Spirit Mountain's Grand Avenue Chalet opensSkiers and snowboarders coming down Spirit Mountain’s Four Pipe run Monday were met with a large “Now Open” banner hanging in the window of the recreation area’s newest attraction.
By: Steve Kuchera, Duluth News Tribune
Skiers and snowboarders coming down Spirit Mountain’s Four Pipe run Monday were met with a large “Now Open” banner hanging in the window of the recreation area’s newest attraction.
The ski area’s Grand Avenue Chalet opened Monday morning. The $3.3 million, 10,650-square-foot building gives Spirit Mountain full-service chalets — with bars and grills, snack areas, warming areas, restrooms, rentals and lift-ticket sales — both at the top of the hill and now the bottom.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Spirit Mountain Executive Director Renee Mattson said Monday morning. “It is such a gorgeous building.”
With gorgeous views.
Large windows on two walls of the warming area look out onto the slopes while to one side a look-through gas fireplace adds a cozy warmth. The views from the Riverside Bar & Grill and rental area take in nearby woods and the distant St. Louis River.
“I think it’s pretty sweet,” snowboarder Sam Henderson of Duluth said while taking a break at a table in the warming area. “For the first day open, everything is going well.”
He also commented on the building’s design — while the chalet has two stories, everything the public needs is on one level.
“There’s a lot of stairs” at the chalet on top of the hill, Henderson said. “When you have ski boots on, it’s hard going up and down.”
Several people commented on the advantages of the chalet’s location — just off Grand Avenue and a bus route and at the bottom of the hill.
“It’s nice to have a place at the bottom of the hill for breaks,” said Paul Grigal, who was skiing Monday with his son.
“It opens up services for people who don’t drive,” said boarder Calvin Jaworski of Duluth. “And it’s nice to have someplace warm to wait for the bus.”
John Kleinbach, who was visiting family in Duluth, said being able to buy lift tickets at the base of the hill rather than having to drive to the top of Spirit Mountain saves him time better spent on the slopes.
Monday’s opening of the chalet is just the latest change at Spirit Mountain, which has spent $13 million on upgrades and new attractions since 2004. The additions include the chalet, a zip line, a coaster ride, mini-golf course and tubing park. Last year the hill’s largest ski lift — the Spirit Express — was replaced. The lift picks up riders just up the hill from the new chalet.
The new chalet’s Riverside Bar & Grill will be open year-round, serving a complete menu from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. The area used for warming up and eating snacks during the winter will become a banquet hall when the snow melts.
According to Spirit Mountain’s 2008 master plan, making the recreational area a year-round attraction could help spur private development nearby. While the chalet was under construction, Duluth City Councilor Jay Fosle, who represents West Duluth, and West Duluth Business Club President Charlie Bell predicted it would bring additional traffic and new business opportunities to the neighborhood.
“It’s really a community resource,” Mattson said of the chalet. “It’s going to spur development on Grand. I know in three, five years it will look completely different.”
The area isn’t done making improvements. It will open two new mountain bike trails in the spring, with bikers able to ride the Spirit Express II up the hill and bike down.
The next big project will be a major upgrade to the snowmaking water system. Currently the hill uses city water at a rate of up to 1,800 gallons per minute. The hill wants to switch to taking water from the St. Louis River at up to 6,000 gpm, which would increase its snowmaking capabilities. The $4.5 million project would also improve the hill’s collection and handling of snowmelt.
Spirit Mountain has already spent or secured $1.1 million for the project. It plans to ask the state for $3.4 million.
“If there is a bonding bill this season, we would like to be in it,” Mattson said.