Spirit Mountain master plan aims for four-season resort

In coming years, Spirit Mountain Recreation Area may have a second chalet, a tubing slope and rides such as a zip line and alpine coaster -- all aimed at fulfilling the area's mission of being a four-season resort.

In coming years, Spirit Mountain Recreation Area may have a second chalet, a tubing slope and rides such as a zip line and alpine coaster -- all aimed at fulfilling the area's mission of being a four-season resort.

Those ideas are contained in a master plan Spirit Mountain authority officials will unveil at a 10 a.m. news conference today. If adopted, the plan will guide development at Spirit Mountain for the next 10 to 20 years.

"This is the first time in the facility's 34-year history that we've put together a comprehensive master plan and really focused on what our stakeholders and what our users are looking for," said Lisa Augustine, chairwoman of the recreation area's board of directors. "We're really excited to finally have a comprehensive master plan."

The facility will host an open house June 25 to solicit public input on the plan.

"We're very successful in the winter season," with 250,000 to 265,000 skier visits a year, said Renee Mattson, the area's executive director. "We have the campground in the summer. We do a lot of banquets. But we don't have as many recreational opportunities as we would like. So, one component of the plan addresses having more opportunities for summer recreation."


Ideas for nonwinter recreation include zip line and alpine coaster rides, more mountain bike trails and a mountain bike terrain park. The campground would be expanded and an RV park created.

The master plan also calls for a second, smaller chalet and additional parking off Grand Avenue at the hill's base.

"Our location off of I-35 is spectacular for people driving from Minneapolis-St. Paul," Mattson said. "But we don't have the strong ties we would like to western Duluth. People right now can't get here by bus unless they have their own equipment and a season ticket" to catch the lifts up the hill to the existing chalet.

The new chalet would include lift ticket and food sales, equipment rental and lockers. A tubing slope would be built nearby.

The plan also calls for renovations to the existing chalet, additional parking close to the chalet, and better lighting and pedestrian walkways connecting existing lots.

The plan also calls for additional snowmaking capacity "so we can cover the slopes much more quickly than we can now," Mattson said, and to reduce the number of chairlifts from five to three.

New lifts would reduce costs of maintenance, operations and staffing while increasing the hill's capacity.

The projects would largely happen within the recreation area's current footprint.


"Down the road we are looking at expanding our ski slopes to the south," Mattson said.

"While the plan doesn't have everything that everyone wanted, I think people will be excited how many new opportunities we have for recreational opportunities," she said.

A ballpark total cost for the plan's projects would be about $40 million, Mattson estimated. A detailed examination of the costs and benefits of each project would begin after the plan is approved.

Work on the management plan began last year, with officials collecting more than 200 ideas and suggestions from the public and other interested parties. The recreation area and its consultants spent the winter examining which ideas made financial sense, which would increase revenue and what upgrades are needed.

Officials will consider public comments on the plan when making revisions before presenting it to the area's board of directors, Mattson said. After that, the plan will go to Duluth's Parks and Recreation Commission, the Planning Commission and "finally the City Council in August."

"We are not asking Duluthians for a penny," she said, noting that the areadoesn't receive any money from the city's general fund. It does receive about $225,000 a year from taxes on food, beverages and hotel rooms. That iss about 6 percent of the recreation area's annual budget.

STEVE KUCHERA can be reached weekdays at (218) 279-5503 or by e-mail at skuchera@

Steve Kuchera is a retired Duluth News Tribune photographer.
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