Winter adventure on a budget
At non-profit lodges, you can go to the dogs, or wolves, at bargain prices.
© Beth Gauper
A skier enjoys a trail in Minnesota.
In winter, it's hard to find a lodge getaway that fits every budget.
Lodges that offer skiing on groomed trails, wood-fired saunas and home-cooked meals aren't cheap.
But if you'd like to try those things — and be greeted by a plate of warm chocolate-chip cookies afterward — you have a friend in environmental learning centers.
These non-profit centers are the low-cost Club Meds of the north woods, offering all-inclusive weekend packages that include lodgings, meals and winter fun — cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, even wolf-tracking and sled-dog mushing.
Here are some great budget adventures in 2017.
Dog mushing on the Gunflint Trail
In the northeast corner of Minnesota, the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness offers an annual Winter Weekend of mushing, skiing and snowshoeing out of Camp Menogyn on the central Gunflint Trail Jan. 13-16.
Cost is $195 for adults and $100 for children 12 and younger. Register by Jan. 8.
Youths ages 12-18 can go to Winter Camp Dec. 27-30. Cost is $275.
Groups can rent the camp for a weekend of their choice. They'll be greeted by cookies, served meals in the cozy lodge and allowed to mush dogs on the lake. The bigger the group, the lower the price.
Running with wolves in Ely
In the northern Minnesota town of Ely, the International Wolf Center is offering Wine, Women and Wolves: Northwoods Winter March 3-5, based in rustic cabins at the Northern Tier High Adventure Canoe Base.
Activities include dog-mushing, wolf-tracking and snowshoeing. Cost is $250, $225 for members.
© Beth Gauper
A guest at Camp Menogyn mushes her own dog-sled team.
More adventure in Ely
North of Ely, on the North Arm of Burntside Lake, the YMCA's Camp du Nord offers many family and adult weekends in winter, all featuring outdoors sports and use of the camp's wood-fired sauna next to the lake.
Women's Ski & Snowshoe Retreats are Jan. 26-29 and Feb. 23-26. Cost is $305.
A Winter Couples Getaway is March 9-12. Cost is $400-$500 per couple.
Becoming an Outdoorswoman in three states
BOW workshops are offered year-round by state DNRs. Costs include lodgings, meals and gear unless noted.
In eastern Minnesota, Audubon Center of the North Woods is hosting the Becoming an Outdoorswoman Winter Workshop Jan. 27-29.
Activities include dog mushing, cross-country skiing, snowshoe biathlon, dark-house fishing and outdoor survival. Cost is $190 plus an extra $60 for mushing.
In north-central Wisconsin, Treehaven, a natural-resources center operated by the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point between Tomahawk and Rhinelander, also is offering a Becoming an Outdoorswoman Winter Workshop, Feb. 17-19.
Activities include dog mushing, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, bow-hunting, winter survival, trapping and kayaking. Cost is $399.
On the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a Beyond BOW Ski/Fish/Snowshoe Workshop Jan. 20-22 is based in Munising, with snowshoeing across the bay to the Grand Island ice caves or along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Cost is $150, including lodging and one meal. Participants bring their own gear.
Northwest of Marquette, a BOW Winter Workshop will be held at Bay Cliff Health Camp Feb. 24-26.
Activities include dog sledding, skijoring, winter camping, winter biking and geocaching as well as skiing, snowshoeing and fishing. Cost is $195.
© Wolf Ridge
At Wolf Ridge, guests brave the high-ropes course year-round.
Tracking wolves in Wisconsin
The Timber Wolf Information Network organizes Winter Wolf Ecology workshops at nature centers around Wisconsin. Register in advance.
At Beaver Creek Reserve east of Eau Claire, it's Jan. 28-29. Cost is $70, plus $13 for lodgings.
At the Sandhill Outdoor Skills Center west of Wisconsin Rapids, it's Feb. 4-5. Cost is $90, including lodgings and two meals, plus $20 for Friday night, too.
At Treehaven near Tomahawk, it's Jan. 14-15. Cost is $165, including lodgings and four meals.
For more on ELCs in Minnesota, see Minnesota's environmental learning centers.
Would you like to create your own winter weekend adventure? For more about inexpensive group lodges, see Cabins for a crowd.