MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The North Shore has had a rough start to the winter season.
Sunday night’s snow comes on top of 22 inches that fell over the city of Duluth during Thanksgiving. The blizzard put the city at a standstill.
Too much snow is threatening to shorten the season at Spirit Mountain. The Duluth destination says winter storms forced it to cancel the Amsoil National Snocross race.
It’s the busiest time of year at one of Minnesota’s busiest ski hills. But one more payroll is all Spirit Mountain says it has left unless financial help arrives.
“Spirit Mountain was never created to be completely self-funded in the running as a private facility, without their assistance and the help from the city of Duluth,” said Brandy Ream, executive director of Spirit Mountain.
Ream is asking for a $235,000 grant from the city’s tourism tax fund. It would make up for lost food, beverage and ticket sales from the snocross event.
“When you run on that thin of margins, the nature of the business is cash-flow situations. It’s been the reality, but it doesn’t mean it can continue to be the reality,” said Duluth City Councilmember Arik Forsman.
He and other council members listened to Spirit Mountain supporters and employees Monday night as they decided whether or not to give the ski hill a lift.
“It makes us feel anxious about how we are supposed to pay our bills as employees,” said employee Tim Miller.
In the end, the council voted decisively 8-1 to give Spirit Mountain the funds it needs.
“I will be supporting this because I believe Spirit Mountain is a great asset to our community, into the tours that will continue to come to Duluth,” Councilmember Zack Filipovich said.
The vote means Spirit Mountain has the cash to pay its workers immediately. Councilmembers say the focus and the challenge now is to make the ski hill sustainable in the long term.
The city council usually gives the ski hill around $275,000 a year in help. Spirit Mountain brings in about $37 million to the city each year.