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Chateau being built, ski slopes being shaped as project moves ahead

What the new lodge will look like, according to an architect's drawing. SUBMITTED PHOTO

The Detroit Mountain Recreation Area is starting to take shape.

A beautiful new chateau is rising near the site of the original lodge, and it will have a roomy central area dominated by twin pillars made of white pine trees, corrugated tin features, rugged-looking “stone mountain” rock along the foundation line, and rough-hewn lumber to complete the alpine chateau look.

Work is ongoing at the lodge, which will be enclosed by Dec. 1 so that interior work can continue during the winter. Tomlinson and Sons of Detroit Lakes is the contractor.

The chateau is currently surrounded by a sea of dirt work: The parking area was lowered by 12 feet, and the 65,000 cubic feet of dirt that was removed has been used to reshape the mountain.

A new bunny hill now faces the lodge, so parents can watch beginning skiers strut their stuff. It will have two sections, a steeper hill with a tow rope and a gently sloping hill with a “magic carpet” conveyor lift that will be simple for little kids to use.

“We want to make it as easy to learn the sport as possible,” said Mark Fritz, who heads up fundraising for the “bring back the mountain” campaign.

More than 20 feet has been added to the top of Detroit Mountain to enhance multiple ski runs, and most of the runs themselves have been reshaped and improved by adding or removing dirt.

Feldt’s Plumbing of Detroit Lakes has handled the dirt work.

The terrain park for snowboarders and trick skiers will have a long “quarter-pipe” berm and big permanent mounds made of dirt, not snow like many other ski areas use. That should allow it to open earlier in the season.

“This way we’ll be months ahead of everybody else,” Fritz said.

The big hills in the jump line look imposing, but are designed with safety in mind, by discouraging excess speed and providing downhill landing sites, said Jeff Staley, who sits on the campaign board.

Geoff Bostwick of Terrain Park Consulting was in Detroit Lakes this fall to help design and shape the terrain park.

Cross-country ski trails and a tubing area with a lift and a warming hut will also be part of the winter mix.

That’s one big pond

Infrastructure work is also coming along nicely.

“We’ll need to bring in clay to line the snowmaking pond,” Staley said. The pond will hold 3 million gallons of water that will feed a network of buried water pipes and above-ground hydrants.

Snowmaking equipment will be moved around and hooked up to hydrants to serve areas as needed.

Two sets of triple chair lifts will serve the big ski runs, and other lifts will serve different parts of the facility.

The concrete foundations for the big lift towers will be enclosed and poured yet this year, after the forms have been inspected by the lift company.

The gravel road to the site has already been slightly widened and improved, but not over-engineered, in order to preserve the beauty and majesty of the area, said Fritz.

“A year from now, we’ll be open,” Fritz said.

The mountain bike trails have not been forgotten:

Woody Woodruff of the Ozark-based Progressive Trail Design, was recently on-site, scoping out the landscape and marking trail routes.

Plans call for 10-12 miles of trails for three skill levels, to include mountain bike trails, gravity flow trails, cross-country flow trails and a skills park.

Trail construction will begin next year for a 2015 open.

Towards the finish line

The organization is just $250,000 short of its $6 million fundraising goal, and it started construction to meet the goal of opening next winter.

Fritz said he is confident the community will step up to meet the challenge.

“It’s Thanksgiving, and we’ve been so blessed with people who have donated time or money,” he said. “The team working on this is so good — the mindset is, how do we create the very best four-season park possible? And that part is fun.”

If additional money can be raised, the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area will be made that much better: Organizers would like to see a paved parking area, for example, and a cross-country ski loop that is lit for nighttime skiing and equipped with snowmaking infrastructure.

That would be ideal for recreational users and the high school cross-country ski team to practice on, Fritz said.

The terrain is right and land is available on the 200-acre site for three or four times as many miles of mountain bike trails, if the funding becomes available, Staley said.

“We’ve seen a huge amount of support from the public,” Fritz said, “But we still have that last bit to go — we still have a need.”

Donations to the project are tax deductible and can be made at DL-Online, through, or the Bring Back Detroit Mountain page on Facebook.

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