Nov. 18—Whitefish Mountain Resort plans to open the newly relocated Chair 8 into Hellroaring Basin on Dec. 11, if snow conditions allow. The resort's opening day for the season is scheduled for Dec. 7.
The resort spent the off-season — and $2 million — reconfiguring Chair 8, which should allow the lift to open sooner than in past seasons.
"It wasn't exactly living up to its potential," resort officials said in a statement.
In its earlier configuration, there was no easy way to access Hellroaring Basin besides a cat track, and limited options to get from the top of the lift directly back into the basin without adding a front side run. It was further hampered by a long outrun to get to the bottom of the lift, where the early season snowpack was often thin.
To make better use of the Hellroaring Basin, the resort picked up the Chair 8 towers with a helicopter and dropped them back into place a little farther up the mountain.
Now the bottom terminal of Chair 8 is at Grand Junction, and the top is near the intersection of Toni Matt and Big Ravine.
This way, the lift will service front side options and two new runs leading directly into Hellroaring Basin: Wing and a Prayer, a double black diamond, and Short but Sweet, a blue square.
"We think this new configuration will improve overall mountain traffic flow," the resort stated. "And it will enable us to open the Hellroaring Basin earlier in the season; we won't have to wait for decent snow accumulations at the lower elevation where the bottom terminal used to be."
A trip on the new Chair 8 lasts about seven minutes and covers 1,082 vertical feet.
THE RELOCATION of Chair 8 is just one part of a multiphase project aimed at improving access to Hellroaring Basin and creating more opportunities in the area for intermediate skiers and riders.
The project started in 2020 with regrading parts of Hell Fire and initial clearing for six new runs. Those include Wing and a Prayer and Short but Sweet, as well as Pat's Ride, Lacy Lane, Chet's 'Stache and RadJack.
In addition to work on Chair 8, Whitefish Mountain Resort is also in the midst of prep work for its first high-speed sixpack chairlift.
The new sixpack, The Snow Ghost Express, will be the mountain's first lift to stretch from the Base Lodge to the upper elevations of Big Mountain when it starts running up to Inspiration Ridge.
It will replace the existing Chair 4. A ride will take less than seven minutes and eliminate the need to take two chairlifts to get to the top of the mountain.
Whitefish Mountain Resort is currently "moving dirt" between the base of the existing Chair 4, the base of Chair 10 and the Big Easy Conveyor Carpet, as well as modifying the terrain to accommodate changes in skier traffic when the new Chair 4 is installed next summer.
Leitner-Poma is contracted to build the new lift. It's anticipated to be ready for the 2022-23 ski season.
Reporter Bret Serbin may be reached at 406-758-4459 or email@example.com.