By Rick Coates
Over the past 60 years, many Northern Michiganders have learned to ski
and snowboard on Mt. Holiday Ski & Recreation Area, located east of
In recent years the operation had been challenged by financial issues,
some unruly behavior, the passing of the longtime owner, and being
closed for three seasons. But now, thanks to a nonprofit organization
formed by local citizens, Mt. Holiday has returned to the glory days
of its past.
We are just one of five nonprofit ski facilities in the country,
said Theresa Galante, who oversees the administration and ski
operations. We are the only nonprofit ski operation that does not
receive municipal or taxpayer funding to operate. Our budget is based
on season and daily passes, food and beverage sales, off-season rental
of Mt. Holiday, and the support of donors and some grants.
When Warren Brosch, who, along with his wife owned Mt. Holiday, passed
away in November of 1999, the operation eventually closed down. The
Brosch family was approached with offers from developers looking to
buy Mt. Holiday for home and condo development. But a band of local
citizens raised $1.2 million to acquire the property and began
restoring the Mt. Holiday area.
The non-profit hired an executive director but has struggled financially.
This year we changed our business plan and we no longer have an
executive director; instead we have three department managers who
report to the executive board, said Galante. I oversee the
administrative, ski school, race teams, ski passes, and Michelle
Konstanzer handles the food and beverage operation and lodge
maintenance. Andy Reagan handles the outdoor operations from the lifts
to snowmaking to the groomers.
So far the concept is working.
The three of us get together once a week, review the operations and
events and make it happen and this model is working, said Michelle
Konstanzer. Our fiscal year started in July and for the first time in
three years were financially on track.
But the management team and the board know that there is still a lot
of work to be done.
We are working hard to stay above water. Our lifts are from 1965 and
every day this time of the year that we do not have snow it costs a
lot of money, said Galante. We are all donor and grant funded.
So when we have major capital expenditures we have to rely on donors
and fundraisers, she adds. For example, our groomer had $28,000 in
repairs this year; we also have spent $30,000 on lift maintenance this
Yet the management team is overwhelmed by the commitment people have
to Mt. Holiday.
We are operating with a skeleton crew of paid staff. Most people
working here are volunteers, said Konstanzer. Our board also donates
so much time. They are a great representation of the community, from
business people, a doctor, lawyers and a farmer -- all who want to see
this place work.
Mt. Holiday is also seeing support from what some might see as their
We are a unique facility, we are not trying to be a Boyne, Crystal or
a Shanty. We are actually good for those resorts because people learn
to ski and board here and move on to those places, said Konstanzer.
We have a partnership with the Grand Traverse Resort: they send their
guests here and our season pass-holders have amenities over there,
including use of their cross country ski trails. We also trade
employees seasonally with the Resort so some of their summer employees
come here in the winter and vice versa. We also have partnerships with
Timber Ridge and Shanty Creek.
One aspect that has haunted Mt. Holiday in the past has been some
unruly kids, but those days are primarily gone.
You have two moms with teenagers running the inside of this place and
that is the big difference from the past, said Galante. We are
trying to give these kids ownership of this place. We have made them
partners in this, so if they break something they know they are
breaking their own property. If you break it you dont have it
anymore. A lot of the kids volunteer here, so if they see other kids
screwing around, they get on their cases.
Another area that has helped is the new lounge that has become a
popular year-round dining spot.
What I am trying to do is create an inviting environment for parents
to stay because in the past we had a reputation of being a place with
greasy food, boxed wine and plastic cups and that has all changed,
said Konstanzer. So I have created an environment in this lounge area
that keeps the parents here, offering a nice glass of wine and local
microbrews with a great bite to eat. We are offering entertainment,
affordable dining and drink prices.
The management team also brought back Mike Wolf, who ran the Kiwanis
Ski Schools for years, to coordinate the ski schools again in January
We also have the Holiday Ski Team for kids and this is a great
opportunity to learn how to race. Starting in January we are going to
have Friday night Rail Jam Competitions that will be judged each
week and at the end of the season a championship event, said Galante.
We also have an adult ski league on Wednesday nights.
Mt. Holiday also has a tubing hill and icludes a birthday party
package. Plus, they have had to come up with events year-round and are
offering music, dinners, open mic nights, banquets, class reunions,
wedding events and more.
Our goal is to have one major event each month; in January we are
doing Rare Air a snowboard and music event with bands, said Galante.
During the Winter WonderFest in February we are having bobsled races,
plus we are going to have a mountain bike race down the face of Mt.
Annual passes for Mt. Holiday are $199 (down from $249 last season)
and keeping with their non-profit mission they offer special rates on
certain nights for area schools.
We also give out several scholarships. Last year we gave away 190
scholarships, said Galante. Basically there is an application, the
child has to write a letter and the child has to volunteer 10 hours a
week, regardless of their age. We have had 7-year-olds who help clean
Winter Concert Series -- every Friday from 8 to 11 pm, with dinner
and drink specials.
Open Mic Nights on Sundays from 5 to 7 pm starting January 2
For more information about Mt. Holiday go to www.mt-holiday.com or call