I am writing this letter to tell all the non-skiers a little bit about Ski Gull, a small ski hill located on the west side of Gull Lake. I could recount the history, thank the hundreds of parents and volunteers who have kept it alive for the past 30 years, or praise the current administration and staff for the superb job they have done with limited resources and little help from Mother Nature. Those stories are for another day, and instead I'm going to write about what Ski Gull means to me, the father of four children, and why I hope to see it survive another tough period. It's all about the smiles.
The smiles that erupt after fears have been conquered, skills have been mastered, and hopes have been realized. I started skiing when I was 4 years old (thanks, Dad!) and decided to start my children young. (I would highly recommend one of the competent instructors or schools at Ski Gull -- children show more respect toward, display less fear to, and are less apt to cry in front of strangers in authority than their parents!) My daughters were 5 and 3 when I decided to teach them myself. They started between my skis, graduated to my side, white knuckling my outstretched poles -- finally letting go and skiing on their own. The smiles started on the ride to Ski Gull that first day. The smiles turned to gulps and big eyes as we rented our equipment in the chalet -- stealing glances at the "huge" hills. The tears started outside the chalet as we strapped on and made our way to the chair lift. To make a long story short, we cried, we yelled (I hate to admit it...) we fell down, vowed to quit, screamed, cried some more, and finally ... smiled!
Big gap-toothed smiles. Big runny-nosed and rosy-cheeked smiles. Laughter too! The smiles continued as they greeted their friends in the chalet, rode the chair lift with their cousins, and big boastful smiles as they recounted their adventures down the face of "Mount" Ski Gull over a steaming cup of hot chocolate. The smiles made it all worthwhile. They still do.
As recently reported in The Dispatch, Ski Gull is facing a financial Waterloo. Being on the board of a bank or large corporation is glamorous. Being on the board of Ski Gull is hard work. They spend a lot of time with their hand out, or pleading with creditors, or the local media, or power companies to forgive the past and extend the future. They do this because they've seen the smiles. Ski Gull provides a safe, clean, and fun environment for the whole family. There aren't enough of these around. Ski Gull is a non-profit organization, both in design and in reality. It costs a lot more to produce than it can ever take in. It simply isn't enough of a hill to attract the advanced skier. Its main function is to teach the beginner -- I personally feel Ski Gull is all about our children. Fresh air, exercise, sunshine and big smiles.
The safety net is gone. As recently reported in The Dispatch, charitable gambling will no longer save the day. The Ski Gull board has not thrown in the towel. They have gotten creative. It takes a lot of raindrops to make a puddle, or more fittingly, a lot of snowflakes to make a snowman. If you can help, please call Ski Gull at 963-4353 and send a snowflake, or if you are in the financial position to, roll a snowball. Ski Gull needs a benefactor, or a tax base. They're not holding their collective breath, but continue to fight on ... it's those smiles again.
On Sunday, Nov. 24 there will be a fund-raiser for Ski Gull at Kelly's Restaurant. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $10 for children 13 and younger. The event will include a turkey barbecue with all the fixings, free face painting and wagon driven hay rides. The event starts at 11:30 a.m. and will end when everyone is fed. Ski Gull gets all the money -- 100 percent. The wagon driver and face painters are volunteering, and the meal is our donation. Afterward there will be an open house at Ski Gull starting at 2 p.m. Please call a Ski Gull board member and buy a snowflake, come out and enjoy a great meal, and afterwards tour the facility that creates so many smiles. Ski Gull needs you. Sometimes being needed can make you ... smile!
(Erholtz is owner of Kelly's Restaurant and a resident of Fairview Township in Cass County.)
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