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In Our Backyard

Recently, my Kiwanis group was fortunate to hear from Rachel Buss with Annie’s House at Bottineau Winter Park. The most surprising part of that visit was not the sheer number of visitors the park sees each year or even the number of adaptive patrons they assist. For me, it was how many people were unaware of the history, services and the absolute gem of a facility we have just a short drive from here.

You see, I grew up in the Turtle Mountains and spent nearly every day in the winter months exploring the 40 acres it sits on. The ski area has come a long way since the late ’70s and ’80s when it was quite literally my second home, adding terrain parks, tubing, additional runs, a chair lift, a new fully adaptive chalet, complete with adaptive programming, hiking trails and even off-season programming.

Bottineau Winter Park began humbly in 1969 on the Western Edge of the Turtle Mountains, just a few miles south of the Canadian border. My understanding is a group of local businessmen and sporting enthusiasts had the vision to create a recreational park to draw visitors from the area and Canada in hopes of bolstering the business economy and providing for family fun.

It began with a few runs and a very modest A-frame chalet that grew to meet the demands of the crowds over the years. I still remember the day the second level opened in the old chalet and how toasty warm it was up there (great for getting a midday nap in). What a vision it was and ultimately has become in that it is now the first facility in North Dakota focused on empowering persons with disabilities and their families to enjoy the amazing outdoor activities available to us in the winter months specifically but throughout the entire year as well.

Today, Annie’s House (the new ski lodge that replaced the old A-frame chalet) is filled with families enjoying time together on the hill (tubing, skiing and snowboarding), friends spending quality time in the N.D. outdoors, ski racers (some of the best in the Midwest) practicing for the next big race, and persons of all abilities interacting and enjoying the gift that we have been given.

As for me, I guess I took for granted the days as a child going to work with my parents at the lodge, skiing all day, and falling asleep in the car on the way home. I think back now and can’t believe how fortunate I was to have had a place like this in my backyard. As an adult, I can’t help but think of the conversations that must have happened in the late ’60s before the park vision came to fruition. Certainly, there must have been nay-sayers and citizens who opposed this project (just as nearly any large-scale municipal project has) and I wonder if a glimpse into time to see the park we enjoy today would have changed their minds. I have faith the supporters all those years ago would be proud of how far it has come and the legacy they left for us to enjoy.

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