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Hundreds gear up for slope season at Buena Vista's 'Welcome to Winter' open house

Hundreds attended the annual Welcome to Winter open house on Saturday for a ski and snowboard swap, a fundraiser for the ski patrol and to get in the spirit for another season at Buena Vista Ski Resort.

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Attendees try out ski gear during a ski and snowboard swap on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at a Buena Vista Ski Area open house event.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — Hundreds came out for Buena Vista Ski Area's annual Welcome to Winter open house on Saturday, including a ski and snowboard swap and a fundraiser for the ski patrol, and to get in the spirit for another winter season on the slopes.

Although some Bemidjians may ask themselves why they live up North with all the snow, cold temperatures and shorter days, but the staff members at Buena Vista have the opposite reaction.

Ski Patrol Director Matt Schmid says he loves to see the snow fall, because that just means skiing season is right around the corner.

“It’s been a while since we’ve actually had snow at the ski swap,” Schmid said. “But I remember we’ve had a couple of years in the past where we had runs open so when people came in to get new gear, they could literally go out and try it right away.”

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Ski Patrol Director Matt Schmid helps attendees with their gear during a ski and snowboard swap on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at a Buena Vista Ski Area open house event.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

The open house event was themed “Make your Christmas Merry and Bright at Buena Vista” and was mainly a place for friends and family to gather and get excited to hit the slopes, but was also a huge fundraiser for the Ski Patrol, who helps everyone stay safe while out enjoying the snow.

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“With the ski swap that the ski patrol puts on, we see 15% of the proceeds,” Schmid said. “It all goes to the ski patrol to help out with education, medical supplies and everything else that (we've) got going on.”

Anyone could bring their gently used ski gear, snowboard gear, snowshoes and even cross-country ski gear to Buena Vista on Friday night and Saturday morning for the swap if they want to upgrade for the upcoming season.

“The ski swap started at 10 o'clock and we had a huge line out the door. We even had kids camping out in the parking lot at 7:30 this morning to be first in line to get the first picks,” Schmid said. “It goes quickly, there were a couple hundred people and there’s everything here like skis, snowboards, boots, snow pants and helmets — it's a big deal and a big kickoff to our season.”

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An attendee tries out snowboarding gear during a ski and snowboard swap on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at a Buena Vista Ski Area open house event.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

Along with the ski swap fundraiser, Saturday was also a chance for attendees to get their season passes, grab a bite of pizza and get caught up with the latest winter gear from various vendors.

According to Schmid, it won’t be long before the slopes will be open. He said they had already been running the snow cannons for the last couple of days.

“They have a fantastic crew (running the snow cannons), they do their best to keep it going when temperatures permit to make snow, so we’re hoping to be open soon,” Schmid said. “I’m really looking forward to another great season, it’s going to be another busy year. Ever since (the COVID-19 pandemic), it really boomed the outdoor industry, everyone wanted to get out and do something.”

For those unable to attend the event in person, season passes can be bought on the Buena Vista website or by calling the ski area at (218) 243-2231. Buena Vista is also hiring for the upcoming season. To apply, visit their website at bvskiarea.com.

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Family and friends gather and enjoy free pizza on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at a Buena Vista Ski Area open house event.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

Downstairs at the event, third-generation owner and operator Suzanne Thomas recalls this year's turnout was bigger than ever before. She estimates that over 300, maybe even 400 community members were in attendance throughout the day.

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She said she can’t help but think of her father, Earle Dickinson, during this event as they celebrate over 70 years in business and left behind an enduring legacy that has carried on through the succeeding generations of Buena Vista for years to come.

“I always think of my dad on this beautiful day,” Thomas said. “He would be so proud of all these people that are here today.”

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Attendees wait in line for season passes on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at a Buena Vista Ski Area open house event.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer
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Attendees check out snowboards during a ski and snowboard swap on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at a Buena Vista Ski Area open house event.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer
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A child solves math problems on the whiteboard on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at a Buena Vista Ski Area open house event.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer
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Attendees check out the ski boots during a ski and snowboard swap on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at a Buena Vista Ski Area open house event.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer
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Attendees receive free pizza on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at a Buena Vista Ski Area open house event.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer
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A snow cannon runs on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at a Buena Vista Ski Area open house event.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

Related Topics: THINGS TO DO
Maggi is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer focusing on outdoor and human interest stories. Raised in Aitkin, Minnesota, Maggi is a graduate of Bemidji State University's class of 2022 with a degree in Mass Communication.
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