By MORGAN SOLOMON/Montana State News
With 10 inches of new snow overnight, Bridger Bowl Ski Resort announced through their snow-phone and Facebook page that parking lots were completely filled by 9 a.m. on Saturday.
“The line of cars was backed up at least 5 miles,” said Paige Maskill, who was volunteering with Eagle Mount at Bridger on Saturday. “It was past Olson Creek Jeep Road at least.”
With the growing popularity of the community-owned ski hill, this scene is becoming more and more common.
According to Gallatin County’s Bridger Bowl Base Area Plan, the ski resort is limited to 1,500 parking spaces due to zoning restrictions. As a result, many skiers and riders participate in the “any space without a restriction sign is a parking space” guidelines.
According to Doug Wales, the Marketing Director for Bridger Bowl, the parking lots weren’t full until about 10 a.m., but with the long line of cars coming through the canyon, a message was put out to the public early.
He said efforts are under way to address the situation.
“We are currently pursuing the county’s zoning commission for variance in the number of parking spaces allowed due to the increase in ski programs, participation in those programs, and skiing in general, but it’s a slow process,” Wales said. “(But) new parking spots won’t be there for a couple of years.”
Skiers who could not find parking spots were forced to either park on the highway and walk, or take a bus from the Gallatin County Fairgrounds.
Bridger Bowl encourages carpooling and using the Streamline bus that runs to-and-from Bridger Bowl from the fairgrounds every hour. Wales said single parties are discouraged from driving their own vehicles, but they recognize that it is also convenient for college students to ski for a few hours between classes.
“That’s why we do promotional days for carpooling such as the $15 ski days for anyone who comes in with ‘three-on-wheels,’” said Wales.
Bridger Bowl’s crowded parking lot on Saturday was not just a result of the extra snow in the weather report. Bridger Bowl’s annual free-ride competition brought in spectators and athletic supporters to watch the event.
“The free-ride event coupled with Eagle Mount and Bridger Bowl Foundation participants, and the generous amount of snow, made the perfect conditions for a surplus in people coming to ski Bridger on Saturday,” said Wales.
Wales also stated that next weekend’s weather report forecasts the same scenario for Bridger Bowl, though no competitions are scheduled. “It’s turning out to be a good ski season.”
– Edited by Kerry Byrnes