Frost Fire 2017-18 ski/snowboard season; ski, snowboard, tubing not fully operational

Frost Fire Ski and Snowboard will not be fully operational for the 2017-18 season due to triple chair lift mechanical problems. Frost Fire was purchased June 19, 2017 by the Pembina Gorge Foundation.

The Triple Chair Lift services all run except the tubing and beginners hill. The Magic Carpet will be fully operational for the season, and the Foundation expects to be open for winter recreation activities such as tubing, snowboard terrain park, snowmobiling, and other outdoor events. The Board is working on its hospitality amenities such as food and beverage services, as well other programs that it will offer to patrons who visit the area.

Pat Chaput, Executive Board Member, says, “It’s unfortunate– the condition of the chair lift. The Board of Directors and development team didn’t anticipate the need to replace the entire chair. We figured we had about $80,000 worth of maintenance that needed to be completed to make it safe. The reality is, to fix the chair lift we have, it would cost over $400,000.”

Howard Anderson, Frost Fire’s contracted engineer, reported he would not assist in the fixing of the current Riblet given the dire condition. Rather, he would assist with helping to find a used chair lift or new chair lift, as well the installation. It’s anticipated a used system would run between $600,000-700,000 and a brand-new system would cost about $1.35 million.

The chair lift is a 1950’s Riblet model. The towers were installed over 40 years ago, and the chairs and other components replaced about 20 years ago.

Rachel Gornowicz, President, Pembina Gorge Foundation, says “The safety of our guests is our primary concern. Second, it’s our duty as board members to find the right solution fiscally, as well to create a good experience for those who visit us. We will do that. Frost Fire will be back safer, stronger and better than ever.”

North Dakota Parks & Recreation is beginning construction on the mountain bike terrain park on Frost Fire property, which also requires use of the chair lift. The Board’s goal is to be fully operational by July 2018.


The “Pembina Gorge State Recreation Area Campaign” had an initial fundraising goal of $3.1 million. Over $1.2 million was raised for the purchase and initial working capital. The fundraising goal has increased to include the anticipated costs of the chair lift, repair or replacing of the groomer, snowmaking machines, lodge and facility needs, and a $1 million endowment.


The Pembina Gorge Foundation incorporated with the State of North Dakota in January 2017. The mission of the Pembina Gorge Foundation is to preserve and enhance the experience of the Pembina Gorge while connecting people to positive, life changing experiences. The Foundation develops and supports historical, cultural, education, natural, interpretive and recreational opportunities in the Gorge.

The Foundation’s current focus is to support ND Parks and Recreation Department in the implementation of the Pembina Gorge State Recreation Area Masterplan, 2014. It’s envisioned the Frost Fire property will become the visitor’s and heritage center or “hub” of the recreation area; as well continue to serve as the ski lodge, amphitheater and future mountain bike terrain park (Summer 2018).

Foundation Board of Directors

Sen. Tom Campbell, Pat Chaput, Sandy Crary, Rachel Gornowicz, Pat Hardy, Mike Jacobs, Commissioner Elsie Magnus, Sen. Janne Myrdal, Jeff Mostad, Frank White and Dustin Gorder


The Pembina Gorge State Recreation Area came online in 2012 to provide various types of recreation, while conserving the natural resources and preserving the intrinsic quality of the area. North Dakota Parks and Recreation has designated the forested areas of the Pembina Gorge for conservation and recreation, while keeping development of amenities to the outlying areas to provide access and opportunities for recreationists all four seasons of the year.

ND Parks and Recreation commissioned a master planning process which engaged hundreds of local citizens in conversation regarding the gorge. Findings were released in December 2014. It was clear citizens desired a destination park – a recreation network of rural roads, trails, river access, overlooks, visitor services and activities such as camping, birding, hiking, biking, horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking, skiing, theater shows, golfing and more. The masterplan is meant to be a road map of possibilities; opportunities to embrace and to capitalize on. It can be found online here:

The masterplan recommendations include establishing a nonprofit, a visitor’s center and focusing on a high-lighted geographic opportunity area near Frost Fire and the Country Club; it recommends development of amenities and accommodations that support the needs of visitors when visiting any one of the four seasons.

Pembina Gorge State Recreation Area Project Development Team

Kristi (Mishler) Wilfahrt, Philanthropy & Project Development Consultant

Dawn Keeley, Pembina County Job Development Authority and Red River Regional Council

Mike Duerre, North Dakota Parks & Recreation Department

Matt Gardner, North Dakota Parks & Recreation Department

Project Contributors: Bank of North Dakota; Cavalier County; Cavalier County JDA; Choice Financial Group; Community Foundation of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and Region; Governor’s Office; Grand Forks Growth Fund; North Central Planning Council; ND Department of Commerce; ND Parks and Recreation Department; Pembina County JDA; Pembina Gorge Foundation; Red River Regional Council; USDA Rural Development; Walsh County JDA; and private donors.

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