Although Frost Fire is still not open for winter activities, the Pembina Gorge Foundation has received a gift that it says puts the foundation closer to that goal.
The Pembina Gorge Foundation was gifted $750,000 from an anonymous donor, which will help the park get to its overall goal of $7.5 million. The $750,000 is a challenge matching gift, said Kristi Wilfahrt, the foundation's interim director.
"The public is challenged to help bring capital to the table to help pay for equipment needs, capital needs," Wilfahrt said. "To bring Frost Fire nearly debt free."
To date, nearly $3.1 million, including this most recent gift, has been pledged to support Frost Fire and the purchase of a chairlift, skis and snowboards, snowmakers, infrastructure and other support, according to the foundation. There also have been in-kind gifts to Frost Fire, like a golf cart, gas cards and firewood.
The foundation said outdoor winter recreation continues to be a challenge. Because of a lack of funding, the need to train employees on the chair lift and chair lift evacuation, and the need to implement and execute inspections per their insurance requirements, Frost Fire will remain closed.
Wilfahrt said plans to open for the winter season were halted so Frost Fire could do things the right way.
"I know it must be hard for the region to see, but we've got to have a strong program and we've got to put safety first," Wilfahrt said.
Wilfahrt said that the foundation determined there was more work to be done than time allowed to open the Frost Fire ski area for the full winter season. Wilfahrt said one hurdle was recently finding out that Frost Fire would not have access to the ski patrol that was used in previous years.
"When we started this venture, we knew that in order to maintain a recreational area of this size it had to be debt free, that it wouldn't be sustainable otherwise," Wilfahrt said.
Also in 2018, Frost Fire's lounge was moved from the lower level to the main floor. The "Howatt Hangar" Grill and Bar is open during weekend hours and caters to special events, the foundation said.
Frost Fire will open the state's first downhill mountain bike terrain park in partnership with North Dakota Parks and Recreation. The trails are expected to be open in 2020, pending funding, according to the foundation.
The board of directors of the Pembina Gorge Foundation will meet in February to develop a five-year plan for the Frost Fire park.
Wilfahrt said the foundation plans to talk about physical needs for the property, like making the lodge compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and adding overnight accomodations for volunteers in the summer theatre.