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Choice Financial gives $100,000 for Frost Fire purchase

WALHALLA, N.D.—Choice Financial bank contributed $100,000 toward the June purchase of the Frost Fire ski area in Walhalla by the Pembina Gorge Foundation, according to a foundation release.

Foundation spokeswoman Kristi Wilfahrt said the bank's gift went toward paying the ski area's $1 million-plus price tag when the group bought the recreational site from Judith and Richard Johnson, who had owned Frost Fire for more than 40 years.

Wilfahrt said the gift from Choice Financial was part of about $850,000 in private money that went toward the purchase. The rest of the bill was covered by funds distributed through the Community Development Block Grant program.

Choice Financial has roots in Walhalla, as the town is home to the former Walhalla State Bank—one of four local North Dakota banks that merged in 2001 to form what is now a statewide financial services provider.

Pat Chaput, president of the bank's Walhalla branch, stated in the release that the foundation's vision to "preserve the natural beauty" of the area while expanding its recreational offerings "aligns very well with Choice Financial's core value to better the places in which we live."

Chaput also said the foundation's work would help regional job prospects while bringing in new revenues for surrounding communities.

The acquisition of the ski area is just one cost being considered by the foundation, which is led by an 11-person board of directors. Wilfahrt said the foundation is also in the midst of an approximately $4 million fundraising campaign, an amount split between $3 million for capital costs and improvements and $1 million for a Frost Fire endowment.

She described the bank as one of the project's "biggest cheerleaders."

"We're just grateful," Wilfahrt said. "The board said that purchasing Frost Fire was a doable project to keep it open as public amenity as long as we could raise the capital, and that's our target—for it to remain open for the public."

Andrew Haffner

Andrew Haffner covers higher education and general assignment stories for the Grand Forks Herald. He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he studied journalism, political science and international studies. He previously worked at the Dickinson Press.

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