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A view from the top: Detroit Mountain construction in full force

One might say construction seems to be at its “peak” at Detroit Mountain these days.

After a long, cold, harsh winter that slowed progress a bit, workers are busy on the large lodge that has been erected on the mountain.

“It’s enclosed and interior work is being done,” said President of the Board of Directors Mark Fritz. “Exterior wise, the ski lifts are on order and this spring we begin work on the maintenance and warming buildings.”

All of this is new construction, which is running parallel with some final grading at the sight.

“We did a lot of shaping of the mountain, raising the top of the mountain by 20 feet to make the experience more skier friendly, we lowered the parking lot in parts by eight to 10 feet and we built a bunny hill,” said Fritz, adding that workers have also finished building a 4-million gallon retention pond for snow-making.

“So there are a lot of line items that we’re starting to check off the list,” said Fritz, crediting project coordinator, Gary Nansen , who is overseeing the construction.

“There are so many moving parts to this, from getting power out there to the lodge to the parking lot and the grading — Gary is executing all of this beautifully,” said Fritz, adding that Detroit Lakes resident Jeff Staley has been hired as general manager of DMRA, Inc.

“In this role, Jeff will be charged with overall operations of Detroit Mountain. He comes with a tremendous amount of experience including a degree in Parks and Recreation from Colorado State University, extensive experience in retail and human resources – and of course a passion for all things outdoors,” said Fritz, adding that Staley is currently attending a conference on ski resort management after visiting several ski resorts to find out what works and what doesn’t.

Meanwhile, Detroit Lakes native Dave Sontag has been named the Mountain Manager of DMRA, Inc.

“Dave returns to us after 20 years of experience in facilities management,” said Fritz, adding that Sontag has gained experience in the ski industry through his work for Lutsen Ski Group in Lutsen and Granite Peak in Wausau, Wis., providing lift maintenance, snow making operations, and construction of ski trails and terrain parks.

Fritz says he expects landscaping to begin this summer, along with cross country ski trail development and bike trails around the area.

Toward middle to end of the summer is when he expects construction on the lodge to wrap up.

“We’re really wanted the lodge to be aesthetically pleasing and just a nice, warm, welcoming place to make some memories,” said Fritz, who says the rough-cut lumber and stone give the lodge that exact look.

The $8 million project includes everything from the new buildings, to the ski lifts and chairs, to the land purchase and its modifications and all the way down to rental equipment and snow-making pipes and pumps.

“A lot of people have heard that we’ve raised all the money for the project already, but that’s not quite the case,” said Fritz, who says although local donors have been great in making this project a reality, they have not yet reached that $8 million goal.

“Our goal all along has been to open this thing debt free,” said Fritz, who says as a result of our community's generosity, the city of Detroit Lakes commitment and utilizing new market tax credits, the fundraising is within a few hundred thousand of the total project cost. “We are going to get there, but we do still need help.”

For more information on how to donate or fundraise, email Mark Fritz at or call him at 218-849-3181.

Paula Quam

Paula Quam is the editor for Forum Communications Co. newspapers in Detroit Lakes, Perham and Wadena, all in Minnesota.

(218) 844-1466