Kalispell, MT — Today, Flathead National Forest Supervisor Kurt Steele approved a ski area project at Whitefish Mountain Resort.
The project will reconfigure the current Hellroaring Chair location, add a new chairlift from the Grand Junction area to Hellroaring Peak, and add eight ski runs. The project also calls for two service roads, a cat track to connect Hellroaring Peak to Gray Wolf Run, and several modifications in existing runs to enhance the skier experience.
The forest administers a permit to the resort to use approximately 3,000 acres of National Forest System land for ski area purposes on Big Mountain outside of Whitefish, MT. The project makes changes to the Hellroaring Basin area, which is within the existing permit boundary and has several existing ski area features.
The project includes requirements to protect resources during and after construction, such as limitations on helicopter and heavy equipment use during construction, and riparian area avoidance.
Though the area is not large enough to be grizzly bear secure core habitat, several measures are in place to reduce grizzly bear disturbance during the non-denning season. Those include seasonal restrictions on maintenance activities and public access, among others. Hellroaring Basin will continue to be closed to skiers and snowboarders beginning April 1 each year.
“Downhill skiing is an important part of the winter economy and a great winter outdoor activity that many people come here to enjoy,” said Flathead National Forest Supervisor Kurt Steele. “Through our partnership and collaboration with Whitefish Mountain Resort, I am proud to continue to support this highly valuable recreation opportunity on public lands.”
Flathead National Forest has administered the permit to the resort area since 1947. It has approved several similar projects over the years to respond to growing demand, improve skier circulation, and provide the best possible recreation experience for the public. Recent projects include upgrades to Summit House and access to Flower Point.
Public involvement for the Hellroaring Basin Improvement Project began in November of 2018 with an opportunity for comment. An additional comment period on the environmental assessment began in May of 2019. The objection period for the project ended in January of 2020.
In general, the forest heard from people who supported the project and the improvements it would bring for recreation opportunity, and from people concerned about potential impacts to grizzly bears, Canada lynx, hydrology, and changes to the existing skier experience.
People can read more about the project on Flathead National Forest’s webpage.