Spirit Mountain Says No To Snowboards

The sport of snowboarding was just taking off in 1986, with an estimated 100,000 snowboarders across the U.S.  The new riders didn’t get a warm welcome from skiers and ski areas, with an estimated 190 of 250 ski resorts across the nation banning snowboards. Duluth’s Spirit Mountain was among the ski areas with a total ban.

“I don’t think that’s ever going to change,” Spirit Mountain Executive Director Larry Hutchinson said at the time. “We’ve had two people in two years come here and request to use them.” He added that the resort’s insurance didn’t cover activities other than skiing.


Farther west at Mont du Lac, snowboarders were welcome. “There are some bad feelings in the industry toward people with skiboards and I don’t really know why,” said Bob Tranholt, then the ski area’s owner.

Up the North Shore at Lutsen, snowboarders had to prove their competency on a test course before being allowed on the lifts, and then were allowed to board on only one run.

Twenty-four years later, snowboards are nearly as common as skis at most resorts, which create terrain parks with jumps, halfpipes, rails and more to cater to the snowboarding crowd. Spirit Mountain now is known as home to one of the best snowboard parks in the Midwest.

One year after Hutchinson predicted things wouldn’t change, Mason Aguirre was born in Duluth. By the age of 6 he was snowboarding on Spirit’s runs. His sister, Molly, soon joined him. Their father moved the family to Mammoth Lakes, Calif., when their father realized the two young Aguirres were talented boarders. In 2006, Mason Aguirre placed fourth in the halfpipe competition at the Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy. He and his sister, both professionals, are members of the U.S. Snowboarding Team.