Spirit Mountain Task Force recommendations
In July 2020, Mayor Emily Larson created the Spirit Mountain Task Force (SMTF), charging its 16 members to develop a set of recommendations to put the Spirit Mountain Recreation Area on a financially sustainable, long-term trajectory.
Mayor Larson directed the Task Force to examine all options to achieve this financial sustainability, including:
1. Business improvement strategies addressing pricing, scope of services, marketing, days and seasons of operation, etc.
2. Capital infrastructure right-sizing and renewal
3. Adjustments to tourism tax support
4. Strategic partnerships with nonprofits, units of government, resort management firms, and/or developers for sale, lease, contract operation, and/or redevelopment of all or portions of Spirit recreational facilities and operations.
Co-chaired by Councilors Janet Kennedy and Arik Forsman, the 16 members of the task force and five ex officio members met 20 times beginning in early August 2020, in addition to participating in multiple subcommittee meetings. Their combined service amounts to more than 900 hours of presentations, discussions and deliberations.
Throughout the summer and fall, Task Force members grounded themselves in the very early and more recent history of Spirit Mountain and the enabling legislation that created the recreation area. Task Force members toured the recreation area to get a first-hand look at the issues and opportunities, in addition to having in-depth presentations from City of Duluth and Spirit Mountain staff.
Task Force members formed subcommittees to conduct independent research, learning more about ski resorts of different types across the country through independent online research and interviews with leaders at the resorts.
To make industry expertise available to the Task Force, the City of Duluth hired the SE Group, a consulting firm with worldwide experience and expertise in working with ski resorts and other outdoor projects; it’s one of five firms in the world that specialize in consulting with ski areas.
Task Force members had several opportunities to learn from and ask questions of the SE Group’s team of experts throughout the latter stages of the process and also had access to their detailed report, which is appended to this Task Force report.