LAKE SHORE -- Warm weather melted the snow at Ski Gull last week. Bare patches of ground appeared where just weeks ago skiers whizzed downhill.
When fresh snow covers the slopes next winter, Ski Gull will have a whole new look. The 43-year ski facility needs a $105,000 face-lift. The board of directors will begin raising money this spring with help from the community.
"It's been the same Ski Gull for a while," Executive Director Terri Bendzick said. "We want to maintain what we have, but also make it better."
Ski Gull needs the following: Snow-making equipment, groomer repairs, variable speed drive for chairlift, snow-making capability on the east hills, additional snowboards, tractor/loader, parking lot renovations, upgrades to the drain field, shop equipment, boiler, furnace and commercial freezer.
"Those are the things we need to do," Bendzick said, "to improve the quality of the experience here at Ski Gull and make it operational for the next generation."
A generation ago skiers were all that Ski Gull served. Today there are tubers and snowboarders who would like hills to play on. For them Ski Gull needs to extend water and electrical lines to its east hills. A berm needs to be built to stop tubers at the end of their run and a building is needed to house the new gear.
Among the improvements listed above, the top priority is to repair the existing groomer -- bought used in 1987 -- and perhaps to add a second groomer.
"It depends on what we can find," Bendzick said. "They're very expensive. But we have a real need for two groomers. If one goes down we can't groom and skiers are disappointed with the condition of the hills. And it's also for safety reasons. The hills must be groomed to be safe."
The parking lot needs new gravel and eventually must be paved, Bendzick said. The maintenance building, which burned down in 2003, needs a new boiler and water well.
"This is what our members are asking for," Bendzick said. "These improvements will help bring more people to our area, and that will have an economic impact as well."
To pay for these improvements, Ski Gull has launched the Vision Campaign. In the coming weeks the 12-member board of directors will go door-to-door to area businesses and ask for monetary support in exchange for partnerships. Existing members will be asked for donations. Discounts will be offered to first-time members and existing members who buy passes earlier in the year.
Brats and beverages will be sold at entrances to area grocery stores. New pull tab venues will be sought. The annual banquet, snowmobile race and bluegrass festival will contribute money. In an attempt to expand on the success of the bluegrass festival, Bendzick said Ski Gull would like to host more outdoor concerts.
Ski Gull needs $105,000 to complete the first phase of improvements. Eventually Ski Gull will need another $18,000 in a second phase of improvements. The board has set a goal of raising $17,500 every month for the next six months, and Bendzick said she's confident the goal is attainable.
"It will take some time, but (area businesses) have helped us in the past. They were the reason we could add on to the chalet. They were the reason we got a chairlift.
"It will take several functions to get the funds we need. There is much we need to do already this spring. We're running against the clock."
To learn more about Ski Gull's Vision Campaign, log onto www.skigull.org, or phone (218) 963-4353.
VINCE MEYER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5862.
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