With just a few days left in the downhill ski season, we’ve got plenty of fond memories of gorgeous powdery days on Discovery Mountain. It seems mother nature missed the memo that spring has sprung and decided to send some last minute snow storms—even as we have enjoyed 60+ degree days in the valley.
In 2014, National Geographic chose Philipsburg as one of the Best Secret Ski Towns in North America. We are inclined to agree, although it’s anything but secret in Western Montana.
We are closely connected to our local hill, Discovery Ski Area. Just 25 miles away, Discovery has three faces, 67 runs and 215 inches of annual snowfall. It has everything from bunny hills to double-black diamond runs. Most of our fellow community members and Ranch staff have already secured their ski passes for next year because this mountain plays an important role in both our professional and personal lives.
Discovery Ski Patrol
For a few Ranchers, that connection is even deeper. Activities Director Patrick Little and Evening Line Cook Kacy Schwend work on the Ski Patrol at Discovery. The Ski Patrol provides emergency medical services and aid to skiers and snowboarders on the mountain. This essential service is included in the cost of a lift pass and gives people peace of mind that someone will be there if assistance is needed.
Discovery Ski Area believes so strongly in this service that they pay their patrollers competitive rates—whether they are on patrol one day or five days a week. It’s too important a task to rely on volunteers. Discovery employs 19 patrollers, ranging in age from 18 to 83 years. There are five patrollers over the age of 60 with a combined total of over 200 years of ski patrolling. In fact, Philipsburg resident Bob Winninghoff (83) just celebrated his 50th year of ski patrolling and his 79th year skiing Discovery, an avocation that started when there was only a rope tow to get you up the mountain.
“It feels like a family up there” said Patrick Little of the Discovery Ski Patrol. “Our commitment to excellence and to each other directly benefits to our Ranch guests and the local community. School groups use the hill regularly during the week and a mixture of locals and visitors ski throughout the season.”
Little explained that there are many reasons he contributes to the community through the Ski Patrol. It keeps his EMT skills sharp, it ensures he (and other Ranch staff) have exceptional knowledge of the hill and it helps take care of the mountain. Our guests are avid users of the mountain, and our staff is so knowledgeable that we are able to provide a Ski Concierge service with guides, gear, passes and transportation to winter visitors.
Maintaining Discovery is important to Little because this isn’t a ski resort. Discovery is special. There are no condominiums—just a lodge known statewide for its fresh baked cookies. It’s a Mom and Pop outfit with great snow, no lift lines and a community atmosphere located in a beautiful basin in Western Montana. We enjoy sharing this unique downhill experience with our guests because it never fails to bring a smile, no matter their age or their expertise.
Sari Tuschman, editor-at-large for the Zoe Report recently wrote about Discovery, “This old-school ski mountain was truly a discovery! So much great terrain, beautiful views and a laid-back feel. I will be back.”
We believe in the Ski Patrol’s mission—leading The Ranch to donate several thousand dollars over the past two years for equipment and jackets.
In keeping with our record of charitable donations to local medical facilities and causes, the Ski Patrol provides an essential service that we wholeheartedly support. We are grateful to Patrick for his six years of serving on the patrol and to Kacy for his four years and numerous hours spent patrolling each winter.
Discovery Ski Education Foundation
In addition, The Ranch supports the Discovery Ski Education Foundation (DSEF), a local parent-led non-profit that provides local children a healthy environment to ski, train and compete at Discovery Ski Area.
The DSEF offers programs for children aged five to 16, including alpine skiing, mountain exploration and competitive racing. Last year, these programs had over 100 participants from Western Montana. The DSEF provides a well-rounded skiing experience, full of physical and social benefits, to local children. It’s just the type of experience-driven focus we aim to provide at The Ranch.
Recently, the Discovery Ski Team competed in the USSA Northern Division Championships at Discovery, alongside 200 other skiers. Many Ranch employees, including General Manager Jade McBride and Marketing Director Heather Rue, cheered on the competitors and greeted visitors from surrounding states during the beautiful days on our favorite mountain.
We look forward to seeing the Ski Patrol, the DSEF, our Ranch guests and local Philipsburg neighbors up on the slopes again this coming fall. You can bet we’ll be some of the first people to make tracks through the fresh powder.