Skiers Reminded of Whitefish Mountain Resort Uphill Policies

Uphillers are taking advantage of early season snow, prompting a reminder of resort regulations

By Micah Drew
An uphill skier at Whitefish Mountain Resort on Dec. 3, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

An early November snow flurry and subsequent low temperatures have once again painted the runs on Big Mountain with a layer of powder, prompting recreationists to strap skins to skis and embark on the long-standing tradition of skinning uphill to enjoy the first turns of the season.

Unfortunately, some skiers and hikers enjoying the early season powder have been observed by Whitefish Mountain Resort (WMR) officials engaging in dangerous behavior around the new Snow Ghost Express chairlift construction zone.

According to a press release sent out by WMR this week, skiers have entered the marked-off construction zone, with at least one individual seen climbing on top of the new upper lift terminal on Inspiration Ridge.

Entering the construction zone is strictly prohibited by WMR, and violators may face consequences, including revocation of season passes.

“We don’t enjoy issuing warnings like this, but it’s absolutely crucial that folks follow the rules, use common sense and make safety their No. 1 priority,” WMR President Nick Polumbus said in a press release. “Most of our local uphill community acts responsibly, but this chairlift project poses some new and different challenges and we want everyone to be aware and safe.”

The resort, and the Flathead National Forest, remind skiers and boarders to abide by the mountain’s uphill rules, which follow U.S. Forest Service policy in requiring uphill enthusiasts to maintain a 100-foot distance from grooming machines and a 50-foot distance from snowmaking equipment within the resort’s permit boundary.

In the two weeks prior to the mountain’s opening on Dec. 8, the resort’s uphill policy will go into effect limiting which routes are accessible, only allowing uphill and downhill traffic on the East Route between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Until Nov. 24, uphill skiers may also utilize the Benny Up route. 

The 2022/23 season is the third year the resort has required skiers eschewing lift lines to have an uphill access pass once the season. As popularity in the modality has risen in recent years, the fees were implemented to offer another chance for the resort to educate skiers before they hit the hill.

The resort has increased the cost of uphill passes for the last two seasons. Single day tickets are now $15, while season passes are $135, a $10 increase. Winter 2022/23 season pass holders can receive an uphill pass as a free addition. Both the uphill pass and ticket must be visible while traveling uphill.

Uphill skiers must yield to downhill traffic, stay to the edge of routes and never skin or hike more than two people side by side.

Parking for uphill traffic is limited to 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.

The East Route begins at Spruce Parking Lot, crosses the bridge toward the Ski and Ride School and Clinic building and ascends lower Inspiration, Expressway, Moe-Mentum, and Upper Russ’s Street to the summit. The Benny Up Route also begins at the Spruce Lot and follows the western edge of Chipmunk up to the Lift Plaza, then transfers to the western edge of Toni Matt up to the summit. Routes are marked by 12-inch red diamonds with an arrow and the word “UPHILL” printed on them. There are no uphill or downhill route restrictions before 8 a.m. and after 4 p.m. pre- and post-season.

More information can be found at skiwhitefish.com/uphill-policy. The Forest Service order can be found here.

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