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Spirit Mountain will open for its 2020 winter season

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DULUTH, MN -- A big decision was made tonight by Duluth City Council leaders on whether or not skiing would be apart of your 2020 winter activities.

Spirit Mountain will receive $300,000 to allocate towards opening up this winter.

The decision was unanimous.

Councilors stated that because Spirit Mountain was not eligible to get funding from the federal government this is a way for the city to help them out since they have been closed all summer.

It was also noted that the opportunity cost of closing the mountain down is a lot greater than just paying the $300,000 now as the mountain brings in millions each year. 

We will have more on the City Council's decision and how it came about tonight at 10 p.m.

DULUTH, MN-- City councilors are expected to make a big decision at their meeting Monday night on whether or not Spirit Mountain will open this winter.

Spirit Mountain's wedding venue, adventure park, and mountain biking trails didn't open for the summer as a health safety precaution due to COVID-19.

That's left the hill in a tough financial situation as winter approaches and they weigh whether or not to open the ski hills.

At this point, City officials said it's looking like the mountain won't be able to afford to open without financial help.

At Monday's meeting, city councilors will consider whether or not to re-route about $300,000 dollars to Spirit Mountain.

That money was originally intended for a nearby project in the Saint Louis River watershed.

After getting community input, City Councilor Arik Forsman said they decided against spending it there, right now.

This means, the city has that $300,000 dollars left in an account that can only be spent on a project in western coordidor of the city.

Spirit mountain could be the next beneficiary.

"As you see these trends where people are starting to use these resources more because they need something to do," said City Councilor Arik Forsman. "It's the wrong time to say let's not open spirit mountain up for the winter."

The City of Duluth gave Spirit Mountain more than $200,000 last winter after a bad storm forced the cancellation of a major event, and they lost out on revenue.

With that fresh in his mind, Councilor Derek Medved said he's worried if councilors approve this money, it won't be long before Spirit asks for more.

Medved added, "If they're asking for startup funds in the amount of $300,000, I don't even think that comes close to the amount they will be asking for next time. So when does it end?"

Meanwhile, the question of whether to close it down permanently is a topic of conversation.

City administrators said closing Spirit Mountain could also come with a cost.

City administrators estimated that could put Duluth on the hook for about $1.5 million.

This whole discussion comes at the same time a task force has been considering how to make Spirit Mountain more financially sustainable for the long term.

That task force is expecting to release its report in February.

Now, many are wondering why Spirit hasn't utilized or applied for federal money.

Up until now, Forsman said organizations like Spirit Mountain haven't been able to apply for that money because they don't qualify.

But Forsman said he's also proposed a resolution that would change that, something the City will also consider on Monday.

Forsman said if it passes, the City may not even need to fund Spirit Mountain after all.

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Emma Quinn

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