Resort will open, but snow depths in doubt with temps in the 40s

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Big Mountain and Whitefish Lake as viewed from State Park. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

It’s just a few days before Whitefish Mountain Resort is set to open, but powder hounds are going to have to wait until later in the week for any news on the conditions.

Resort Spokesperson Riley Polumbus on Monday said it was still too early to guess what will and won’t be open on Friday.

There was about 29 inches of settled base on the summit, she said, and snowmaking machines are working to cover the lower mountain runs.

Last year the resort opened on time with limited terrain, and Polumbus says while they’re not too far ahead on snow volume, the cold has helped keep what they have.

“Hopefully Wednesday we’ll know a little more, but I might not know anything until either Thursday,” she said. “I can’t remember exactly where we were last year, but anecdotally speaking I think we’re slightly ahead due to the fact we’ve had so much weather. The snow we did get in late October and early November, because it’s been so cold we’ve been able to keep what we have. I think in that respect we’re a little ahead.”

Hopefully the weather will provide a boost, Polumbus said, but as of now there’s no big storm scheduled to blanket the hill with snow.

“Temperatures look a little warm this week but next week it drops. There might be a few days of snow, there might even be snow this weekend,” she said. “We’re excited for the season and I hope everyone takes it easy in the early season because of course early season conditions will exist. Keep the snow dances going so we can get more snow and get more terrain open. Hopefully by Christmas we’ll get a nice present of more storms.”

The resort set a new record for season pass sales already this year, breaking the 11,000 mark. That number is an 11 percent increase over the previous season. The resort had a strong 2018-19 season on the mountain, with a new record for total visits at 384,800, and 253 inches of snow.

While she’s hoping for another strong year for snow like the previous season, Polumbus says she’s hoping to avoid another freezing February.

“We’re certainly hoping it’s going to be warmer than last year, but not too warm. The long term forecast had said that we’ll get more snow but from what I understand precipitation will be good and it won’t be quite as frigid as last year. That would be ideal,” she said.

At the resort, the biggest changes this season will be in terms of parking on the mountain.

The resort last month announced new paid parking and carpool rules designed to alleviate traffic and parking issues on big powder days.

Starting this season, the Dogwood Lot — located below the Chair 1 and Chair 2 lift plaza — will become the designated carpool lot. On Friday through Sunday, vehicles with three or more passengers can park for free in the lot, and those with less than three passengers will be charged $5. These rules will run on weekends and during the holiday weeks of Dec. 26-Jan.1 and Feb. 15-17.

Daily parking in the Cedar Lot, which sits just above Dogwood, will remain at $5 on weekends, and $10 during the holidays. The upper-most Birch Lot will cost $15 on holidays and $10 daily.

All other parking at the resort remains free.

“The carpooling is new. We’re going to encourage more people to ride together and if they do they’ll get free parking in Dogwood Lot,” Polumbus said. “The SNOW bus is another great way to beat the crowd and to help with avoiding traffic.”

Those arriving to the resort will also notice a new LED sign that will provide status updates on each lot.

“These are going to tell you what’s open and what’s not. That’s a nice thing if you’re driving up the mountain, to know what the parking situation is and where to go,” Polumbus said.

The free SNOW bus will provide additional downhill routes in the afternoons Friday through Sunday, and on holidays. The new routes will leave the mountain at 3:35 and 4:52 p.m.

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