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Skiing

A Week from Opening Day, Whitefish Mountain Resort Optimistic About Upcoming Season

With a new conveyor carpet and solid snow on the ground, Whitefish Mountain Resort expects pre-pandemic level growth

By Anusha Mathur
A sunny morning on the summit of Big Mountain at Whitefish Mountain Resort on Jan. 2, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Last year was record-breaking for Whitefish Mountain Resort, with more guests on opening day than ever before. Public relations manager Chad Sokol admits it was somewhat of a fluke – a perfect storm of conditions brought significant snow, meaning lots of open terrain. 

This season, Whitefish may not see as huge a surge of visitors on Dec. 7; however, the mountain is on track to open as expected and current snow conditions lay the groundwork for a positive snow-filled winter. 

“We’re feeling pretty optimistic,” Sokol said. “Snow coverage is a little thin, as it often is early in the season. So folks should expect limited terrain on opening day, but probably more than they might expect if they’re just looking up at the mountain.”

On opening day this year, there will be terrain open for all skill levels and the crew will unveil new equipment specifically for beginners. Sokol feels confident that those looking upwards wistfully from downtown Whitefish will find themselves satisfied.

“We’ll have quite a few runs open to scratch the itch for folks who’ve been hoping to ski for a while,” Sokol said. “Beyond that, we’re excited to open a new conveyor carpet, this will be our second conveyor carpet, just above the baseline.”

The new carpet, called the 2 Easy Conveyor, starts just above the existing Big Easy Carpet and doubles the amount of beginner terrain available to guests.

In addition to pre-opening day excitement, Sokol is also enthusiastic about the public’s growing interest in Whitefish Mountain Resort. The resort sold 16,000 season passes so far this year, a modest increase compared to 2022-2023 season and a significant jump from years prior.

“I don’t want to call it a trend just yet, but it seems like it could be a bit of a return to that pre-pandemic growth curve,” Sokol said. “I think more folks in town made the decision to commit to a full season pass instead of the frequent skier card. It’ll be interesting to see what impact that has on our visits.”

Sokol also said that the resort is bracing to add staff to their team. Preparing for opening day and a long season is a hands-on process, with grooming and operations workers up on the mountain as well as lodging, housekeeping, real, and food and beverage departments getting ready down below. By Christmas, Whitefish will have a staff of around 600 seasonal workers, up from around 100 year-round employees.

“We’re just beginning to swell our numbers and bring on our seasonal folks and start training,” Sokol said. “We’re also making snow at every opportunity and that involves keeping a close eye on temperature and humidity levels and seeing when we can blow snow and make it stick.”

While some of the most popular annual events, like the Whitefish Whiteout and IFSA junior freeride competition won’t be coming up for a while, Sokol encourages locals and visitors alike to spend time on the mountain early this season. 

“We have 3,000 acres of varied terrain, from tree skiing to the terrain park, to awesome groomed runs for all ages and abilities, and we still keep our daily lift tickets under $100,” Sokol said. “If you ask me, that’s just value that you’re not going to find any other ski resort, especially one of this size. It is a pretty unique mountain and a unique place to spend your winter.”

Sokol reminds visitors to look out for early season conditions on opening day, avoid bits of vegetation on runs, and be respectful of other guests. Those looking to visit can go to Whitefish’s social media or online snow report for up-to-date information and weather conditions.

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