Your City, Your Business: Certano's leadership benefited Duluth financially and socially
As Spirit Mountain heads into a new era of leadership and expectations, Visit Duluth would like to acknowledge how much the recreation area has contributed to our community's 16 consecutive years of tourism revenue growth, especially through the ...
As Spirit Mountain heads into a new era of leadership and expectations, Visit Duluth would like to acknowledge how much the recreation area has contributed to our community's 16 consecutive years of tourism revenue growth, especially through the work of Executive Director Rick Certano.
Since its conception 30 years ago, Spirit Mountain has increased local quality of life and provided many great reasons for us to market to Twin Cities skiers and snowboarders in the cold winter months. In the last nine years, Certano led many positive changes that have enhanced visitors' experiences.
Rick became executive director in August 1996, where he had previously served as marketing director. The facility was struggling with faltering snowmaking equipment, a chalet in much need of repair, few events, high expenses and thin revenues.
Despite continued debate regarding Spirit Mountain's financial viability, the facility as a whole has grown under Certano's watch.
Some of the biggest challenges spearheaded by Rick attracted little notice. When he took over, the infrastructure -- especially snowmaking capabilities -- was rapidly degrading. The facility was operating at only 70 percent snowmaking capacity, pumping about 1,500 gallons per minute. Prior to the 2002 ski season, Spirit Mountain added 30 water guns and accessed Proctor's water main, increasing capacity by another 1,000 gallons per minute.
This additional capability proved invaluable during the warm falls of '02 and '04.
The snowmaking upgrades have also saved one of our city's largest events, the Amsoil Duluth National Snocross.
A benchmark event established by Visit Duluth, Snocross requires monumental efforts from Spirit Mountain to go on without a hitch in attracting more than $5 million each year to the local economy.
Certano's direction has also made for several other major events greatly enhancing Spirit Mountain's regional, national and international appeal. In June, Spirit Mountain will host the FIM World Trial Championship, a very technical motorbike competition attracting the planet's premiere competitors.
In July, the Green Man Festival is growing to be one of the destination's most anticipated annual happenings. There have also been several other winter events like the Red Bull Crashed Ice Competition.
One of the accomplishments Rick is most proud of has little to do with tourism, though. In the late-1990s, Spirit Mountain developed an after school ski program for at-risk youth.
Through a public grant, Spirit Mountain was able to bring area youths to the mountain for free skiing lessons and free skiing. This program continues to serve about 1,200 at-risk youths each year, reaching out to area schools, churches and the Boys and Girls Club.
Almost all of the program's participants are bused to Spirit Mountain, provided ski rentals and given instruction, all for free.
During the last few years, many parents have expressed their gratitude for providing such a rewarding experience to their children, who might otherwise not have been able to participate in skiing.
Visit Duluth is extremely grateful for the many accomplishments of Spirit Mountain under Certano's leadership.
While the public is often a harsh critic regarding the facility, what goes overlooked is the financial contribution Spirit Mountain delivers to our entire community every year. It also goes without saying that Spirit Mountain makes Duluth a better place to live.
For your unwavering dedication in serving Duluth's residents, visitors and hospitality community, thank you, Rick.