Ready for Summer on Big Mountain

By Beacon Staff

WHITEFISH – There are still pockets of snow on Big Mountain, but officials with Whitefish Mountain Resort are focused on summer. The ski area opens for the season on June 15 and this year there will be 27 miles of mountain bike trail to explore.

Along with downhill biking, people will be able to enjoy Montana’s only alpine slide, aerial adventure park, more than a mile of zip lines, and scenic lift rides to the top of Big Mountain. The resort is open daily through Labor Day and then Friday through Sunday until Sept. 29.

“What we’re trying to do is offer people a reason to come up the mountain in the summer,” said spokesperson Riley Polumbus.

Work crews will finish the five new trails this summer, adding five more miles to Whitefish Mountain Resort’s dirt bike trail network. Construction of the new trails started in October of last year, before snow covered the ground, but planning started four years ago. Because much of the resort is on U.S. Forest Service land, the trails had to go through an extensive review process before construction could begin. The resort worked with Terraflows Trails, headed up by Pete Costain, on the design and construction of the new downhill trails.

On a recent Wednesday morning, Josh Knight stood on the slopes of Big Mountain, leading a trail crew as they groomed a new berm and jump. He said downhill biking has grown in popularity in recent years, especially at ski resorts.

“This gives you that dirt roller coaster effect,” Knight said. “It’s a combo of jumps and berms and that’s the name of the game.”

On June 15, the lower sections of the new trails will be open and accessible via the Summit Trail. The higher sections of the new trails will be completed by mid-summer. Chairs 1, 6 and 10 will be running throughout the summit for scenic rides and to reach the trails. Chair 1 is outfitted with specialty chairs to haul bikes up the mountain.

Summer recreation on Big Mountain is nothing new, according to Polumbus. The mountain opened in 1947 and three years later started offering summer lift rides on Chair 2.

“It was a big deal for people who didn’t ski and hike to be able to take the lift up here and see the Flathead, Whitefish Lake, the Mission Mountains and Glacier,” she said. “It’s nice to be off the grid up here, to unplug and enjoy nature.”

Rusty Sutton, Kate Atha and Ryan Porter work on a section of the new downhill mountain bike trails at Whitefish Mountain Resort. – Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon

Added in 2009, the zip line park has become one of the most popular attractions. There are now seven different lines that add up to more than a mile in length. The lines have also been reengineered so adults and children who weigh less than 100 pounds can get across the entire line without stopping.

“It’s high thrill, but low skill,” Polumbus said.

Polumbus said new bike trails and the zip lines have given visitors plenty to do during the ski resort’s off-season.

“I think this summer could be really good,” she said.

For more information about Whitefish Mountain Resort and to see its activity and lodging packages, visit www.skiwhitefish.com.

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