Seeley Lake hopes to put itself on the Nordic skiing map.
Last week, the Seeley Lake Nordic Challenge Steering Committee, in partnership with the Missoula Area Economic Development Corporation (MAEDC), began soliciting proposals for a feasibility study examining the viability of a local Nordic ski lodge and training facility.
"We have really nice ski trails here but no other infrastructure, and we have pretty good snow," says Karen Pratt, the committee co-chair. "And so we said, 'Hmm, should we look at this?' The Community Council's Economic Development Committee wanted to look at it further, and pretty soon we were writing grants and looking for money."
So far, the effort's proved successful. In July, the Montana Department of Commerce awarded MAEDC a $15,000 grant for the study, contingent on the community raising an additional $10,000. The Seeley Lake Community Foundation threw in $5,000, matching residents' contributions dollar-for-dollar.
The overarching goal is to diversify Seeley Lake's winter economy, when tourist visitation plummets.
"It affects the entire community," says MAEDC's Jessica Allred-Meyers. "Because those people aren't coming through they aren't paying for services, they aren't going to the gas stations, etc. So to be able to attract people in the winter months is an opportunity for Seeley Lake. The Nordic infrastructure is there [the Seeley Lake Nordic Ski Club maintains about 11 miles of ski trails on local Forest Service lands] and so they'd like to capitalize on it."
Allred-Meyers says the consultant who conducts the feasibility study (proposals are due Nov. 24) will examine whether Seeley Lake, with its current infrastructure, would be able to support a ski lodge and training facility. If not, the study will detail the infrastructure needed in order to do so. It will look at two different economic models—an event-based model and tourism-based model.
"Do I believe that it will become a winter sports and events center? I don't know," Pratt says. "I do think we can do more here than we have been doing with Nordic skiing, and I do believe we can attract more people here."