Northland executive and Minnesota ski-area founder

Passing Date: 
Saturday, March 7, 2015

Walter Spidahl, 95, a longtime ski rep, sales manager and ski area founder, died March 7, 2015.

Spidahl grew up in Norwegian Grove Township, Minnesota, a rural community 40 miles southeast of Fargo, North Dakota, and learned to ski as a child. While attending Gustavus Adolphus College he enlisted in the National Guard, and during WWII was sent to Kodiak, Alaska. Officially an army cook, he also became a ski instructor. 

After the war, Spidahl attended the University of Minnesota and was active in the ski club. In 1948 he married Marie Elizabeth Johnson and the couple settled in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, where he started a ski shop. Christian A. Lund offered him a job as a sales rep for Northland Skis, covering Minnesota, Wisconsin and Northern Illinois. With other members of the Fergus Ski Club, he founded Hallaway Hill ski area, in what is now Maplewood State Park.

Spidahl spent three years as Northland’s sales manager, working in Minneapolis, then moved to Tacoma, Washington, as vice president/sales manager at Krystal Skis. Returning to Minnesota, he and Liz bought a farmhouse and turned the property into Ski Gaard, a cross-country ski area still operated by their son David and his wife Cindy. 

Spidahl is survived by his children John (Naomi), Christine (Kim) Parsons, David (Cindy), Oscar, and Mary (Randy) Kelley; twelve grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. 

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