As it nears the end of another busy summer season, Whitefish Mountain Resort last week announced plans to expand its summer activities.
The resort is planning to add a second alpine slide after popularity of the ride has grown and redesign the current slide for the summer of 2019. Last summer the resort recorded about 70,000 rides on the alpine slide and this summer is seeing a similar number, according to WMR spokesperson Riley Polumbus.
“We can’t really improve and add on the number or rides without adding another slide because there isn’t enough time in the day for rides,” Polumbus said. “The second slide should help with that.”
The resort says it will invest $675,000 to engineer, design and build two new slide paths as well as purchase additional sleds for the popular summer activity. The new alpine slides will be located in the same vicinity as the current slide and continue to use Chair 6 to transport guests and sleds from the bottom of the slide to the top.
“Ever since we added the Alpine Slide in 2009 it has been an extremely popular summer activity for our guests, especially families. We’ve seen a steady increase in the number of riders every summer and we’ve finally reached a point where we are unable to deliver the high level of guest service we wish to provide,” Whitefish Mountain Resort CEO Dan Graves said, in a release. “With two slides not only will we be able to keep up with the demand, it will be twice as much fun for our guests because they will be able to ride two different slides each providing its own distinct experience.”
The resort opened early this summer on Memorial Day weekend and remains open for summer activities on weekends through Sept. 23.
Polumbus said the resort has seen a strong summer for visitors.
“The last few years we’ve added activities and that has really given more to do,” she said. “Some of those have been geared toward the younger kids and now we’re getting a lot more of the younger kids up here — the word is getting out.”
New this year, the resort added a tubing activity on the Easy Rider Magic Carpet hill at the Base Lodge allowing tubing riders to ride 300 feet down a slippery surface. The resort in 2017 added Strider Bike Park, located in front of the Base Lodge patio, allowing youngsters the chance to ride trails with berms and rollers.
At the resort’s Bike Park, which includes more than 30 miles of lift-accessed and cross-country mountain bike trails, it’s been a busy summer season too. Bike rentals, days passes and season passes to the park have increased, Polumbus noted.
This summer the resort hosted the Montana Enduro Series and Northwest Cup mountain bike racing events. The Northwest Cup the last full weekend of August brought more than 200 riders to Big Mountain.
Polumbus said the Bike Park had a record season in 2016 of more than 7,000 visits and heading into the weekend of the Northwest Cup the biker count had already surpassed that.
“We had bikers come in for that from Washington and Idaho for the first time,” she said. “I heard people talking on the lift from Oregon that they really had fun here.”
While during the winter season the resort is able to count lift rides to determine visitor counts, quantifying the total number of visits during summer is challenging because of the large number of activities available, Polumbus notes.
“Anecdotally I can say that it used to be quiet in here when we’d open in the mornings and now it’s pretty busy and it’s filling up,” Polumbus said. “When you eat lunch at the Base Lodge or the Summit House, it’s hard to find a table.”
Construction plans for the new alpine slide call for a few sections of the current slide to be used and two entirely new slide paths will be designed.
The two new alpine slides are planned to both be about 1,650 feet in length. The engineering process has already begun to determine the placement of the two new slide paths in the Chair 6 area. Dirt work is expected to begin in September in order to be ready for installation in spring 2019 and ready to open for summer operations.
A new start location for both slides will be located to the east of the current location. The resort says the relocation will help ease congestion near the bottom terminal of Chair 1 for Scenic Lift and Bike Park guests.
The current alpine slide is 1,650 feet in length with a vertical drop of 281 feet. The slide takes riders around down two dips, around 16 turns, under two bridges and through a tunnel. Participants ride a sled with a brake so they can control their speed. Riders under 48 inches in height must ride with an adult.
Whitefish Mountain Resort’s alpine slide is the only one in the state.
Whitefish Mountain Resort remains open for the 2018 summer season on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Sept. 23. The Big Mountain Commercial Association is extending the Summer SNOW Bus season to continue running on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays to coincide with the resort’s last day.
For more information, visit www.skiwhitefish.com.