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Lack of snowfall hurting Red Lodge ski mountain and businesses

Downtown Red Lodge
Posted at 5:30 PM, Jan 03, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-05 10:42:43-05

As the abnormally warm winter continues in Montana, the lack of snowfall is hurting Red Lodge Mountain and many of the town's local business.

The mountain currently has 22 of its total 70 runs open.

"Well, it's been one of the roughest starts we've had," said Matt Morris, who was skiing the available runs Wednesday. "It's definitely a little frustrating."

Morris and his seven-year-old daughter Isabel had made the drive from Cody, Wyoming to Red Lodge Wednesday because their usual mountain, called Sleeping Giant, is still closed.

"We get out and ski quite a bit," Morris said. "Having (season) passes at Sleeping Giant, it's hard to come over here and afford to go skiing."

Matt and Isabel Morris

The additional price of travel and a ski pass at a different mountain are difficult for Morris to afford. On top of that, the snow at Red Lodge isn't much better.

"We'll make the best of it," Morris said. "We're happy to see 'Lazy M' open. The mountain's actually skiing pretty good considering the conditions."

Justin Hobbs and Cole Fauske both made the trip from Powell, Wyoming because they usually ski at Sleeping Giant. Hobbs said that the snow was holding up pretty well, especially because the mountain was making artificial snow for the runs.

"When you're not around the snow makers, there's a lot of rocks," Hobbs said. "But as long as you stay on the path, it's pretty alright."

Fauske added that while he was bummed about the amount of closed runs, he was enjoying the day on the slopes.

"Most black diamonds are closed down, which is kind of a bummer, but it is what it is," Fauske said. "Hopefully, we'll get a snowstorm here soon and everything will open up."

Those bad skiing conditions extend their impact beyond just the mountain. In town, local businesses are feeling the loss of tourists.

"This is the scariest year I've seen," said Montana Candy Emporium General Manager Nick Beard. "And I mean, I've lived here for 40 years."

Beard said he and other businesses are hurting during a season when they usually thrive.

Candy Emporium

"A lot of places are just closed right now because it's been so bad," Beard said. "It's slow during the week. It picks up a bit on the weekends but nothing like it usually does and it hurts us for sure."

The Red Lodge Nordic Center, which has cross-country ski trails available to visitors, looked a lot more like a ghost town when MTN visited Wednesday morning. The lack of snow rendered that activity practically impossible.

"Back when I was a kid, there would be six feet of snow out there right now, and it seems like it's just getting worse and worse," Beard said.

Still, Beard is hopeful. The snow often arrives late in Red Lodge and he's crossing his fingers that this winter's slow start will soon be a distant memory.

"We usually get hit hard like mid-January, so I'm hoping we do again," Beard said. "We'll bounce back, just like we always do."