Uphill Ski Policy Could Change - ABC FOX Montana Local News, Weather, Sports KTMF | KWYB

Uphill Ski Policy Could Change

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WHITEFISH -

Montana is in the thick of avalanche season.

Avalanche experts are telling us every day how dangerous it is to go into the backcountry, but that's not the only way to get caught in a snow slide.

A pair of skiers last week almost got caught in an avalanche at Whitefish Mountain Resort that was triggered on purpose.

Missoula and Flathead counties are facing the possibility of avalanches, but for different reasons. Seth Carbonari with the Flathead Avalanche Center explains, "they're going to be getting more snow, which will then be more snow available for transport. What we're seeing here is mostly the snow getting transported by the wind. It's snow that's already been here."

Ski areas like Whitefish Mountain Resort also see a fair share of avalanches, but most are set off on purpose as a way to groom the runs. That's what they were doing last week in the Hellroaring Basin. Unfortunately two uphill skiers were nearby on a closed slope, even though ski patrol had asked them once to ski down.

No one was hurt; the explosive used to start the snow slide was put out in time, but Nick Polumbus with the Resort says it was too close for comfort.

"The problem is that we're one accident away from a very serious accident and that's just not something that we're interested in seeing happen," said Polumbus.

He says the Resort only owns about a quarter of the mountain. The rest is owned by the US Forest Service. That's why they're both talking now about changing the uphill ski policy.

The current policy outlines where and when uphill skiing is allowed. It also tells people to stay away from all "ski area machinery." Spokesman for the US Forest Service Wade Muehlhof says that so far the talks have focused on enforcing and raising awareness of the policy that's been in place since March 2010, rather than outright changing it.

"The activity we're seeing now, albeit on a limited basis, is unacceptable," said Polumbus.

No decisions have been made yet, but Polumbus expects talks to last about a month.

The last advisory put out by the Flathead Avalanche Center put the risk at high.

A new advisory should be ready by Saturday morning here.

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