Another Banner Year on Big Mountain

Whitefish Mountain Resort closed out its 2022-23 ski season with more than a half-million skier visits, besting last year’s record by 8%. The ski area’s summertime projects include chairlift maintenance and an expansion of the beginner ski area.

By Tristan Scott
Scenes from Whitefish Mountain Resort’s 16th annual pond skim on April 8, 2023. Hunter D'Antuono | Flathead Beacon.

Whitefish Mountain Resort closed out its 2022-23 season on a high note April 9 as the ski area on Big Mountain charted record-breaking visitation for the sixth consecutive season, with skiers and riders luxuriating in warm temperatures and under mostly clear skies.

With more than 500,000 skiers tallied this season — a milestone that marked Big Mountain’s 75th anniversary — the resort bested its previous record set last year with 464,000 guests, marking an 8% year-over-year increase.

“This increase was driven primarily by our more than 15,000 passholders, another record number,” according to WMR spokesperson Chad Sokol, who added that, despite the unprecedented number of guests, the new six-seater chairlift that shuttled skiers from the Base Lodge to a sub-ridge below the summit helped disperse crowds across the resort’s 3,000 acres. “We’re excited to see local skiers and riders getting the most value out of their passes. And while these are milestone numbers, we’re encouraged to see how effectively our new six-seater chairlift dispersed traffic on the mountain and allowed everyone to enjoy our wide-open terrain.”

The ski area tallied 212 inches of snowfall at the summit during the winter and ended the ski season with a summit base depth of 87 inches, Sokol said. That’s well below the ski area’s average season-ending base depth of 113 inches, a figure based on recorded snowfall totals since 2008.

Statistics courtesy of Whitefish Mountain Resort

The powder days that did grace Big Mountain were tempered by frequent chairlift malfunctions, an issue WMR officials acknowledged throughout the season and pledged to address.

“From rarified early-season pow days to sunny springtime afternoons, the 2022/23 ski season was a blast,” according to a statement from WMR. “To boot, we celebrated our 75th anniversary as a resort and opened our first high-speed six-pack chairlift, the Snow Ghost Express! But of course we had some chairlift challenges, too, and we know those were frustrating experiences for all involved. So thanks to everyone who joined us this winter. Thanks for your patience and understanding. And thanks for choosing Whitefish Mountain Resort as your skiing and snowboarding destination. Seeing all your smiling faces on the slopes reminds us why we do what we do!”

While the unusual number of chairlift stoppages and evacuations frustrated guests, Sokol said resolving those mechanical malfunctions will be a priority this summer.

“Looking ahead, we have several projects planned this summer, including maintenance work on Chair 2 and the installation of a second conveyor carpet between Chairs 4 and 9,” according to Sokol. “The new carpet will begin near the top of the existing carpet and traverse the slope toward Chair 9, significantly expanding our usable beginner area.”

Meanwhile, season passes are already on sale for winter 2023-24. Skiers and snowboarders can get the lowest prices on season passes and season-long instruction programs through Sept. 30.

In addition to unlimited chairlift access, passholders gain access to perks, including night skiing, uphill passes, discounts on lodging and lift tickets for friends and family, and lift ticket exchanges at other resorts across the country.

Kids programs include the popular Half Pints and Buckaroos programs as well as the Freestyle Teams. Parents are encouraged to act quickly for the best chance at securing spots in these programs. Adult instruction programs will be available as well. Adult programs are open to skiers and snowboarders with some experience who are looking to improve their skills. Program groups meet with instructors eight times over a nine-week period during the winter operating season. Details can be found at skiwhitefish.com/programs.

Payment plans will be available for passes and programs. Parking permits for the Cedar lot will be available for purchase. Anyone who currently rents a seasonal locker or holds a Birch parking permit will be able to renew.

An uphill skier works his way to the summit of Big Mountain on a bluebird day at Whitefish Mountain Resort on Jan. 29, 2023. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Many skiers also took advantage of the uphill policy throughout the winter, ascending and descending designated routes in the early mornings and evenings after work, as well as during operating hours.

In an effort to continue access to public lands and provide for public safety, Flathead National Forest and Whitefish Mountain Resort are reminding skiers and snowboarders to follow the mountain’s post-season uphill policy. The U.S. Forest Service special order requires uphill skiers to keep their distance from grooming machines and snowmaking equipment and follow route restrictions and safety precautions.

Through April 24, the East Route is the only approved route for uphill and downhill traffic from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Benny Up route is closed during these hours while crews begin clearing roads on the front side of the mountain and conduct other end-of-season operations. No route restrictions are in effect before 8 a.m. or after 4 p.m.

Review the policy and route maps here.