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Free skiing for county residents

Next fall, the residents of Becker County will be hitting the slopes here at home. Until then though, Mount Ski Gull near Brainerd is stepping up, supporting the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area project and offering free lift tickets to Becker County residents.

On Saturday, Feb. 22, skiers and boarders from Becker County will receive a free day pass at Mount Ski Gull. Equipment rental is separate.

“I’ve been trying to help where I can in the development and now the launching of Detroit Mountain, trying to support them in any way we can,” Mount Ski Gull Executive Director Dale Bosch said. “If you lose all your skiers in your area, it’s hard to launch your hill. We wanted to provide an incentive for people to ski while the Detroit Mountain was being brought back up.”

This isn’t the first year Bosch has offered this at Ski Gull either. In its third year, he said he’s had about 50 Becker County residents each year take advantage of the free lift tickets.

“Ski Gull offered to give Becker County residents free lift tickets to help create added interest around skiing, get our residents prepared for when we’re open,” DMRA General Manager Jeff Staley said.

“They’ve done all the work, this is just a small thing, but it helps them build excitement and interest in the sport,” Bosch said. “From our end, it’s important that people continue to be interested in the sport regardless of where they are from.”

He said that skiers are “nomadic” and tend to ski at various resorts over the course of a year, so it’s best to expose them to as many ski hills as possible.

Once DMRA is open for business, they still won’t necessarily be in competition with Ski Gull or other ski areas either.

“We will each have our own core group of users and season pass holders, so we don’t compete,” Staley said. “What it does is open the opportunity for our skier base out of Detroit Lakes to say, ‘hey, instead of skiing at Detroit Mountain this weekend, let’s go to Ski Gull.’ Really, you’re just capturing some visits that you probably otherwise wouldn’t have captured.”

The relationship will carry throughout the years — with Ski Gull and other local mountains like Powder Ridge and Andes Tower Hills — where season pass holders can get discounts at the other recreation areas.

“It’s pretty standard with this Midwest region of ski areas,” Staley said.

Bosch agrees. He said ski hills usually draw people from a 60 miles radius and tourism.

“Brainerd is very much like Detroit Lakes in that we rely heavily on tourism, so I don’t see it as competing,” he said. “Every time a ski hill goes under, that’s a bad thing for us. Skiers are nomadic and now all of a sudden you have people who have left the sport completely and that’s bad for the sport.”

Not only is it bad for the sport, he said, it’s bad for health. Giving up skiing could mean a more sedimentary activity like video games or watching television.

“We’re a non-profit for kids and we’re here to promote healthy living, so this fits in with our mission, getting people out in the middle of wintertime, and that’s a good thing,” he said.

While the free lift ticket is a good thing for the skier, it’s also a good thing for the ski hill, too.

“It’s a win for both the skier and the ski area because the ski area is still going to capture that potential rental business as well as the concession business,” Staley said. “The lifts are running whether that skier is there or not.”

And next winter, Detroit Mountain can return the love.

“Congratulations to Detroit Lakes and all the hard work that they did to bring back Detroit Mountain. They should be very proud and take advantage of it,” Bosch said.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield