Winter Driving in Duluth

Hello from Chicago-ish. We (my wife and I, 50s, no kids, two dogs, one cat) will be moving to Duluth in December, just in time for winter. I’ll be working near the airport, and my wife works from home. We intend to live in Duluth, not Hermantown, Esko, Proctor or Superior.

I have been up there once, scouting the lay of the land and looking at a few houses. I’ve read every word on this site about neighborhoods, “safe” vs. “unsafe” areas, etc. What I really need to know is this: when the roads are bad, is it easier to drive to the airport from, for example, Denfeld than from, for example, Chester Park/UMD? Or vice versa?



Paul Lundgren

about 8 years ago

In general, I don't think it will make much difference where you are coming from  on the way to the airport area. There are routes from all neighborhoods that will work about the same. What matters is if there are hills within a few blocks of where you buy a house, because you can't avoid those.


about 8 years ago

I know it seems like a non sequitur but the answer to your question is a Subaru.

Special K

about 8 years ago

I live in Denfeld and would definitely pick there over the UMD/Chester Park area.  Either way you have to deal with some hills, but up there you have the added annoyances of traffic and awkward intersections and crowding.  From Denfeld, the airport is a straight shot up Haines/40th.

Nick L

about 8 years ago

Welcome to Duluth! Despite some gripes, Duluth does a good job clearing streets in bad weather. You can pick any neighborhood and get to the airport area. 

It's easiest to get there if you live near a DTA bus route because those tend to be cleared first and more frequently.  

Employers up here are understanding when weather is bad. I've never seen or heard of any coworker catch grief because they came in late on a bad weather morning. Often, the managers are caught in the same mess.


about 8 years ago

I disagree with Special K: if you're in the UMD/Chester area, you're already pretty much at the top of the hill. At that point, you just have to stick to main streets and you'll be fine. Getting to the bottom of Haines/40th would be just as difficult as getting anywhere in the UMD/Chester area.

And in answer to the Subaru comment, not all Subarus are 4 wheel drive, but any car can be significantly improved with the application of snow tires. (So while I wish I had 4wd some days, I'm happy enough with my snows.)


about 8 years ago

I think it would be easiest living very near Arrowhead Road (Woodland, Hunter's Park, or Duluth Heights). And yeah, a Subaru is how I get places.

Dawn Marie

about 8 years ago

Or if you're a tad further west of the Denfeld area, Highland to Stebner is also a straight shot and looks less like you're about to go over the edge of a cliff than Haines/40th.  That's the route I have taken for many years now, I too work by the airport, and have not yet experienced any issues from weather affecting my commute (then again I am of the chosen few who love winter driving).  

Wherever you end up, good luck and welcome to the area.


about 8 years ago

Snow tires > Subaru


about 8 years ago

Snow tires + any AWD/4WD vehicle is an amazing combination. But yes, snow tires are one of the few purchases that will actually help you stop faster. That's far more important than being able to romp through snow.


about 8 years ago

I learned to drive in Kalamazoo, MI. You'll be totally fine.

I moved here from Columbus, Ohio and drive a 1999 Honda Accord and a minivan. Honestly? There's like 1 day every year, if we're lucky, that it's tricky to drive. Turns out the snow that stays snow vs. melts like Chicago + Kzoo, is easier to drive in. 

My former next door neighbor pointed out that I should know the routine:  as soon as the snow emergency route is plowed, move the car there. If the church is plowed first --> move to the church lot. And make a donation to the church for plowing their parking lot.  I suggest you pick a neighborhood with a similar pact and don't worry about it.


about 8 years ago

I have never had an issue navigating West Duluth/Denfeld to Arrowhead using Stebner Road (used to drive a Jetta).  Stebner was seemingly always cleared quickly, and didn't have the same steep grading that you would find on Mesaba (and maybe even Piedmont).

Most issues reported in the news seem to be a little more east on Piedmont/Mesaba/and any of the Avenues in Downtown Duluth.

I hope you enjoy the Northland!


about 8 years ago

Scotty O, I too work from home and my my hubby works at UMD. We moved to Duluth 8 years ago from Madison and are in the Hunters Park area and love it! We like being on top of the hill so we get more snow and earlier spring than next to the lake/river...slightly longer growing season. Driving isn't a big deal as others have said, but hubby drives a Subaru and I put off errands until the plows have been out. Working from home can be a challenge in a city as spread out as Duluth, as it's harder to meet/make a circle of friends. Also there is a bit of limited housing available at this time, I believe. Would love to meet your wife!


about 8 years ago

It all depends on if you like living near college kids or near a paper mill that can have a certain smell. As a person who didn't grow up here, but dreamed of it, I really wanted to see the lake from my house. Park Point can be impossible to get out of most of the year, but the winter is good. Endion/East End Duluth is great, but below 2nd Street can be hell sometimes to get up and down in the winter. The hills on Observation Hill have great views, but again, you live on a steep hill. Once  you are up the hill driving is fine.

The city needs to do something about 21st Avenue East near McDonald's - or at the very least salt and plow it better, but that area can be brutal in the winter. I've never had 4-wheel/All-Wheel Drive, or snow tires, but you learn that sometimes a curb can be your best friend. Then some college kid slides right into your car. Check for off-street parking as that can be a pain as well.

If ice hits we are all not getting to work, but like someone else said, that isn't very often. Snow is pretty easy, but I had someone cross the center line on Arrowhead and if I hadn't swerved I wouldn't be here today. No place is truly safe, but you learn to go slow and find a cheap body shop. Good luck!

Jim Turchi

about 8 years ago

Life's too short to drive a Subaru (I hate CVTs). Any AWD vehicle, and if you are smart, an extra set of wheels with winter tires is awesome! Kenwood, Hunters Park or Woodland would be convenient to the airport.

Scotty O

about 8 years ago

Thank you all for the excellent information. We have an AWD Durango, which has served us well in Chicago winters with the stock tires, but the land is pretty flat here. It sounds like we'd be good to go with a set of winter wheels/snow tires. I used to drive a RWD Grand Marquis, and it was actually a decent winter vehicle with a set of cop car steelies from the junkyard and a good set of snows.

As far as where to live is concerned, it seems like maybe we shouldn't sweat the neighborhood too much. That works for me, because I keep finding houses I like all over town. We are beyond excited to be moving up there; we've both had about enough of Chicago for one lifetime.

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