DULUTH – Spirit Mountain Executive Director Brandy Ream is resigning just as the city launches a task force to examine the public ski hill’s future.
Ream has led the mountain since 2014 along with her husband, Jody, who is also resigning as general manager at the end of the month.
The mountain’s finances have come under increased scrutiny since the Duluth City Council quickly approved a $235,000 bailout late last year to keep the lifts running.
A task force was launched this summer to recommend a plan for the recreation area to “achieve financial stability and a sustainable plan to pay for the repair and replacement of deteriorated infrastructure,” according to the city.
Spirit Mountain has been closed since March due to the pandemic and is expected to reopen in November — if the City Council approves another $350,000 in support to help restart the operation.
Ream did not respond to a request for comment Monday afternoon.
The turmoil took a toll on Ream as she defended her leadership following last year’s bailout, which was prompted by a canceled Snocross event.
“There has been damage done and I have very low confidence that we are going to rebound from this,” Ream said in an e-mail to the city in December. “Everything good, all the hard work, all the growth in the last 5½ years is being pushed to the wayside. This isn’t right and it’s not fair that we are out here on our own to try to survive this.”
Duluth spends about $1.1 million in tourism taxes on the mountain every year.
At that level of support, the mountain is able to generate enough cash to sustain its operations but cannot keep up with deferred maintenance and needed capital investments.
The task force will start meeting later this month and look at a variety of options to get the mountain out of a near-constant state of financial stress, including leasing or selling the operation or increasing public support. A recommendation is due in February.
Ann Glumac was named interim executive director by the mayor-appointed board of directors, a move first reported by the Duluth News Tribune. Glumac has served as deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board as well as president of the Great Lakes Aquarium.
“We are eager to move forward with Ann’s leadership, in addition to the newly appointed task force, and the city to find ways that Spirit Mountain can achieve long-term financial and operational sustainability,” board chairman Aaron Stolp said in a statement. “We have a lot to be proud of as an organization, and we are excited about the opportunities to come from the next few months.”