Even for a ski park, it was a rough winter.
Detroit Mountain Recreation Area did okay this season, but would have done a lot better without the bitter cold temperatures, especially over the holidays, said General Manager Jeff Staley.
Attendance was the best of the last five years, just over 43,000, or 300 more than the previous year, but that was due to more season pass holders than last year, which translated into higher season pass visits.
Gate ticket sales were down slightly and tubing visits were down slightly as well, "largely due to bitter cold temperatures over the holiday break," Staley said.
The week between Christmas and New Year's was brutally cold, and that really hurt attendance. Here's how much impact weather can have: On Dec. 29 "there was negative 30-plus wind chills," Staley said, and "we had to close a couple hours early." Only 489 people braved the Mountain that day.
Two days later, on Dec. 31, the weather was similarly miserable, with a high temperature of minus 3, and just 284 people showed up that day.
But in between, on Dec. 30, the weather broke a little, and it turned out to be a record-setting day for attendance, with 2,243 people visiting the Mountain over a 10-hour stretch.
Jan. 1, which would normally see perhaps a thousand visitors, brought in a grand total of 77 people, again because of the nasty weather, Staley said. "Those days really should have been much higher, we lost probably 2,500 visits in those three days alone," he said. "The business is really weather-dependent."
There was plenty of snow over the season, but that didn't offset the cold. "Every time we got a good snowfall, it was immediately followed by very cold temperatures," he said. Even the big snowfall in March didn't produce a lot of visitors from the Fargo-Moorhead area, a big part of the market for the Mountain. "It was too hard for people to get here," he said. "They were advising no travel."
But overall, Detroit Mountain Recreation Area was able to piece together a decent season despite the ups and downs, he said. "We had 81 days of operation, our second longest year of operations," he said. "We had 83 days last season."
The bottom line, Staley said, is "we are profitable. This is our fifth year of having successful operations and we are profitable. We're excited for the next season and we're already planning what kind of improvements we're going to make for next year."
Memorial Weekend the Mountain starts up with bicycle rentals and bike operations, he said, and Detroit Mountain will host platinum recording artist Cole Swindell for the 2019 Music on the Mountain event Saturday, July 6.
"Grant work will begin this summer as well," Staley said.
He was talking about $1.25 million in Legacy funds awarded by the state. Detroit Mountain contributed $250,000, and the City of Detroit Lakes kicked in another $100,000 to bring the grand total for the grant projects to $1,596,000.
Of that, $687,000 went to purchase 147 acres of land adjoining Detroit Mountain's existing property to the west. That grew the park from its original 200 acres to 347 acres.
Additional downhill and cross-country single-track bike trails are being built, and parking lot and landscape improvements are being made around the tubing hill.
That work should be done this summer, and in a few weeks the bid will be awarded for a treehouse and playground area, with all the work to be done by June of 2020.
Detroit Mountain Recreation Area opened in November 2014 and was designated as a Regional Park by the Greater Minnesota Parks and Trails Commission in 2015.
(Reporter Marie Johnson contributed to this story)