Whitefish Mountain Resort, MT, Recertified as Whitebark Pine Friendly Ski Area

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Certification recognizes efforts to promote the conservation of threatened keystone species like whitebark pine trees at Whitefish Mountain Resort, MT. | Photo courtesy of American Forests

WHITEFISH, Mont. (March 13, 2023) — The Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation has recertified Whitefish Mountain Resort as a Whitebark Pine Friendly Ski Area, a designation the resort has held since 2016. The certification recognizes the resort’s continued efforts to promote conservation of whitebark pine, a threatened tree species that plays a critical role in the biodiversity of mountain ecosystems.

“Whitefish Mountain Resort has demonstrated exemplary leadership in their proactive approach to both protecting and restoring whitebark pine and educating the public on the unique mountain ecosystem this tree upholds,” said Mike Giesey, ski area partnership committee chair at the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation. “It further shows the importance of the outdoor industry as partners in conservation, and we hope other ski resorts will follow suit.”

Found across the Northern Rockies and other high-elevation ecosystems in western North America, whitebark pine is regarded as a “keystone” species because it supports many other plants and animals, including grizzly bears and Clark’s nutcrackers. Whitebark pine trees’ deep roots help stabilize slopes and their long shadows help retain snowpack, contributing to the health of watersheds and other tree species.

Whitebark pine numbers have fallen dramatically due to climate change, shifting wildfire regimes, infestations of mountain pine beetles, and a fungus known as white pine blister rust. In December, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed whitebark pine as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Whitebark pine seedling at CDA nursery. | Photo courtesy of American Forests

Whitefish Mountain Resort, which is partially located on the Flathead National Forest, has collaborated with the U.S. Forest Service to educate guests about whitebark pine and facilitate restoration projects, including cone collections and tree plantings on Big Mountain.

“Working closely with the Flathead National Forest over the past 25 years, Whitefish Mountain Resort has proved to be a terrific partner in supporting and promoting the restoration efforts of whitebark pine across Northwest Montana,” said Karl Anderson, forest culturist with the Flathead National Forest.

“Whether we’re skiing through glades in the winter or taking in scenic views in the summer, we depend on a healthy and biodiverse mountain ecosystem,” said Bill Cubbage, director of mountain operations at Whitefish Mountain Resort. “Preserving whitebark pine is one way we can be stewards of our environment, and we’re grateful for our partners at the Forest Service and the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation who have been leaders in protecting these precious trees on Big Mountain and beyond.”

The Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation is a nonprofit based in Missoula that promotes the conservation and restoration of whitebark pine and other high-elevation, five-needle white pines through education and outreach, research and collaborations.

Healthy Whitebark Pine on the Whitefish Mountain Resort. The Whitefish Mountain Resort is one of the few places in the region where there is a healthy stand of whitebark pine trees. Good forest management techniques are needed to ensure the trees stay alive and new trees grow. The ski resort has done a great job making this happen, as evidenced by the certification they got from the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation in 2016 for being a whitebark pine-friendly ski resort. It was the first such certification given by the foundation.| Photo courtesy of American Forests

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