That was one spectator’s nostalgic critique of Big Mountain’s decision to replace its traditional last-day furniture race, in which participants careened down a slope on old couches and such, with a skimming competition, wherein contestants vied to be the last to ski or snowboard across a small man-made pond on April 9, this year’s closing day.
The change comes as a result of safety concerns. In 1999, three teenage girls were hospitalized after their racing furniture broke through a safety net and crashed into the side of Kintla Lodge. Since then, flying snowballs have bloodied several furniture pilots. Skimming is a safer alternative, according to Big Mountain officials. It also appeared to allow for a certain level of rowdiness when one skier made his run completely naked.
The replacement of furniture races with skimming wasn’t the only change at Big Mountain this year. About two weeks ago, Chair 6 and the resort’s Outpost Lodge were closed so construction could begin on a new day lodge. Also, after about a decade of wrangling over right-of-way issues, a new road to Big Mountain is under construction. And, on April 20, a new master plan for the resort’s village area is expected to go before the Whitefish City-County Planning Board.
But perhaps the most popular change this year was snow. Last year, for the first time ever, the slopes were closed early due to lack of snow. At the time, the slopes were scarred with huge patches of mud, visible from Whitefish.
This year, there remains a 10-foot base at the mountain’s summit, with no mud in sight.
Skiers and snowboarders apparently noticed the difference. For the first time ever, Big Mountain topped 300,000 skier visits (that’s one day of riding per skier/snowboarder). Last year, the mountain hit only 213,000.
That’s a change few are likely to complain about.