Many people say ABR is a funny name for a ski resort. I suppose that’s true. ABR stands for Active Backwoods Retreat. And despite its unusual acronym name, USA Today readers rated it the fourth-best cross-country ski resort in the nation in 2019. That’s pretty high praise!
I first learned about ABR a few years back, during a snowshoeing and skiing trip in the Porcupine Mountains, aka the Porkies. The Porkies are in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, as is ABR. One of the ski shop dudes said if we enjoyed skiing and snowshoeing in the Porkies, we should check out ABR in Ironwood. “The owners are grooming fanatics,” he said. “Their trails are always in phenomenal shape.”
Checking Out ABR
Well, who can resist perfectly groomed ski trails? Not me. So when the time was right for a trip to the U.P., Ed and I drove on up. Ironwood is several hours from our home in southern Wisconsin. By the time we got to ABR, it was mid-afternoon. So we decided our first order of business was to snowshoe. We’d save the entire next day for skiing.
Now, we’re not snowshoeing novices. But we’ve never encountered anything like this. The trails here weren’t groomed per se, but there were very defined paths. Signs and colored ribbons showed you which way to go. The paths wound through some of the most beautiful winter wonderland around. That’s thanks in part to the fact that this particular slice of the U.P. gets 200 to 300 inches (508-762 cm) of snow every winter.
But if you’re going to snowshoe here, know this: the trails are somewhat difficult. Be prepared for lots of hills!
This year, we stayed overnight at an AirBnB home in Ironwood. Coincidentally, the owner (Jackie) is also employed at ABR! But normally when we come to Ironwood, we stay at the AmericInn. Both places are great.
Anyway, the next day we arrived late morning. The owners had finished their daily grooming by 9 a.m. and the trails were in pristine condition. Even though the parking lot was packed, we felt we had the entire place to ourselves. That’s because the owners designed the trails to be separate from one another.
Once again, the scenery was phenomenal. When we took a lunch break in the spacious and well-appointed warming cabin, the owner noted that the trails weren’t really rated accurately. Many that said “more difficult” really were fairly easy and just had one difficult stretch. Then he personalized a route for us that turned out to be amazing.
A Return Is Guaranteed
So now Ed and I know where we’ll be skiing and snowshoeing every winter: ABR! If you have the chance, check it out. You won’t be disappointed.
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