Winter Preview

Blacktail Readies to Open with New Owners, GM and Perks

Longtime employee Jessica Wood will steer the mountain following purchase by Washington-based Mission Ridge

By Micah Drew
A skier enjoys views of Flathead Lake from Blacktail Mountain Ski Area on Sunday, March 23, 2014. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

In a week that saw Kalispell’s warmest December weather on record, western Montana’s ski resorts are praying for snow, and Blacktail Mountain Ski Area, just outside Lakeside, is no different as the north-facing slopes remain bare.  

The mountain does not utilize any snowmaking equipment, so opening day is purely dependent on December’s weather, and staff are anxiously hoping next week’s colder forecast will be beneficial. The mountain never sets a hard opening date, but the last two years Mother Nature has delivered enough snow to get the lifts spinning around Dec. 20. 

When the slopes do open for the season, they will do so with several changes behind the scenes. Blacktail, which is known for offering an affordable alternative to the region’s larger, more costly resorts, will be under new ownership and new management. 

Jessica Wood, one of Blacktails original employees, will be taking over as general manager after spending more than 20 years in various roles. She began as a part-time Snow Sports instructor when the resort opened in 1998, became the Director of Snow Sports in 2001, and moved up to Operations Manager in 2019. 

“Jessi has earned it and is very deserving. She has been in the business a long time and worked her way through the trenches,” said Blacktail Mountain founder, and Jessi’s father, Steve Spencer. “She is the perfect fit to lead Blacktail Mountain into the future.”

Wood has represented Blacktail with the Montana Ski Areas Association for two decades. 

“I am so grateful for the opportunity to continue to grow with Blacktail and contribute to what I consider my family’s legacy to this community,” Wood said. 

Wood’s aim to keep the community legacy intact should ease any worries that locals might have after hearing that the resort had finally sold after it was initially listed four years ago. 

On Nov. 18, Washington-based Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort announced its purchase of Blacktail. 

Mission Ridge currently operates a 2,000-acre ski area 400 miles west of the Flathead Valley, near Wenatchee, Washington. Spencer, along with his three partners, Tom Sands, Dennis Carver, and Jeff Sorg, said in a press release they “could not be more pleased about the sale.”

“They are proven ski area operators that are community minded and see a bright future for Blacktail Mountain,” Spencer said. 

Transition between the owners began immediately with Blacktail retaining all current mountain staff. All season passes and pre-purchased products will be honored.

Mission Ridge covers roughly twice the area of Blacktail, which sees approximately 45,000 skiers and riders hit the slopes each year. 

Mission Ridge Resort is a member of the Indy Pass, a conglomerate of independently owned ski resorts across the country that offers pass holders several days of skiing at each resort, including Red Lodge Mountain and Lost Trail Powder Mountain in Montana; however, Indy Pass president Doug Fish said there are currently no plans to add Blacktail to the pass for the 2021-22 season.

However, dedicated Blacktail Mountain members will gain perks at the sister-resort starting this season. It was announced last week that passholders will be able to ski free all season at Mission Ridge on weekdays. Also included is unlimited night access, and half off weekend tickets between Dec. 12 and March 19. Before and after those dates, weekend access is free as well. 

Blacktail passholders are also able to ski at any Montana ski area for the half-day rate. Adult passes are $595, while single-day tickets are $50. 

Colten Wiley hits a jump on opening day at Blacktail Mountain Ski Area on Dec. 20, 2014. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon