Minnesota Author

A Winter Day in Lanesboro

So quiet you can hear a snowflake land.

We often hear a question at our B &B breakfast table that surprises us. We’ll be sitting there on a sunny warm morning and someone will ask: “What is Lanesboro like in the winter?” “Quiet,” I answer. “Very quiet. But beautiful, too. Almost like an entirely different place.”

If warm-weather Lanesboro seems hidden, then winter shelters this place even deeper. Blessed are those who find it. It’s harder to get here and slower to move around in once you arrive. But totally worth it. Imagine a finely crafted snow-globe with a little village inside. Now see yourself walking around inside that snow-globe. That is Lanesboro in winter.

I’m writing this on a wintry January morning while looking out the third-floor window-nook of our Brooklyn neighborhood home. A large weather system stretching from Wyoming to western Wisconsin just dumped 6” of new snow here overnight. It feels more like a March storm, though. The snow is wet and heavy and is sticking to evergreen trees and houses like thick vanilla frosting….

Plows were out early this morning. Streets have been cleared, salt has been spread. Schools are closed, which is rare for here. I’ll need to shovel our sidewalk and porch steps later. Not my favorite thing in the world. But there’s much to enjoy in a day like this, too.

Winter in Lanesboro
Winter in Lanesboro

Let’s face reality. This is Minnesota. Winter can be harsh here. Snowstorms clog streets. Driving can be hazardous. (Especially on the steep grades of County Road 8 or on Church Hill). So can walking. Just ask our neighbor, Nancy, who went out to walk her dog last week, a pretty ordinary thing to do, hit an ice patch, and returned home with a broken wrist. Piercing wind chills that can hit 30 and 40 below bring on ice-cream headaches. Winters here can be draining and drag on far too long. Some Lanesboro snow-birds we know are enjoying breakfast this morning next to a sparkling pool in Florida. No shoveling for them today. Lucky people. But they’re missing something, too. Something very special.

What is Lanesboro like in the winter? So quiet you swear you can hear those snowflakes land. Downtown shops and restaurants reduce their hours. Many are already closed for the season. The Commonweal Theater stage lies dark until mid-April. There aren’t as many reasons to be in Lanesboro in the winter as in other seasons. If you do make your way here, you’ll have the place pretty much to yourself. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. A snowy winter day + a fireplace + a good book = a pretty great day, don’t you think?

You can get outside. Bundle up, be brave (and careful), go for a walk on a crisp, star-filled night. It can feel other-worldly. If it’s below-zero cold the snow crunches under each step. In the distance you might hear the muffled scrapping of someone clearing a driveway or chopping patches of stubborn ice. Winter often seems to be winning, but that’s fine. Surrender and enjoy.

Lanesboro residents make the most of winter. Locals find morning coffee and news at the Pastry Shop or the Cracked Egg. Cross-country skiers hit the trail. Lanesboro School elementary kids still get outside at recess, sliding down Sylvan Park hills in scenes from a Grandma Moses painting. Snow sculpture contests, candlelight skis, and St. Mane concerts create popular gathering places. “Turkey bowling” took over Parkway Avenue one February night a few winters ago. Chili feeds and potlucks warm people up, too. Commuters work from home if possible. There’s frequent talk about expanding Lanesboro’s tourist season to make it more year-round. That may happen. Until then, winter life goes on, and people enjoy the quiet in their own ways.

Winter slows and shooshes people in Lanesboro, another gift in a noisy world. Sure, we’re glad when green stalks of rhubarb push up through the snow and the “Opening April 1st” sign appears in the window of “Another Time” ice cream shop. But let’s not rush it.

Just now outside my window a crimson-red cardinal landed on our bird feeder. Top that, summer biker friends. I love the warm weather, too. I look forward to having you all back, along with the fun on Lanesboro streets and trails. But when all that returns, a part of me will actually miss the comforting isolation that winter creates here.

Time to get back to shoveling? Yes, I’ll bundle up and do it. All pleasures have a price. But…it can wait. Time for one more marshmallow in the hot chocolate. What’s winter like in Lanesboro? Quiet, very quiet. Almost like an entirely different place.

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Steve Harris

Steve Harris is a freelance writer and the author of two books, “Lanesboro, Minnesota,” and “Dads Like Us: A Survival Guide for Fathers Raising a Child with Disabilities.” A graduate of Bethel College & Seminary, he and his wife, Sue, live in Minnesota.

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