Montana Snowbowl Ski Area Approved to Expand - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Montana Snowbowl Ski Area Approved to Expand

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MISSOULA - Skiers and snowboarders rejoice, as Montana Snowbowl Ski Area is given the green light to expand to nearly double its current size.

On May 1, the Forest Service approved Snowbowl's plan that was originally proposed ten years ago.

The owners of the ski area tell me the goal of their expansion is to provide more beginner and intermediate runs to Snowbowl's primarily expert terrain.

They said it'll be lot of hard work, and they're already starting the process this summer.

Brad Morris and his wife Ronnie have owned Snowbowl since 1984. They submitted the proposal to expand the resort back in 2004.

"It's been slow and a lot of starts and stops along the way," Morris said.

Morris said expanding will allow Snowbowl to accommodate more skiers and snowboarders. He says the demand has continued to grow over the years, especially after Marshall Mountain close back in 2003.

"There was definitely a demand for it and we wanted to balance our terrain with some lower level terrain," he said.

The plan is to expand Snowbowl from 1,138 acres to 2,243 acres to the west of the existing ski area. The number of ski runs will increase from 52 to 80 allowing for total daily skier capacity to rise from 1,500 to 3,066.

"It's a good appropriate spot for beginner and intermediate ski terrain," said Boyd Hartwig of the Lolo National Forest Service.

Hartwig said Snowbowl's expansion was approved after the completion of an Environmental Impact Statement on how expanding would affect the environment. 

"Fish habitat, the amount of water in Butler Creek, and then wildlife habitat," Hartwig said.

Hartwig said completing the EIS involved years of analysis, public comment and review.

"So, it's a lengthy process, but it's a necessary step for all of our land management actions."

Hartwig said they also plan to install four new chair lifts and construct a new snowmaking reservoir and lodge.

"It'll be a real positive addition to the community," Morris said.

Owners said the expansion will be a gradual process over the next ten years.

They said they're also installing zip lines above Snowbowl's terrain this summer.

The Forest Service approves the expansion of Montana Snowbowl Ski Area.

On May 1, the Lolo National Forest Supervisor signed the Record of Decision for the expansion.

The Forest Service's decision sanctions expanding the existing ski area from its current 1,138 acres to 2,243 acres.

It also permits several new facilities, including a new lodge to be constructed on federal lands.

The decision allows the number of ski lifts can be increased from four to eight and a new snowmaking reservoir can be constructed.

The number of ski runs can also be increased from 52 to 80 allowing for total daily skier capacity to rise from 1,500 skiers to 3,066 skiers.

Most of the new developments are planned for a location just west of the existing ski area.

Montana Snowbowl could begin expanding as early as this summer. The expansion is expected to take place in phases and may extend over a ten year period.