DULUTH – By the time Spirit Mountain welcomes back skiers and boarders to its snowy slopes, the public ski hill’s future will be a little clearer.
Duluth is looking for applicants for a task force to put Spirit Mountain on firmer financial footing, as the status quo leaves the mountain unable to keep up with maintenance and infrastructure costs — and last year prompted a $235,000 emergency bailout to keep the mountain open.
Co-chaired by City Council members Arik Forsman and Janet Kennedy, the goal of the task force will be to help Spirit “achieve financial sustainability, including a sustainable plan to pay for and repair deteriorated infrastructure,” city spokeswoman Kate Van Daele said Wednesday.
All options will be on the table, including increased public support, a public/private partnership or a sale of the land or facilities. Recommendations will be due by the end of the year.
In normal years, Spirit Mountain covers its operating costs with its own revenue but does not generate enough cash to cover needed capital investments. Duluth spends about $1.1 million in tourism taxes to support the mountain each year.
The task force is expected to study the mountain’s economic impact on the region, which could justify additional public support. Tourism tax collections have plummeted because of the pandemic, however, which could pit different priorities against Spirit Mountain spending.
Spirit Mountain will be closed this summer because of COVID-19 and is expected to reopen for the winter season in November, though it will likely take an additional $350,000 in city support that has not been approved to make that happen.
Task force applications are due by 4:30 p.m. July 8; members will be announced in mid-July and start meeting soon after. The city is especially looking for those with business acumen and/or strong connections to the ski hill.
The public recreation area was created by the Legislature in 1974 and is governed by a mayor-appointed board, which appoints an executive director.