New season, new manager: Mark Knutson takes the reins at Detroit Mountain

When Detroit Mountain Recreation Area opened its doors on Friday, Nov. 25 for the start of its winter season, there was a new face in the front office: Mark Knutson, whom many in this area know as the executive director of the Fargo Marathon, has taken over general manager duties at the mountain from Jeff Staley, who had held the position since 2014.

Mark Knutson.JPG
Longtime Fargo Marathon director Mark Knutson became the new general manager at Detroit Mountain Recreation Area on Oct. 20, taking over for Jeff Staley, who had been there since 2014.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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DETROIT LAKES — There's a new face in the front office at Detroit Mountain Recreation Area.

Mark Knutson, whom many in this area know as the executive director of the Fargo Marathon, officially took over the general manager duties at the mountain from Jeff Staley in October. Staley had been the mountain's general manager since 2014.

A native of Hillsboro, N.D., Knutson is no stranger to Detroit Lakes, having been a frequent visitor to the community since he was a child.

"Detroit Lake was the first lake my parents brought me to," he said. "I fell in love with it when I went down the (now defunct) water slide in front of the Pavilion."

A resident of the Fargo-Moorhead area since 1989, Knutson said he's wanted to make Detroit Lakes his home for a long time — and in June, that wish came true.


"I live on the south side of the lake," he said, adding that he had waited until this year to make the move because his children were going to school in Fargo: Now his oldest daughter, Michael, is a mother herself.

"I just became a grandpa about a month and a half ago," Knutson said. His son Cade, 18, is a freshman at North Dakota State University in Fargo, while daughter Carly, 21, works as a cosmetologist in Fargo. Michael, 29, and her family live in Columbia, S.C.

Though he is excited for the launch of the mountain's winter season this weekend, Knutson says he will be continuing his duties with the Fargo Marathon as well.

"It works out well, because I'm busy with the marathon in March, April and May, which is a slower time here," he said.

But for now, he's working full-time at the mountain, which opened for the winter season on Friday, Nov. 25. "The slopes, the trails, and the skills park are all open — but there's no tubing this weekend."

The tubing hill is set to open Dec. 2. Hours for the opening weekend, Friday through Sunday, are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. "to kick us off," Knutson said, but he'd like to keep it open later in future weeks, at least on Saturdays.

"I'd like to have it open until 9 p.m. on Saturdays," he said.

In fact, he's planning to launch a new Saturday event at the mountain, "Burgers, Brews and Bands," which will include live music, freshly-grilled burgers and drink specials from 6 to 9 p.m.


The first such event is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 10, with performances by two area musicians, Mick Klein and Wayne McArthur. The next, on Jan. 21, will feature The Front Fenders.

"Hopefully we'll get great attendance," he said, as he'd like to add more events like it to the schedule.

While he is an avid mountain biker, and a budding ski enthusiast (he has not yet tried out the "bunny hill," but plans to soon), Knutson would like to see people come out to the mountain to enjoy more entertainment-oriented events as well — events like July's Music on the Mountain, which is a huge draw. In fact, Knutson's first experience in working with the management team and staff at DMRA was at this year's Music on the Mountain, when he was called in to assist with planning and staging of the event.

Knutson, whose background is in creating and marketing events, said he'd also like to see the mountain's Octoberfest celebration, which made its debut last month, become a larger-scale event.

"I want to do a big Octoberfest event next year," he said.

Basically, his goal is to make the mountain a place where people might come just to hang out for an afternoon or evening, even if they aren't skiers, snowboarders, mountain bikers or hikers.

"When I look out at the mountain right now, the view is as impressive as it is from the shore of Detroit Lake in the summer," he said. "And at night, when the lights are all on, it's pretty cool too."

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at
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