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Buena Vista to hold Welcome to Winter open house, ski swap ahead of 72nd season

While conditions aren’t quite ready for snowmaking as of now, plans are underway to get the Buena Vista Ski Area and its guests ready for the upcoming season, which doesn’t have an official start date yet. From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 20, Buena Vista will hold its annual Welcome to Winter open house, which includes a ski and snowboard swap and ski patrol fundraiser.

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Buena Vista Ski Area is preparing for its 72nd season, and recently acquired a new groomer, which will help drive the ski area's grooming standards. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- With freezing temperatures and the first snowfall in the area, plenty of folks have begun wondering when they can hit the slopes again and enjoy the beloved winter pastime of skiing.

“People have already been calling to see if we’re open,” said Laurie Schaper, Buena Vista Ski Area’s fourth generation operator and group services coordinator.

Last year, the ski area had a delayed start to the season when it opened in late December. At the time, pandemic regulations restricted some of its service offerings, and Schaper said she and her family were unsure of how the season would pan out.

“We were a little skeptical of how the year would be. A lot of things were virtual, so we didn’t have school or church groups,” said Schaper. “But it was actually pretty busy and a good year. I think a lot of people just wanted to get out, and skiing is something you’re mostly outside for anyway.”

Suzanne Thomas, owner of Buena Vista and Schaper’s mother, said the ski area even saw increased ticket sales, which she also attributes to people’s increased desire to get out of the house last winter.

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Buena Vista Ski Area is preparing for its 72nd season, and recently acquired a new groomer, which will help drive the ski area's grooming standards. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

While conditions aren’t quite ready for snowmaking as of now, plans are underway to get the ski area and its guests ready for the upcoming 72nd season, which doesn’t have an official start date yet. Schaper said they have tentative plans to begin snowmaking next week, and they recently added a new grooming machine with updated features to their fleet.

“I think it will be a lot easier to operate, and it will work a bit better on the hills,” said Schaper. “One thing we really take pride in is grooming our hills, and making the conditions really nice for any ability to come on and ski.”

Then, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 20, Buena Vista will hold its annual Welcome to Winter open house, which includes a ski and snowboard swap and ski patrol fundraiser -- with a portion of the consignment sales going to its ski patrol for training and medical education. Ski and snowboard gear should be brought to Buena Vista for swap from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 19, or from 8 to 9:30 a.m. on Saturday.

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Buena Vista Ski Area's ski and snowboard swap is open to the public, and attendees can shop for gently used winter sporting equipment. Contributed

The day is also an opportunity for people to purchase their season passes or snow passes, Schaper added. But if unable to attend, passes can be bought on the Buena Vista website or by calling the ski area at (218) 243-2231 .

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“The ski swap brings out a lot of people because they love to look at the equipment and sell their own,” she said. “The season passes are such a good deal if you come out here frequently, or, even if you come out here a handful of times, the snow passes pay off.”

During the open house, there will be various vendors in attendance showing the latest in winter gear. Free pizza, drinks and Raphael’s Bakery cookies will be available to guests, who can also participate in free drawings.

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A wall of memories spanning over 70 years of Buena Vista Ski Area's history will be on display at its annual open house on Saturday, Nov. 20. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

The ski area is also looking to fill multiple job positions and will be holding open interviews on Saturday as well. Schaper said those interested in applying should come by that day, fill out an application and then hang around for an interview.

With renewed interest from groups and no current COVID-19 mandates from the Minnesota Ski Association, Schaper is hopeful the upcoming season and winter events at Buena Vista will look as they did prior to the pandemic.

“I think we’re on track for probably the same events that we’ve had in the past, like cross country races,” said Schaper.

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A portion of the consignment sales from Buena Vista Ski Area's ski and snowboard swap goes to its ski patrol for training and medical education. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

And as opening day is on the horizon, both Schaper and Thomas said they’re looking forward to being reunited with guests and employees, new and old -- their “winter family."

“Winter is a tough time for people sometimes, and being outside and skiing is just so good mentally and physically because you’re getting that fresh air and Vitamin D,” said Schaper. “We are just super excited to get back into the season, and see all the fresh snow and the enthusiasm that it brings. We’re excited to bring some joy again to people this year.”

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Lily Schaper, fifth generation of the Buena Vista Ski Resort family, decorates a Christmas tree in preparation for the ski area's open house on Saturday, Nov. 20. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

Related Topics: SKIINGTHINGS TO DO
Bria Barton covers travel and tourism for Forum News Service and is based at the Bemidji Pioneer. A South Carolina native and USC grad, she can be found exploring Minnesota’s abundance of towns, food and culture. Follow her on Instagram @briabarton.
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