Update 10/6: The Montana Snowbowl has released a statement about this matter, saying that they are finalizing the work on the chairlifts. Increased safety standards are also being implemented for this upcoming winter. You can read their full statement below.

The Montana Snowbowl may not open this winter due to some deferred maintenance. The Missoulian reports that in order to open for the 2023-24 season, the ski area will need to fix numerous problems with its chairlifts. The U.S. Forest Service has identified a number of issues with the Snowbowl’s chairlifts and is requiring them to fix them. These deficiencies were found during a review of the lifts during the summer. If these issues brought forth by the Forest Service aren’t addressed, the ski area won’t be allowed to open.

Carolyn Upton, who’s the Supervisor of Lolo National Forest, said the following about the situation to Joshua Murdock of The Missoulian:

“Before I authorize them to operate this winter, I need to see some documentation. They need to show me they’ve complied with the issues identified in that report, if you will.”

The amount of issues that the Montana Snowbowl has dealt with in recent years is complex. Here’s a recap of the bizarre situations the ski area has recently gone through:

  • A saw contractor was killed at the ski area in September after a tree landed on him. He was an avid skier at the Snowbowl and worked to clear trees at the ski area in the summer.
  • In April, the U.S. Forest Service demanded changes at the Snowbowl, or else, they would revoke their permit.
  • Earlier that month, an allegedly drunk driver ran into a friend in the Snowbowl’s parking lot, killing him.
  • In March, one of the Snowpark chairs slammed into a lift tower, throwing a toddler off, and then destroying the chair, making the kid’s father hang on for his life. The father eventually needed to jump off as well. Both were okay, but the father was furious over the lack of communication from management, lift operations, and ski patrol. The ski area eventually apologized for the incident.
  • In 2020, a malfunction on the Lavelle Chairlift led to a chair violently swinging around the bullwheel and falling off, which frayed the cable. Luckily, no one was hurt, and everyone was safely evacuated. 

Carolyn Upton said that the repairs are on schedule, but they’ll need to meet with the Snowbowl before they will be allowed to open for the 2023-24 season. Brad Morris, who owns the Snowbowl, said in September to the Missoulian that they’re working with the Forest Service and other parties on identifying the issues and repairing the chairlifts. I imagine they’ll figure it out and open for the winter, but based on how this past year has gone, I also wouldn’t put it past them to fuck this up.

The Montana Snowbowl’s projected opening date is currently scheduled for December 8th. Located only twenty minutes from Missoula, the Montana Snowbowl is the most convenient option for lift-serviced skiing around the second-largest city in the state. If they aren’t going to be able to open this winter, the closest ski area is Discovery, which is around a ninety-minute drive from downtown Missoula.

Image Credits: Montana Snowbowl

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