Whitefish Mountain Resort to Require Pass for Uphill Travel

Uphill pass will be complimentary for season pass holders; cost for others

By Micah Drew
Snowshoers hike uphill at Whitefish Mountain Resort on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Skiers eschewing lifts at Whitefish Mountain Resort this winter will now be required to have an uphill access pass. The resort announced the changes to how the mountain’s uphill policy will be administered for the upcoming winter operating season in a press release on Sept. 21.

For season pass holders wishing to ascend the mountain under their own power, the uphill pass will be an optional complimentary addition. Skiers who have already purchased their season passes can add the uphill option online.

For non-season pass holders, there will be options to purchase an uphill day ticket for $12, or an uphill only season pass for $100. All uphill pass holders will be required to sign a release and acknowledgement of the resort’s uphill policy and visibly display their pass while on the mountain.

The resort has not charged for uphill travel in the past, but increasing uphill traffic in recent years prompted the change.

“We know this is a popular activity for a select group of avid skiers,” Whitefish Mountain Resort CEO Dan Graves said in a press release. “We feel good about our policy which allows this activity but every year we find ourselves needing to educate or remind people of the policy itself as well as the safety concerns … We also believe whatever fees will be collected are nominal given the upkeep that goes into roads, parking lots and trail grooming, all of which make this an easy place to engage in uphill travel.”

Whitefish Mountain Resort’s uphill policy was created in 2010 in agreement with the U.S. Forest Service in order to decrease unsafe behaviors that were observed on the slopes during an “exponential increase” in uphill travel.

The resort’s policy requires uphill skiers to park in the Spruce Lot between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., and the resort encourages the use of the Spruce Lot all day for those utilizing the uphill routes.

There are two routes open for uphill access from the Spruce Lot. When traveling to the top of Big Mountain via the Benny Up Route, skiers must stay to the western edge of Chipmunk, under Chair 6, from Spruce Lot to the Lift Plaza. From there, skiers follow the western edge of Toni Matt to the summit.

The East Route begins at the Spruce Lot, crosses over to the Ski and Ride School and clinic building and ascends Big Mountain via Lower Inspiration, Expressway, Moe-Mentum and Upper Russ’s Street.

Twelve-inch red diamonds with an arrow and the word “Uphill” printed on them mark both routes.

For the two weeks before and after the scheduled opening and closing days at Whitefish Mountain Resort, only the East Route is open for uphill and downhill traffic between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Individuals traveling uphill are also prohibited from approaching within 100 feet of grooming machines or within 50 feet of any snowmaking equipment.

Whitefish Mountain Resort managers estimate that more than half of uphill travelers are current winter season pass holders, all of whom will have the cost of uphill access waived.

“The goal is to ensure everyone is aware of, and on board with, the [uphill] policy,” Whitefish Mountain Resort Marketing Director Nick Polumbus posted in the Facebook group Protect the Right to Responsible Uphill Travel at Whitefish Mountain Resort. “While we know this pass concept will not be loved by all, we want to continue to educate people, especially those new to the area and the sport, and we felt this would be a positive step in that direction.”

The resort’s uphill policy can be viewed online at https://skiwhitefish.com/uphill-policy/ under the safety tab.