As 37-mile ice road opens across Lake of the Woods, resorts hope for winter tourism boost

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Snowplows worked Thursday to clear the final stretch of the ice road across Lake of the Woods in northern Minnesota before it’s scheduled to open Friday morning at daylight.

"It’s kind of slow going, and a long way,” said Cale Alsleben, with Points North Services, who is working on a plow truck to clear the ice road. “It’s going a lot better this year than last year.”

The approximately 37-mile ice road runs from Springsteel Resort in Warroad up to Minnesota’s Northwest Angle and its resorts, which are landlocked by Canada and Lake of the Woods.

The Northwest Angle relies heavily on tourism, including fishing, which since 2020 has been affected by COVID-19 restrictions on the border.

"For some resorts, not all, bookings are down for the winter, I would say that’s because there’s a few more hurdles to get to the Northwest Angle," said Joe Henry, the executive director of the Lake of the Woods Tourism Bureau.

The Canadian border requires visitors to be vaccinated and have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours, Henry said.

The ice road provides another way for drivers to reach that section of Minnesota without having to first cross into Canada.

"It’s a great option to get up there and avoid customs," Henry said. "The road opening really opens up the Northwest Angle."

When the ice road opens on Friday, roundtrip prices will be $250 per vehicle and the resorts will be waiting to see if it will boost winter tourism.

The ice road opened last year when the entire border between countries was closed, but tourism officials said there was demand again this year for it to return.