U.S. Forest Service Demands Changes At Montana Snowbowl

U.S. Forest Service Demands Changes At Montana Snowbowl

Ski News

U.S. Forest Service Demands Changes At Montana Snowbowl


“Snowbowl has 90 days to comply with the terms of their permit, following a letter of discrepancy to correct any deficiencies in the lift and take a look at any other operations.”Dan Hottle, Press Officer for the U.S. Forest Service.

The P/R disaster that Montana Snowbowl has faced in the past couple of weeks continues to get worse. NBC Montana reports that the U.S. Forest Service has ordered the Montana Snowbowl to make corrections in order to comply with the terms of their lease. The Snowbowl will have ninety days to make these corrections.

Snowbowl Sunday. Snowpark chair literally fell apart and sent 5 year old 15’ to flat. Father had to jump due to no patrollers helping.
by u/larsyskis in missoula

The investigation follows an incident in March, where one of the chairs on the Snow Park lift rammed into a lift tower, leading to a toddler falling off the lift, and having his father, Nathan McLeod, hang onto the vertical hangar pole.

Here’s what Nathan told NBC Montana about the incident.

“[He] slides forward, is falling out of the chair. I tried to grab him, and he just literally slipped through my hands. No one looked at the broken chair or inspected the cables or made sure that it was safe to operate. There was no communication with anybody.”

The toddler fell fifteen feet to the ground but luckily was unscathed. McLeod hung on briefly to the chair before jumping. While one of the lifties initially rushed to help, the lift operators kept the lift running for the rest of the day, and the ski patrol didn’t even help the McLeods. When he talked with Brad & Andy Morris at the base area, their explanations came off as lethargic. Since then, the U.S. Forest Service has forced the lift to shut down until an investigation and modifications can be completed.

According to the Missoulian, the lift has had frequent issues since its installation in 2019, which originally came from Aspen Snowmass. When it first opened, taller riders kept hitting the halo devices on multiple lift towers. These halos were modified, but it’s believed that this is what caused the accident last month. Multiple people have claimed that they have hit the first couple of lift towers, meaning that this wasn’t a one-off case.

The Snow Park chairlift back in 2020.

This isn’t the only chairlift incident that has happened at the resort either. Back in 2021, they had to evacuate the Grizzly Chairlift due to a power outage. In 2020, a malfunction on the Lavelle Chairlift led to a chair violently swinging around the bull wheel and falling off, which frayed the cable. Luckily, no one was hurt, and everyone was safely evacuated. During this season, guests have had to hike out of the Lavelle Chairlift’s terrain pod due to maintenance issues at least once.

Another weak point for the mountain is marketing. On the Snow Park fiasco, it took them eleven days to release a public statement to explain why the chairlift was closed. Social media postings of snow reports are intermittent, and they have turned comments off on their posts due to guests complaining about them. Guests have also pointed out that the Snowbowl has been slow to point out closings due to electrical and power issues. The Snowbowl’s website is also outdated, as it would look like a relic of the past if the year was 2013.

There was also a strange tragedy that occurred there last week, as a man was killed after his intoxicated friend drove into him at Snowbowl’s parking lot. This one is harder to pin on the ski resort, as the incident happened in the evening, so it’s unlikely that management or parking lot attendants would’ve been present.

This should’ve been a great season for the Montana Snowbowl. They opened the Transporter chairlift, which gave skiers a direct route to Snow Park from the base area for the first time. It also opened up a variety of steep advanced and expert terrain on TV Mountain. It’s clear though that years of neglect are catching up to the owners of the ski resort.

The new Transporter chairlift.

Missoula deserves a great local ski area. They lost Marshall Mountain in the early 2000s due to various challenges. It’s hard to tell whether improved leadership in management positions, like in ski patrol and lift operations, or a new ownership group in general, is needed to get the Snowbowl back on track.

Nathan McLeod described what’s at stake for the Snowbowl to the Missoulian:

“We have to stop making excuses for this place. We are so lucky that Sawyer [his son] didn’t just die and like someone is going to get seriously hurt if something isn’t done. We can’t have this attitude of like, ‘Ha, this is funny, like Snowbowl’s a shit show.’ You can’t do that.”

Image Credits: Montana Snowbowl, r/larsyskis

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