Ski hills in western Montana are starting up their lifts and opening their runs, and Whitefish Mountain Resort will soon be following suit.
The resort gave skiers and snowboarders the thumbs up to pull their equipment out of the closet and start tuning it up for the mountain’s expected opening day on Dec. 5.
According to Donnie Clapp, the resort’s public relations manager, the latest round of winter storms have dropped enough snow to open several of the mountain’s runs. As of Monday morning, there were 31 inches of base snow at the summit of Big Mountain, roughly 18 inches at the bottom of Chair Seven and 6 inches in the village.
“The snow that’s falling right now is really dense,” Clapp said last week. “It’s exceptional for base building,”
The National Weather Service is predicting even more of the white stuff for the valley, with snowstorms forecasted through the weekend.
However, even if the storms don’t produce a lot of snow, Clapp said storms from previous weeks have dumped enough on the mountain to open at least several of the runs by opening day.
“If we didn’t get any more snow between now and opening day, we could probably open the back side,” Clapp said. “Signs are good that we can open some terrain on Dec. 5.”
On Tuesday, Clapp said there is enough snow to ski the blue and green runs on the back, but if they don’t get any more snow this week the runs on the front of the mountain will most likely stay closed. Skiing is possible on much of the mountain, he said, but not all the way to the bottom.
The resort is still hoping for colder weather though, so they can use their snow guns to pad the beginner’s area and the runs near the base of the mountain. Clapp said they have started creating snow with snow guns near the resort’s village, but their snow-making capabilities are limited by temperature.
Clapp expects plenty of snow-sport enthusiasts to be excited about opening day because, despite the recession, the resort has kept its number of season passes in line with previous years. The total was about 100 passes less than last year, Clapp said, but the same as two years ago. More adults bought passes this year than previous years, outpacing kids and seniors.
Clapp attributed the sale success to this year’s new payment program, which allowed people to split the season pass cost into two payments. Clapp said roughly 1,000 people took advantage of the new program, a group that probably would not have purchased passes otherwise.
“It was a great success,” Clapp said.
In another effort to help already-light wallets in the valley, Clapp said the resort will be offering a special two-day beginner’s course for those who aren’t ready to carve up a black diamond run. The package will include two days of lessons, ski or board rentals and beginner’s lift tickets for $69.
Clapp said the resort will not make much money on the beginner’s course, but hopes it will cultivate future skiers and snowboarders.
Other changes on the mountain include a change to Ed & Mully’s restaurant, which will switch the sit down, wait-staffed dining room to a more laid-back approach, Clapp said. People will order food at the counter and get a pager to tell them their order is ready. There will also be couches, pool tables and vintage video games to keep diners entertained. The idea is to make the large space a place people will want to hang out, Clapp said.
And as for those who are skeptical about having enough snow for an opening day early in December, Clapp said Mother Nature rarely disappoints.
“The snow always comes, you just have to be patient,” Clapp said.
For more information on ski conditions at Whitefish Mountain Resort, visit www.skiwhitefish.com. Ticket prices will be available once the resort determines which runs will be open.
This article has been updated after more timely information was made available.
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