Uphill ski travel resumed in a limited capacity on Big Mountain Tuesday morning after a weeklong moratorium on the popular activity at Whitefish Mountain Resort, where poor snow conditions and limited terrain prompted a weeklong closure over the busy holiday season.
A resort spokesperson announced Sunday that the East Route would reopen to skiers, although the more direct Benny Up route “will remain closed to uphill traffic as we aim to resume snowmaking efforts there and open additional terrain mountainwide,” Chad Sokol, Whitefish Mountain Resort’s public relations manager, wrote in an email.
“After assessing terrain conditions, post-holiday visitation and the feats of our talented grooming team, we are happy to reopen the East Route to uphill traffic starting tomorrow, Tuesday, Jan. 2, subject to the usual restrictions described in our uphill policy,” Sokol wrote.
In partnership with the Flathead National Forest, the ski area has a formal uphill policy as part of its special use permit, which many skiers take advantage of throughout the winter, as well as to access early- and post-season skiing opportunities. Uphill skiers apply climbing skins, or adhesive strips of synthetic fibers, to the bottoms of their skis to ascend and descend designated routes, both for exercise and to access backcountry terrain. The activity is also popular for snow-shoers and hikers.
Whitefish Mountain Resort is home to two designated uphill routes: the Benny Up Route, which follows the western edge of Toni Matt from the lift plaza to the summit, and the East Route, which begins at the Spruce lot, crosses the bridge toward the Ski and Ride School, then follows lower Inspiration, Expressway, Moe-Mentum and upper Russ’s Street to the summit.
Both routes are typically open during the resort’s winter operating season, with some restrictions depending on the time of day.
This season, however, the Benny Up Route has been closed since Dec. 7 due to warmer-than-average temperatures and lower-than-average snowfall. Uphill traffic has been restricted to the East Route, which has several conflicts with the limited terrain available for downhill traffic on the front side of the mountain, with most skiers funneled down the same route.
“The Benny Up Route will remain closed to uphill traffic as we aim to resume snowmaking efforts there and open additional terrain mountainwide,” Sokol stated. “This of course depends on favorable weather in the coming weeks and months.”
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