The debut of Montana Snowbowl’s new TV Mountain lift will once again be delayed. Snowbowl co-owner Brad Morris confirmed for the Indy this week that, due to myriad issues that arose during construction this year, the long-awaited expansion won’t be complete in time for the coming ski season.
“We just got caught by this fire season, basically,” Morris said. “I mean, we didn’t have any fires up there, fortunately, but pretty much half of our workers left to fight fires.”
For western Montana skiers, anticipation of the 22-tower double chair and the new runs it will access has been building since well before the Forest Service approved the area’s master plan in May 2014. The lift is the first major step in a multi-phase expansion that will roughly double Snowbowl’s acreage and capacity, ultimately increasing the resort to eight chairlifts and 80 trails. Snowbowl even has renowned artist James Niehues working on a new trail map that includes the TV Mountain runs, and updates on his progress have been posted to Snowbowl’s Facebook page.
The resort had hoped to have the new lift up and running last season, but as mountain manager Pat McKay explained to the Missoulian in October 2016, installation of the towers was taking longer than expected.
In addition to losing workers to the firefighting season, Morris told the Indy, the project was delayed this summer due to issues with a powerline. Initial plans were to bury the line where it bisected the lift, he said, but crews decided it would be better to bury the entire mile-long line.
“Then easement issues came up,” Morris said. “They decided it would be better to run the powerline in the road so there wouldn’t be any ground disturbance. That required a change in easement with the Forest Service.”
Morris adds that while much of the run-cutting has already been completed, dry conditions and the allocation of harvest equipment to help with area fires set the associated timber sale back slightly. The end date for that sale, he said, was extended to Sept. 15, 2018. This fall’s fair weather has given Snowbowl an opportunity to continue its own thinning work.
Despite the hiccups, installation of the lift continued. According to Morris, lift towers are up, the bottom terminal is done, and the concrete for the top terminal has been poured. “We’re just hoping that the weather reports are going to happen and that the forecasters are right, and we’ll get going next year,” he said. “I would think for sure we’ll be ready to go [in 2018].”