding at Spirit, be sure to check out the stretch of road that helped form Spirit Mountain.
Until winter skiing begins, fall is the perfect time to take a drive on the Skyline Parkway! If you want to learn more about this iconic stretch of road, check out their website at www.duluthmn.gov/parks/parks-listing/skyline-parkway
Or check out Spirit Mountain's website at www.spiritmt.com