Jim and Mary (along with Jim's brother and two other couples) originally bought 56 acres of land on Little Sugarbush Lake for use as recreational property. In 1973, they made the decision to move from Edina, MN, with their two children, Debbie and Jay, with the idea of making maple syrup, which they did for twelve years. At one time, Maplelag was one of the largest producers in Minnesota, producing over 400 gallons in one season. They ceased production in 1988, as the early sap runs conflicted with the ski season as some of the trails were used for both purposes.
Adjacent land parcels were purchased over the ensuing years, so now the majority of the ski and snowshoe trails are on land which is owned by Maplelag Resort, totaling close to 660 acres. Part of the trail system is also on state, county, or privately owned land which is either leased or through which there is an easement.
Lodging began in 1974, at the suggestion of another maple syrup producer who asked if he could bring a group of friends and rent the Sugarhouse. It seemed like a great way to supplement the sugaring income. Flyers were printed and another business was created! The following year the interior of two small log saunas, which had previously been moved to Maplelag, were renovated and were also rented. At this point, guests brought their own food and it was similar to winter camping. Now, Maplelag has grown considerably and can accommodate up to 200 guests in a variety of unique, yet comfortable, accommodations.
Maplelag started hosting the Concordia College Language Village programs in 1976. Russian, Swedish, Chinese, Finnish, French and Spanish Villages have all been hosted throughout the years. However, Spanish is the only language that has been on site since 1996. So, for eleven weeks in the summer, Maplelag is shut down as a cross country ski resort and conference center and the entire facility transforms into "El Lago Del Bosque". We feel that having a dual purpose enriches both endeavors and we are constantly building and upgrading our facilities to meet the needs of both.
Jay, his wife Jonell and their three year old son, Jake, moved back to Maplelag in April of 1997. They had been working at Izaak Walton Inn which is located in Essex, MT. Their family has now grown to include sons Jon and Jack and the new additon Jens and the family dog, Lucky. They each have their own unique contribution to the operation of Maplelag. Their home is located across from the cabooses.
At Maplelag there are no TV’s, video games or phones in the rooms, providing a wonderful sense of isolation from the outside world. Imagine yourself with your family or friends putting together a jigsaw puzzle, playing a favorite board game or just “catching up with each other”. And, the new lodge is full of little nooks and crannies just waiting to be discovered. At Maplelag, it isn’t all about cross-country skiing. We offer a variety of ways to relax and enjoy your time with us. So, however you choose to spend your time, Maplelag is the perfect place to make magical memories.
Wildlife Observations Maplelag is located on the edge of prairie pothole country, just fifteen minutes from the Tamarack National Wildlife Refuge and less than an hour from Itasca State park, making bird and animal watching a favorite past time. In the spring and fall we see migrations of many species of birds, especially waterfowl and song birds. Summer provides Little Sugarbush Lake with a great resident loon population as well as a nesting area for blue herons, eagles and trumpeter swans. During the winter months we put out sunflower seeds and cracked corn at various locations on the ski trails. You never know who will be out with their eyes on you!
Ski instruction is offered to all levels of ability. If you have never skied before, Maplelag is a great place to learn how to ski. We go out of our way to make sure people are comfortable with this new adventure and will want to come back for more. Top level instruction in classic, skate and telemark technique and racing/training.
We have Fischer skis in our rental shop, offering the “traditional” touring ski as well as top of the line track and skating ski. Complementing the rental fleet will be the reliable and warmest boot on the market, Alpina boots. Ski Rental package is $15 for the day and $10 each day after.
We have the “Glacier” snowshoe in our rental fleet which is made locally here in Minnesota. We also carry the Little Bear brand of snowshoes and the traditional Ojibiwe style snowshoe. If you are interested in snowshoeing at Maplelag, it is best to bring a Sorel type winter boot or you can rent ski boots.
The Fall of 2006, Maplelag added a new ice skating rink complete with a warming house that has the old barrel stove for great warmth to take off the chill on a brisk day. The rink is located in the switchyard and has become a popular place for all ages to enjoy skating. Not having the “rink” on the lake, we are able to control the surface conditions much better and the unique situation provides protection windy days. We have odd and end sizes of skates available to use at no charge but if you have your own skates, best to bring those. We are also taking donations for the warming house if you have any extra skates you are not using.
Just behind the cabins at Maplelag we have an area we call the “back bowl”. This area has been a hit with kids as we have sleds available to use at no charge and kids (and adults) can make runs up and down the slopes. There usually is a small jump that gets built on the side for some added excitement. At the bottom and off to the side is a flat area that has worked out great for ski lessons.
Maplelag has two fish houses available for your use, if you are interested (advance notice is appreciated). Record breaking walleyes have been caught just in front of the lodge. A Minnesota fishing license is required.