Let’s Make Uphilling Safer on Big Mountain

I hope that before the 2020/2021 season begins, WMR will seek feedback and suggestions from the uphill community

By Jason Mills

Whitefish Mountain Resort has announced that for the 2020/2021 ski season it will, for the first time, require a $100 season pass to go uphill on Big Mountain.

The vibrant, growing uphill community, now, as pass holders, needs to have a legitimate say in how WMR manages and implements uphill routes and policies on Big Mountain.

The mountain currently hosts two uphill routes: Benny Up (Toni Matt) and the East Route. These routes have significant drawbacks that are, at best, inconvenient and, at worst, create incredibly unsafe situations for those hiking uphill and those skiing down.

While Toni Matt is the most direct, and most popular, uphill route to the summit of Big Mountain it features several blind rollovers and is so steep most uphillers need to stop multiple times on the run which can create conflicts with downhillers. All ski areas rank the difficulty (safety) of their runs with black diamonds, blue squares, etc. – Benny Up is a black diamond uphill route and a double black when icy. Why is there no green circle, easier, uphill route? There needs to be an uphill route that hugs the west boundary of the resort, going up less-steep, less-congested cat tracks to the top of Chair 2. A route like this would offer a safer, mellower uphill experience for many and alleviate dangerous congestion on Toni Matt.

The East Route, the “mellower” route up the hill, while great from 4 p.m-7 p.m., after the lifts have stopped running, can be frightening while the lifts are running. After passing Chair 5, Momentum has blind rollovers, off-camber terrain that pushes uphillers to the middle of runs, is incredibly steep in portions forcing most uphillers to stop on the run, and then finishes up the Anthill, by far the most congested downhill area on the mountain. If the East Route stayed east of Chair 5 and went up Moose to Russ’ Street instead, almost all of these potentially dangerous issues would be avoided. If there was a roped-off, five-foot-wide path up the Anthill there would be no more close-calls between uphillers and downhillers.

I hope that before the 2020/2021 season begins, WMR will seek feedback and suggestions from the uphill community, pass holders, for ways to make uphilling on Big Mountain not just more fun, but safer for everyone.

Jason Mills
Kalispell

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