Skiers, Snowboarders Excited to Hit the Reopened Spirit Mountain Slopes

After a summer spent closed, Spirit Mountain reopened Thanksgiving weekend and was filled with excited guests.

DULUTH, Minn- Spirit Mountain reopened Friday after months closed due to financial woes caused by both the coronavirus pandemic and past financial struggles, and Northland winter sport lovers couldn’t wait to get back on the slopes.

“We get this every winter,” Co-Director of Resort Services Jon Regenold said. “This is normal every winter, skiers and boarders are ready to get back on snow.”

And this winter they’re even more ready, after a summer where the adventure park was completely shut down. “Here I think there’s even more of a positive vibe because of the opportunity to be outside,” said Regenold.

At the start of the pandemic, Spirit Mountain laid off all most all of its staff to help eliminate any further cash constraints on the attraction. It did not qualify for federal relief as a business because it is government-owned and operated.

An Interim Director is in place at Spirit Mountain, after the former director and General Manager — a husband and wife team — abruptly resigned without any public reasons.

Duluth City Council approved $74,000 to hire a consulting firm to look deeper into the finances of Spirit Mountain. The Spirit Mountain Task Force, led by Councilors Arik Forsman and Janet Kennedy, will come out with a report of recommendations about the recreation area in February.

But the clearing to open came in September when Council voted to use more than $300,000 from the city’s hotel, motel, food and beverage taxes to pay back most of the $340,000 the Mountain spent over the past few years on improvements for its lift system, snow-making machines, and the alpine coaster.

With that financial boost the park was able to reopen Thanksgiving weekend. The scrapes and bumps of equipment on slick snow filled the slopes.

“We’re bringing a lot of smiles to the hill and it’s good it’s really good to be back open and to have the sports that we love, the people that we love back out here enjoying their time with us,” Regenold said.

The mountain started off this winter with a weekend just for season pass holders. And like other businesses, “we’re all learning how to do the winter sports slightly different to keep ourselves safe and to keep our whole sport safe,” said Regenold.

New safety measures were in place to mitigate COVID-19 exposure.

“Items like wearing masks in lift lines, riding the lift with those that are in your family union,” he said. “Our Chalet is really bathroom and tickets only. What we’re asking all of our guests is to warm up and use their vehicles, actually as kind of that temporary chalet space.”

But for snowboarders, and skiers like Paul Rodney, none of that mattered once they hit the powder. “I think just being outside and having something else to do in the winter.”

“We’ve been waiting all winter for this, or all summer and it’s finally here it’s good to be outside and see everybody again,” he said. “This is my first place I’ve been this year and it’s great weather, you can’t ask for anything better.”

Plenty of families also took to the slopes. “Especially with this pandemic y’know we can’t do much, there’s not much activity to do indoors and this is the only activity we can do with the family,” said Denni Arli out with his children, Isaac and Shania.

He said it’ll be a nice chance to get his household active during the pandemic-addled colder months.

“In the past few months we’ve been kind of not doing much exercise. We can’t play at the gym we can’t play basketball as well so this is the only safe, fun activities outdoor,” said Arli.

Being invited back to the adventure park is also an invitation for all ages to pick up and learn a new winter sport.

Denni’s daughter Shania is working on skiing. “It’s kinda easy to do skis because it’s easier to control and like, it’s like, very easy to learn if you have done it before,” she said.

“I think that so many of the local kids are just ready to do more and we are ready to provide this safe, outdoor experience for them to be,” said Regenold.

A safe outdoor experience that will be available for day tickets next week for more people wanting to get back to Nordic sports this winter, and one of the few places in the Northland that offer them.

“Spirit is important to me because there’s not very many other options around here, y’know Spirit’s all we got,” said Rodney.

“Glad to be back, glad to be back skiing dawg!” he said.

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