The Pembina Gorge Foundation became a 501(c)3 North Dakota nonprofit corporation in January 2017.
It owns and operates Frost Fire Park.
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.
Richard and Judith Johnson were the owners of "Frost Fire Ski Area & Amphitheater" from 1976 - 2017. They opened for skiing the day after Christmas, 1976 and added the annual Summer Theatre Musical in 1985. For over 40 years, Dick and Judith provided outdoor recreation fun for thousands of people. In March of 2016 Richard passed away. Judith worked to keep Frost Fire going by forming a partnership with North Dakota Parks & Recreation while looking for a solution that would keep Frost Fire open to the public. The Community Foundation of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks & Region with the Red River Regional Council gathered a small group of people to assist Judith in finding a solution that would ensure Frost Fire activities and access to the Pembina Gorge recreation and hospitality hub would continue. This group formed the Pembina Gorge Foundation. Frost Fire became the property of the Pembina Gorge Foundation on June 19th, 2017. On July 1st David and Amy Jo Paukert led the summer theatre production titled "Smoke on the Mountain" - 4,200 patrons attended the buffet and joined us in fellowship that season!
The board of directors determined that Frost Fire could be a near-sustainable business operation if the capital needs could be met by donors, grants, sponsors and partnerships. The board quietly launched the "Fire Up Frost Fire" capital campaign Phase I with a goal of raising $3.1 million that would fund the acquisition of Frost Fire Ski & Amphitheater, major equipment maintenance, ski/snowboard fleet, snow-makers, groomer, people movers, theater equipment, and some small renovations, as well a $1 million endowment.
Lead support and start-up funding in 2017/2018 was declared and provided by:
In the fall of 2017, it was learned the triple chair was not safe to operate and by spring of 2018 the Fire Up Frost Fire Capital Campaign Phase I grew to $4.5 million (not including endowment for scholarships), which included approximately $1.7 million to purchase and build the new Skytrac Quad chairlift, now known as "Lyle's Lift". The tubing hill opened for the 2017-2018 season.
During the 2018 season a few challenges emerged relating to grants awarded or sought and some requirements that couldn't be met without jeopardizing the strength of the Foundation. As a new business operation, the Foundation didn't have the borrowing capacity or the cash flow from pledges that are required to provide cash to operate quickly. Cavalier Rural Electric kindly assisted with a low-interest loan to help us with the down payment for the chairlift. Fundraising for equipment continued and the board moved forward with lodge renovations to re-locate the bar service from downstairs to the main floor. More renovations were made to accommodate a grill and lounge on the main floor, named and dedicated the Howatt Hangar in April of 2018, thanks to generous support provided by:
The momentum continued to build in 2018 as more lead donors recognized the asset Frost Fire was to the region's young people and the economy. Major gift commitments were made by:
In 2019, after several attempts of seeking funding from the state, regional legislators got involved and helped to secure grant funding through the 2018-2019 legislative session. The Pembina Gorge Foundation was awarded a $750,000 North Dakota Gorge Preservation Grant match. This was instrumental for the opening of Crary Mountain for the 2019 ski season. Thank you to the many legislators and State leaders that helped secure this funding - including, but not limited to:
More than 250 donors have helped since the first conversations. Many people contributed monies, in-kind gifts, or thousands of volunteer hours in a team effort to ensure Frost Fire is available for the next generation. Founding donors (those that said yes and led to the purchase of Frost Fire and establishing of the Pembina Gorge Foundation) included lead gift commitments, major gifts, and gifts of all sizes. Each hour and dollar donated has made this project a success to date.
Our hearts are grateful for all of the Friends of Frost Fire. Each volunteer, donor, patron, sponsor, and ambassador has played a significant role in the preservation of Frost Fire Ski & Amphitheater. Thank you, your support is such a big deal. This is a legacy project that has the potential to not only changes lives positively, but also have a positive economic benefit for the region. Thanks for jumping on the band wagon with us!
The Pembina Gorge Foundation preserves and enhances 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.
It is our great passion to introduce the youth in our area to the wonder that is the Pembina Gorge. We believe that a love for nature enhances and enriches young lives. With your help, we are creating a world class recreation and leisure destination that will provide positive life experiences for all who live in or visit the Gorge!
The Foundation can accept gifts of cash, stocks, IRAs, commodities, real estate, and other real (appreciated) property. Ask us about the North Dakota 40% tax credit for gifts to endowments. Our endowment is held at the Fargo-Moorhead Community Foundation, which qualifies for the ND Endowment Tax Credit.
Gifts of any size are always welcome.
For more information on giving or the campaign, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 701.549.3600
The Pembina Gorge Foundation Board of Directors includes:
Lyle's Lift is named after Lyle (and Margie) Johnson in gratitude and deep appreciation for what they have done and continue to do to support and Fire-Up Frost Fire! It's been a "heavy lift" and Lyle has often been the advocate and the adviser, leading the team and the community to do the right thing. Not only that, the generosity extended has been tremendous and has carried a big portion of the heavy load during the times it was too much to bear for this grass-roots group. Thank you, Lyle and Margie! You make us proud.
- Pembina Gorge Foundation, Frost Fire Park