WHITEFISH — Gliding around Whitefish Mountain Resort last week, anyone on the slopes or ski lifts was likely to encounter a southern twang here and there, as a group of 130 Texans descended upon the ski hill to carve up fresh powder.
As members of the Texas Ski Council, a club dedicated to pursuing the sport across the country and the world, the skiers arrived with a mission: To encounter the ski hill, the people running it, and the town it’s in, and have a good time.
Then, the happy skiers go back to Texas and their daily lives, where they have contact with hundreds, if not thousands, of likeminded outdoor athletes seeking the cold comfort of a black diamond run.
The Texas Ski Council, bringing seven of its 14 member clubs, arrived in Whitefish on Feb. 23 and stayed until March 2.
“It is a pretty big deal. This is one of the bigger ski groups, and it’s a segment of the industry that’s important because they’re doing a good job of keeping people involved in the sport,” Riley Polumbus, public relations manager at Whitefish Mountain Resort, said. “Mostly it’s important because it’s just keeping the sport alive and in this case thriving. Texas is kind of a big ski market, so it’s important to have that.”
This wasn’t the first time the Texas Ski Council has made its way to Montana, Rachel Jackson, the trip coordinator for the Whitefish expedition, said. Previous trips happened in the winters of 1988-1989 and 2005-2006, so the resort they returned to this year is quite different, given the amount of work the resort has put into infrastructure on the mountain. Later this year, the clubs plan to ski in Portugal.
Jackson, who found a few moments to chat between runs and making sure all the logistics were running smoothly, said the trip happened because of a solid pitch from the folks at Whitefish Mountain Resort and the Lodge at Whitefish Lake.
“You want to want to work with people you are going to work with,” Jackson said. “Coming to our meetings in person made a huge difference.”
The ski council takes the business of recreation very seriously. Each year, they send out a request for proposals and entertain bids from ski resorts across the country and the world. Every April, they have their trip selection meeting, called Bidfest, where they hear and discuss the proposals.
Organizations that send people to these meetings usually have a better shot at getting the contract, Jackson said, and the team from Whitefish Mountain Resort and the Lodge at Whitefish Lake made a great impression on the Texans.
It’s good momentum for the ski hill, but it’s also good news for the latest direct flight offered from Glacier Park International Airport, which will start flights to and from Dallas-Fort Worth in June. Members of the Texas Ski Council said the flight would be a boon to their club.
Jackson said skiers from seven clubs in Texas — from Beaumont, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and Lubbock — stayed in various hotels and lodges on their trip, with major events at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake.
Jackson’s personal entourage on this trip included her daughter, who is 30, and her grandchildren, who are young kids. She started with the Texas Ski Council when her daughter was small, and that led to forming friendships she and her family might not have had otherwise. She’s enjoyed watching her daughter grow and introduce a new generation to the joy of skiing.
“There are adults here who I met as children,” Jackson said.
And while the bulk of their focus is on skiing, the ski club members also participated in a local pub-crawl, visited Glacier National Park, and attended various après ski events.
“The groups stay in a lot of different places and eat in a lot of different restaurants,” Polumbus said. “This kind of business is interesting for our locals to know about and the fact that it brings in 130 people at a time but in addition to that, it starts on the ski hill and ripples into the community.”
Jackson said there would be good reports to the rest of the Texas ski community after this trip.
“We’ve had an amazing time, everyone has been wonderful,” she said.