Whitefish Mountain Resort’s season is officially underway.
Whitefish and the Flathead Valley have been spending hand writhing months of annoyingly almost winter weather, somewhat patiently waiting for this day. Tuning shops packed to the brim are clearing and last minute purchases are being made all across the Flathead Valley. It sounds like a Christmas story, but it’s just ski season in Montana.
When you’re here, at the top of the mountain, you get it. On a clear day look to the East and see the jagged white ridge line of Glacier National Park stretching across the horizon like a heart beating across the lines of an electrocardiogram, and then look to the South where the Flathead Valley floor sprawls below capped by Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake West of the Mississippi.
Winter season means another turn of the activity wheel in Northwest Montana, but it would sure help if there was a touch more snow.
The Rockies have been experiencing an unusually dry and warm start to summer with the exception of places like Jackson Hole and Grand Targhee, who are once again, predictably, receiving numbing amounts of snow. Shocker. Places in Colorado are less fortunate. Take Aspen Snowmass, for example, who has opened a soup kitchen for its workers to combat the ugly side of seasonal work–no snow AKA no business. Whitefish is reporting a 31″ base at the Summit and has been hard at work blowing new snow on the main runs, but a gift from above would be well received.
Nevertheless, in Whitefish, Montana, the mountain is turning its lifts, shaking the cobwebs of summer and kickstarting the mountain’s circulatory system once again with some new exciting perks.
Folks will be excited to find a “new lift” on the mountain this year. The chair itself isn’t new, but its location is. This spring Whitefish Mountain Resort teamed up with Salt Lake City-based Skytrac to uproot Chair 5 from its existing home to another part of the mountain via helicopter. Now called East Rim, the chair will grant skiers and boarders quicker and easier access to the mountains extreme terrain on the East Rim.
On Tuesday the lift operations crew took their maiden voyage up the freshly transplanted chair lift.
“It’s one helluva ride,” said lift-ops Ben Gould, “especially when none of us knew how it was going to be when we took that first ride up in the fog. [It’s] kinda like KT-22 at Squaw.”
KT-22 at Squaw, for the record, is the lift you ride when you want to question your ability as a skier. The chair takes you right over 20ft. (and up) cliffs and narrow chutes that, on powder days, are a playground for advanced skiers.
What about the cliffs at Whitefish?
“Well over a hundred feet.”
Okay, well testing your prowess might be fatal, but at least it’s a nice view from the chair.