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Montana Ski Areas Gear Up For An Unpredictable Ski Season

Ski lift. File photo.
Montana Ski Areas Gear Up For An Unpredictable Ski Season

Another ski season is set to begin, and, after a disappointing snow year in most of the state last year, locals are itching to get on the mountain. This year, a big concern shadowing the upcoming season is the possibility of a “godzilla El Niño” pushing warmer temperatures up north.

Lost Trail Powder Mountain sets a mark for 50,000 riders a year. Last year it hit around 43,000. Co-owner Judy Grasser says the snow for this year is a topic on everyone’s mind.

“Well that’s the million dollar question. Definitely is something we think about and you make adjustments accordingly if that’s going to be an issue.”

Big Sky Resort says last season turned out fairly decent for them. PR Manager Sheila D'Amico says they aren’t too concerned about El Niño.

“Historically through our numbers when we look at El Niño years we're almost on par for what our annual snowfall is. La Niña years we are usually way above that so we’re still looking at a really great ski season.”

Whitefish Mountain Resort is coming off of a year where they saw a high number of skiers from Alberta, Washington and California. PR manager Christina Polombus says lower snowfall across the country last year helped them attract out-of state skiers to big mountain.

"As far as marketing or particularly with PR, when your resort is getting snow and you can get the word out you're getting snow, then people notice."

Polombus says Whitefish invested $1.2 million in new projects around the mountain this year. Things were more challenging at Discovery Ski Area outside Phillipsburg.

“This last February was the worst February we have ever had, and our March was one of the worst too, so we are going through this phase where we have to be more reactive, we have to be more flexible to produce a quality experience when people come up here.”

President Ciche Pitcher says after a historically bad 2014, the small amounts of snow have forced them to think of new ways to attract customers. He says Discovery has invested in two new grooming machines to provide a better experience for skiers.

Most ski areas around the region say they hope to open the first week of December.

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