Christmas Day is usually one to spend with family, but northwest Lower Michigan’s Shanty Creek Resort near Bellaire and Mancelona is hoping you’ll also include it on your gift list while spreading the holiday spirit with a food donation while you ski for free.

The resort, which actually is two ski areas in one, welcomes skiers to take the slopes for free that day when they bring along a donation for The Father Fred Foundation.

Every Christmas, Shanty Creek gives away free Christmas Day lift tickets all day long to anyone who comes to the resort’s slopes. And this year, it’s spreading the spirit of the day by asking guests to bring non-perishable food items to the ticket window when they obtain their free lift ticket. All food donations will be given to The Father Fred Foundation in Traverse City, Mich., which will distribute the goods to area families in need.

"We have had a double digit increase in the number of visits to our pantry this year. It’s an ongoing trend as families try to make ends meet,” says Joan O’Neill, communications manager for The Father Fred Foundation. “When Shanty Creek came to us with the idea of giving their guests the opportunity to help local families in need, we thought it was a wonderful gesture.”

"Shanty Creek is hoping to take what is now a holiday tradition, our ‘Ski Free with Santa’ event and turn it into a giving opportunity for our guests,” says Steve Kershner, Shanty Creek’s director of snowsports. “Shanty Creek Resorts celebrates by giving families a day on the slopes, a gift that ordinarily would cost $150-$200. Our guests can then pay it forward by donating items for families that are in need. Everyone benefits."

Though a donation of food items is not required to take advantage of the resort’s free skiing on its 55 runs and six terrain parks on Christmas Day, Shanty Creek Resorts hopes that those that can, do so.

For more information about The Father Fred Foundation and what types of non-perishable items are most needed in The Foundation’s food pantry, visit fatherfred.org