Forest Service Wants Ski Areas Open Longer - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Forest Service Wants Ski Areas Open Longer

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LAKESIDE -

For the most part, the ski season is either over or winding down, but that doesn't mean the resorts have to close until next winter.

Nationally, there are more than 100 ski areas on nearly 180,000 acres of public land.

Now the US Forest Service is putting in writing what they would like to see happen on this land once the snow melts.

It's kind of a hike to get to Blacktail Mountain Ski Area.

During the ski season, the road is so packed and sanded that it's hard to tell that it's not paved. In the summer, it's a little different.

"The gravel road is a deterrent, although every event we've had up here in the summer no one's complained about it. It can be dusty," said Steve Spencer, the manager of the ski area.

They're working on a federal grant right now to get the road paved, but that has by no means stopped people from enjoying the mountain after the lifts stop running.

People can always come out on their own and recreate on public land, but the Blacktail ski area actually hosts weddings and archery events for a few weekends each summer.

That's exactly what the Forest Service wants to see.

"It's a good business model. For ski resorts to only operate during the winter and be shut down the rest of the year, they're not getting a steady income flow so that may not be maximizing all the resources and infrastructure they have in place," explained Wade Muehlhof, a spokesman for the Flathead National Forest.

Whitefish Mountain Resort is already doing this. In the summer, you can zip line and mountain bike all around the Resort.

Those are the kinds of things that the Forest Service has on their yes list. Definite no's are Ferris wheels, roller coasters, and other theme park shenanigans.

The Forest Service has high hopes for these new guidelines.

They estimate that by diversifying our nation's ski areas, it could add 600 full- or part-time jobs and almost $40 million for our local mountain communities.

"It's always nice to go to a ski area that has a summer operation," said Spencer, "Obviously the grass is mowed and you know they look a little nicer."

Spencer says that he most likely won't build anything else up here until Blacktail Road gets paved.

The Forest Service guidelines, also known as directives, are on the web.

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