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Fresh tracks

Previewing the upcoming powder season

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Teton Pass: Problems with finances and insurance prevented Teton Pass from opening last season, but the 400-acre ski area located 34 miles west of Choteau has announced it will reopen this year. Nicolas Wood, a New Zealand resort tycoon, purchased Teton Pass in 2010. He maintains ownership, but has handed day-to-day operations to Charles Hlavac, a Choteau native, and Nathan Haines, a former Montana State University student who managed the rental shop in 2010-2011. Hlavac says he’s hoping to fire up the lifts Dec. 15, weather permitting.

Lookout Pass: Freestyle skiers and boarders, rejoice. Lookout Pass has expanded its terrain park and completely rearranged the layout, creating a combination of wall rides and boxes.

“Instead of hitting one or two features on each run, riders can hit 15 or 20,” explains Christopher Barrett, Lookout’s marketing manager. “We’re adjusting it to give a better flow.” In addition to the terrain park improvements, Lookout has installed a new triple-seat chairlift for its beginner slope. That’ll keep the little ones busy so you can practice those wall-ride head-plants.

Montana Headwall. - Outdoor adventure under the big sky
  • Steele Williams
  • Lookout Pass: Off-season improvements, new openings and the safe return of a custom signpost mark the return of ski season. Here’s a rundown of what to look for when shredding this winter.

Big Sky: While Lookout adds, Big Sky Resort takes away—in a good way. The resort cleared trees all summer, thinning areas such as the Dakota Territory, PK Ridge, Magic Meadows, the Snowman, and beneath the Swift Current lift. Big Sky media relations and community manager Kipp Proctor says cutting the trees helped the health of the forest, and thinning the canopy will allow more snow to reach the ground. More important, the thinning opens extra terrain for the not-so-timid. Proctor says advanced tree skiers shouldn’t worry about losing their favorite powder stashes, though. “The local base may feel like it’s their secret spot, but the resort won’t take away terrain that they love,” he says. “We have a pretty good idea [where that terrain is].”

Discovery: More than 10 years ago, an Anaconda artist carved and painted a welcome sign for Discovery Basin featuring the hill’s signature ram head logo. Last April, the sign disappeared. Officials believe the theft was a prank. Repeated pleas to the community for the sign’s safe return initially went unanswered, but rest easy, Disco faithful: Someone propped it against Discovery’s main gate in June. The ram will be there to greet you after first snowfall.

Whitefish Mountain Resort: Big changes require advance planning, so Whitefish spent the off-season prepping for 2013. The resort submitted a plan to the U.S. Forest Service for a new chairlift on the north side of the mountain. Last year’s thoroughly un-gnarly lack of snow prompted the addition. “The backside runs never really happened,” says Riley Polumbus, the resort’s public relations manager. “But that north-facing side of the mountain gets more snow than anywhere else on the mountain. It has its own microclimate that makes that snow really awesome.” Polumbus expects the Forest Service to approve the plan in spring, and for the lift to be ready this time next year.

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