Continued snowfall boosts ski areas

2014-03-31T11:51:00Z 2014-04-01T00:03:49Z Continued snowfall boosts ski areasBRETT FRENCH The Billings Gazette

While unending snowfall may be bothersome to Montanans weary of an extended winter, it has produced an incredible spring skiing and snowboarding season.

"It's been a fantastic season," said Jeff Carroll, marketing manager for Red Lodge Mountain Resort, after spending part of Monday product testing. "And it continues to be good, quality powder."

Red Lodge Mountain recorded 8 inches of new snow on Monday morning, 19 inches in the last 48 hours and 31 inches in the last week. The summit of the area’s Grizzly Peak is boasting 80 inches of snowpack.

Big Sky Resort, south of Bozeman, has received snow on 41 of the past 52 days.

“It’s been a phenomenal year, coming off the whole merger,” said Sheila Chapman, Big Sky public relations manager, referring to the merger of Moonlight Basin and Big Sky into the largest ski area in the nation. “I think the conditions in our area have been a perfect storm,” combining with the merger to raise visitation by 20 percent.

The snowfall has been so plentiful this spring that Bridger Bowl Ski Area, northeast of Bozeman, decided to extend its season another week, until April 14. Big Sky remains open through the Easter weekend, with its last day April 20. Red Lodge Mountain’s last day of the season is April 13.

The additional snow has raised the avalanche danger to considerable in the Gallatin and Madison mountain ranges, as well as the areas near Cooke City and West Yellowstone, according to the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center.

“Due to the heavy amount of new snow, slopes do not need to be wind loaded in order to produce avalanches,” wrote Eric Knoff in the center’s morning report. “Yesterday, a skier outside of Cooke City triggered avalanches 1-2 feet deep in nonwind-loaded terrain. These slides were likely failing on weak interfaces within the storm snow.”

The center rated the avalanche danger as moderate in the Bridger Mountains.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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