The recent snow to hit the lakes area was timely, for Ski Gull is set to open its 44th season Saturday.
Snow making began in earnest last week and with three inches of real snow this week the slopes are in great shape.
Tubing is the new attraction this winter at Ski Gull. For $12 you can tube for two hours. All tubers must go solo regardless of age, and you must use the tubes at Ski Gull. The tubes have canvas covers and hard bottoms to prevent riders from falling through. Chutes guide each rider down their own lane.
Tubing hours are 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
Ski Gull began the first phase of a major facelift last summer. Through a fund-raising campaign and two grants from the Initiative Foundation, $122,500 was raised to pay for three new snow makers, the lease for a 1995 snow groomer, repairs to an existing groomer, widening of the snowboard run, extension of water and electrical lines to the east hills, a new commercial freezer and a used boiler.
"The board feels this is enough to hold the wheels on," said Kari Dayton, Ski Gull's first-year executive director.
Ski Gull wants to be financially independent, Dayton said. Past monetary shortfalls were covered by donations from local businesses. The board hopes to raise $300,000 over the next three years.
"We want Ski Gull to be self-sufficient, to generate its own revenues and maintain a positive operating balance," Dayton said.
To that end Ski Gull was awarded a $5,500 Healthy Organization Partnership grant from the Initiative Foundation. Another $12,000 grant from Initiative Foundation will allow Ski Gull to extend its Learn to Ski program for sixth-graders to handicapped students. Handicapped adults from area group homes will also have opportunities to ski.
Ski Gull needs a variable speed drive on its chairlifts to aid handicapped skiers but, at a cost of $20,000 before installation, the new drive will have to wait.
In the meantime, Ski Gull will remain focused on kids.
"By the summer of 2007 we want to have youth programs year round," Dayton said. "Sure, the kids will eventually outgrow us. But at least they learned how to ski here."
Upcoming events include a World Snowmobile Association hill climb in March and the third annual Ski and Board-A-Thon on Feb. 11. Next summer Ski Gull will again host a bluegrass festival.
"We feel like we're a diamond in the rough," Dayton said. "We want Ski Gull to remain a place that people can afford to come to."
Ski Gull will be open every day over the holidays. During the remainder of the winter the hills will be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Vince Meyer, outdoors editor, can be reached at 855-5862 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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