MISSOULA — Montana Snowbowl ski area north of Missoula says their chairlifts are safe and are planning to open this upcoming weekend.
However, the opening doesn't just depend on if they have enough snow — they also need U.S. Forest Service approval.
Snowbowl runs on a special use permit and can't operate unless they get the go-ahead from the Lolo National Forest.
"The special use authorization assigns responsibility for safety to the permit holder. Part of this includes the annual inspection of passenger ropeways (aerial lifts) and ensuring that applicable engineering standards and requirements are met," Lolo National Forest Acting Public Affairs Officer Hilary Markin told MTN News.
Every year, the ski area has an insurance inspection to ensure they are following safety standards.
The USFS required Snowbowl to have extra lift inspections and make changes for the 2023-2024 season — after some issues in the past.
"We are weather-dependent on opening so hopefully we get some snow this week and we can open this weekend," Snowbowl representative Megan Morris explained. "The lifts are safe. They've passed their inspections. There was a list of things and we've completed those."
Morris also noted that new training is happening for lift staff, "The new procedures, we'll be implementing them and going through them. I know they made some new videos and stuff for them to watch."
This year's insurance inspection will take place on Tuesday, December 5, 2023. Following their inspection, Snowbowl will let the Lolo National Forest know they would like to open.
The USFS will then authorize or decline the public operation of the lifts.
"Once Snowbowl has met the terms and conditions of the special use permit and have provided the appropriate documentation to the Forest Service, we will review the documents and issue a letter authorizing public operation of the lifts. Typically, the turnaround time on issuance of this letter of authorization following certification of annual lift inspections is quite short because we maintain good communication with the permittee and understand that timeliness in our response is important," Markin said.
Snowbowl is seeking to open on December 8, 2023. Check out Snowbowl Montana's website for additional information.