Spring Rush at the Resorts

Multi-tasking before the first guests arrive

If you own a resort, spring cleaning is…well, a rite of spring. Once the snow melts, resort owners have a short window to get their entire operation in shipshape before the first guests arrive for the fishing season opener. Opening a resort for the season is a formidable task.

“I tend to put it out of my mind for four months in the winter,” says Paul Del Pino, owner of Dog Lake Resort in Kaministiquia, Ont. “I need 20 days to get open and Nature usually gives me about 14 days.”

When spring arrives, he rolls up his sleeves and gets to work. One of the first things he does is turn on the water and find all of the leaks in the lines.

“Nothing is ever perfect,” Del Pino says.

Water is essential to many of the spring tasks, especially the big one—cleaning all cabins, rooms and the lodge. Resorters interviewed for this story agreed it takes a full day just to clean one cabin. Walls, ceilings, bathrooms and windows are thoroughly scrubbed. Carpets are cleaned. Floors are cleaned and waxed. All bedding must be washed. Curtains are washed and ironed. Stoves, refrigerators and furnaces are cleaned and tested to make sure they are in working order. Screens are cleaned and repaired. Chimneys are swept. Painting is done as necessary.

“We have 26 structures on our property, so just think of what you do for deep cleaning your home and multiply,” says Dan Baumann at Golden Eagle Resort on the Gunflint Trail. Because Golden Eagle is a year-round operation, Baumann is simultaneously putting away his winter gear, including a Snow Cat, equipment for grooming ski trails and “all of the snow shovels.”

While cleaning, resort owners can’t forget about day-to-day tasks, such as answering phone calls and emails, because spring is also when many guests make their bookings. In some areas, cell phone coverage is weak or nonexistent.

Bob Baker moving a dock. | SHARI BAKER

“I don’t have a cell phone in my pocket,” says Shari Baker of Gunflint Pines on the Gunflint Trail. “If you miss a phone call, they don’t call back later, they just call someone else.”

Baker says marketing tasks are part of her spring preparations, from dusting off the gift items for sale in the lodge to attending a gift show, printing brochures and ordering groceries. Resorters must also make sure they have all of the necessary licenses, certificates and inspections they need to be in business.

Outside, many other chores await. Docks must be put in the lake. Boats and canoes must be cleaned and readied for summer rental. Outboard motors and fishing graphs are tested to ensure they are in working order. All other motorized equipment from power generators—essential at an off-the-grid location like Dog Lake—to lawnmowers and ATVs are fired up as well.

Yard work includes clearing brush, raking around cabins, lodges and beaches and putting fresh wood chips on dirt paths. Baumann also plants 400 trees each spring and checks up on the trees he planted in previous years. Del Pino grades the road leading to the resort and steams frozen culverts as necessary.

Getting so much work done in such a short amount of time requires a lot of man-hours­—before the summer help has arrived. Del Pino gets some assistance from family members. The Baumanns generally have at least five folks on hand, including themselves and two staff members. The Bakers have some assistance from family as well. In the past, they have sponsored “work weekends” where guests could help out during a four-hour Saturday work session.

“If we had 10 people show up for a work weekend, that was 40 hours for us,” Baker said.

Spring is also a time to tackle big projects, like remodeling jobs. At Golden Eagle Lodge, this year’s project is making 10 new cedar deck chairs for the cabins. They were able to get an early start on the job, because the resort has a heated shop. Still, every resort owner interviewed agreed with an observation from Del Pino, who said, “I never get to start and finish a project.”

Too soon, it seems, the guests begin to arrive, full of anticipation of fun and fishing. While guests may appreciate all of the hard work that went into opening the resort for the season, they also expect everything they are paying for to be ready to go—from hot showers in the cabins to a rental boat and a bucket of minnows waiting at the dock. For resort owners, now the real work begins—taking care of their customers. This means being friendly, cheerful and available around the clock until the resort closes in the fall.

“I don’t get a good night’s sleep for seven months,” says Del Pino. “I just have a chair in the lodge that I sleep in.”

Clearly, owning a resort is as much about enjoying a lifestyle as it is owning a business.

This story was originally published in the April 2014 issue of Northern Wilds. 

Please follow and like us:


By Shawn Perich