Whitefish Mountain Resort Reports Third Best Season in Skier Visits

With average snowfall, Big Mountain drew over 320,000 visitors during 2015-2016 season

By Clare Menzel
Skiers enjoy bluebird skies at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Beacon File Photo

Tallying over 300,000 skier visits for the sixth year running, Whitefish Mountain Resort posted a solid, though not record-breaking, 2015-16 season.

“We skied a lot more this year than we did last year, and I think a lot of that had to do with snow,” Riley Polumbus, spokesperson for Whitefish Mountain Resort, said. “Snow definitely had an impact as far as total ski visits, they tend to go hand in hand.”

Big Mountain saw 311 inches of snow this season, slightly above the 10-year 300-inch average and a significant increase over the 221 inches that fell last year. Storms delivered snow 70 out of 128 days, attracting over 320,000 total skier visits, the third best showing in the resort’s history.

“We’re definitely on this trend,” Polumbus said. “I think that’s the new norm, and it’s a good spot. We’re doing well, which allows us to invest more in the mountain and its products, and it’s also keeping it not too busy and crazy.”

Season pass sales were down compared to last year, according to Polumbus, though passholder visits were up – 2015-16 was the third best season by this measurement as well. Polumbus also reported an increase in frequent skier cards.

Though the resort saw a bump in the domestic market over last year, overall lodging numbers were down, thanks in part to a slower flow of guests from Canada.

“One can guess it’s because of the economy and the dollar,” Polumbus said. “We all knew that was going to happen, and we did our best to keep pushing in other markets. We’ve seen this before – and when I say ‘we,’ I mean collectively, our town and community – that we can’t put all our eggs in one basket with the Canadian market.”

In recent years, the resort has focused on diversifying by attracting skiers and snowboarders from cities like Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Portland, Polumbus said.

“We’ve been trying to build those markets and invest in them, and we saw that pay off this year,” Polumbus said. “It’s nice to see that [visitors from] other states seem to be popping up over the last few years… we’re on the map, more than we were before. Maybe it’s word of mouth, or maybe it’s [making] Ski Magazine’s top ten list. But overall, we’re gaining in those areas.”

While skier attendance and snowfall didn’t break any records, this ski season did see one remarkable accomplishment – first-time passholder Ken Jones, a new Whitefish resident as of last fall, skied over 8 million vertical feet at the resort before it closed on April 10.

“I think it’s really phenomenal that you can reach that point,” Polumbus said. “I don’t know that anyone will ever reach that again.”

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