Land company transforms Giants Ridge area (2024)

(Photo: Wynne Lake near Biwabik.)

Naterra Land is parceling off 2,000 acres on the east shores of Sabin and Wynne lakes for development of homesites—with covenants to protect the area’s natural beauty.

One year after Iron Range Resources announced a plan to attract nearly $1 billion worth of development in the Giants Ridge Recreation Area, the work of one of the largest stakeholders is taking shape.

Naterra Land has sold about two-thirds of the 209 lots it’s made available at Voyageurs Retreat, a housing development located along the eastern shores of Sabin and Wynne lakes in Biwabik. The company is selling the lots in phases, referring to each new grouping as a “settlement.”

Steve Giese, a vice president with the company, said the first 11 settlements comprise about half of the 2,000 acres the company owns and plans to develop. Most of the property was acquired from the Minnesota Power subsidiary of Allete for $3.35 million.

“We’ve sold 133 lots since we opened this thing,” Giese said. “Eighty-five percent of the lakeshore lots are sold out. We’ve sold them all on the south lake and we’re marching up the north lake. We really only have one more grand opening of lake lots left.”

What makes this housing development unique—in addition to its location, across the water from Giants Ridge Golf and Ski Resort—is Naterra Land’s commitment to preserve the area’s natural beauty. The company has established protective environmental covenants that require extended setbacks from the lake on all parcels, and limits the removal of trees.

Prices for the lots range from $33,950 and $229,950.

Naterra won’t build any homes, but has made infrastructure improvements like installing underground power lines, access roads, walking paths and boat landings. Each site has municipal water and sewer, and is wired for high-speed Internet.

Park spaces have been created between the settlements with docks, fishing piers, picnic tables, fire rings, and bike and canoe racks. The parks also allow lake access for inland residents.

There are seven miles of hiking and biking trails in the development, which will connect to the 132-mile Mesabi Bike Trail when that project is complete.

The first settlements at Voyageurs Retreat went on the market three years ago. Giese said sales have been better than expected.

“This was going to be a 7- to 10-year kind of deal,” he said. “We’re way ahead of schedule.”

Giese said most of the buyers are from the Twin Cities area, some looking for vacation properties and others for a place to retire. That makes the golf courses at Giants Ridge a major selling point.

“We’re obviously tying this into the whole Giants Ridge concept plan, trying to make the whole area a bigger success,” Giese said. “This project is different than most just because of its location and where we are. We kind of let the lake dictate what we do and how we do it.”

About 30 homes are either under construction or completed. Giese said buyers generally take a year to make a plan before building.

“We’re creating a community in there that feels very up-north and very rustic, but has a lot more of the amenities you’d expect out of home living,” he said. “In fact, having the sewer and water in a place like this actually helps the lake more than a lot of septic tanks and whatnot would. A lot of those things were taken into consideration when we put this project together.”

Although the U.S. housing market is weak and shows no signs it has hit bottom, Giese said that’s unlikely to impact the Voyageurs Retreat development.

“Fortunately, we’re in a special area,” he said. “The good news for us is it’s a pretty limited supply in a pretty popular area.”

Voyageurs Retreat is named after the voyageurs who portaged their canoes along the inlet of the Embarrass River and into the north end of Wynne Lake in the mid-1600s. The property hosts part of the Height of Land Portage, where the Continental Divide splits the watersheds of the Great Lakes and Hudson Bay.

Naterra Land is headquartered in Minneapolis, with seven branch offices in five states where it’s selling land: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia and Tennessee. Its Northeastern Minnesota office is in Brainerd; Wisconsin offices are in Minocqua, Spooner and Stevens Point.

Phil Taylor, the company’s president, started it in 1979 as Taylor Investment Corp. He entered the Giants Ridge scene in 1990 when he developed the Villas, the first lodging property within the recreation area.

Taylor Investment was unified with two other companies, Four Seasons Realty and Four Seasons Properties, and renamed Naterra Land in 2005.

Naterra is a combination of the words “nature” and “terra” (Latin for “earth”).

Taylor wasn’t available for this story. Giese was unsure of Naterra Land’s annual revenue or the total acreage it has under development nationwide. lists the company’s annual sales at $40 million; the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reported an estimated 14,000 acres were under development in 2005.

Naterra Land has about 100 employees. Giese is a former CEO of World Data Products, a Minnetonka-based provider of refurbished computer products. He’s been with Naterra Land for four years.

Useful Link: Naterra Land

Land company transforms Giants Ridge area (2024)


Who owns Giants Ridge ski area? ›

Giants Ridge is owned by the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB), a state of Minnesota economic development agency tasked with investing in and supporting opportunities that better the economy in northeastern Minnesota.

Why is Giants Ridge the most underrated ski area in the Midwest? ›

Iron Range landscapes, veteran management and a family focus make the Giants Ridge ski experience top-notch. The ski area at Giants Ridge in Biwabik, Minn., overlooks the Iron Range and a frozen Wynne Lake.

How many acres is Giants Ridge? ›

There are 202 acres (0.82 km2) skiable at Giants Ridge. The ski hill has 500 feet (150 m) of vertical drop. Giants Ridge often uses artificial snow for maintaining the slopes. There are 35 trails with 7 chairlifts.

How much snow does Giants Ridge get a year? ›

Mountain Stats

Average Annual Snowfall: 62 in. Vertical Rise: 500 ft. Trail Difficulty Breakdown: 33% Easiest.

What ski resort did Bruce Willis own? ›

A new 4,500-square-foot (420 m2) base lodge was constructed and Soldier Mountain reopened ten months later, on January 28, 2010. After nearly two decades of ownership, Willis donated it to a non-profit organization, "Soldier Mountain Ski Area, Inc", in 2012.

What ski area does Robert Redford own? ›

In 1969, Robert Redford bought the land now known as Sundance and envisioned the careful growth of a community committed to the balance of art, nature and community. Today, Sundance offers an atmosphere steeped in cultural heritage.

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Luxury Ski Resorts: Vast Vail

Aspen isn't the only globally renowned ski town in its neighbourhood – and for true lovers of the sport, it's not even the best. A short drive northeast brings you to the town of Vail, home to the largest ski resort in all of Colorado.

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In 2023, the ski outlet SnowBrains named Aspen the most expensive ski town in the US. Each winter, celebrities flock to the town to show off designer ski gear on the town's snowy slopes.

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Mount Bohemia – Extreme Skiing, Endless Adventure

Mount Bohemia in Michigan's Upper Peninsula has the longest runs with the highest vertical and deepest powder in the Midwest. This hidden secret is a true treasure for backcountry skiers & riders.

How many ski runs does Giants Ridge have? ›

Giants Ridge is Minnesota's award winning winter recreation area for family fun with 35 downhill runs, 7 lifts, 63 kilometers of world class Nordic trails, snowtubing, fat tire biking and snowshoeing.

What town is Giants Ridge in? ›

Giants Ridge is Minnesota's premier four-season family resort, located in Biwabik, Minnesota.

How many runs are at Giants Ridge? ›

The 35 trails that soar off the rocky crest offer some of the best cruising runs around the Great Lakes.

What is the snowiest big city in America? ›

Syracuse named snowiest city in U.S., 123.8 inches (314 cm) annually. Jay Peak Resort, 350 inches (890 cm) annually.

What is the snowiest mountain in the United States? ›

Top 5 snowiest Mountain ranges in North America
  1. Chugach Mountains, Alaska. Snowiest resort: Alyeska. ...
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What is the snowiest Colorado city? ›

The snowiest city in Colorado is Crested Butte with an average snowfall of 216.6 inches, though this is debateble. The least snowy city in Colorado is Grand Junction with an average snowfall of 15.8 inches.

What ski hills does Alterra own? ›

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SteamboatSteamboat Springs, ColoradoApril 10, 2017
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Mammoth Mountain is the leading four-season mountain destination in California. Owned by Alterra Mountain Company, Mammoth Mountain offers the Ikon Pass for ski and snowboard access to the mountain.

Who bought Big snow resort? ›

Duluth, Minnesota (August 29, 2022) – Charles Skinner, Jr. has completed the acquisition of the ski resort from Art Dumke. The purchase includes the two historic UP ski areas of Indianhead and Blackjack, plus restaurants, a hotel, and numerous guest service buildings.

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