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Drink a Beer to Support the SNOW Bus
Annual Winter Brewfest fundraiser on tap for March 19
Winter Brewfest 2010 at Whitefish Mountain Resort. - courtesy of Big Mountain Commercial Association
The Shuttle Network of Whitefish (SNOW) buses take care of thousands of riders each year as they make their way up Big Mountain to ski or snowboard.

On Saturday, those riders have the opportunity to return the favor and take care of the buses, all by drinking a few microbrews at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

The Big Mountain Commercial Association will host its annual Winter Brewfest on Saturday, March 19, as a fundraiser for the SNOW buses’ operational costs. It’s also a time to get the Flathead Valley community together on the mountain.

The nonprofit’s mission is to promote unity between Whitefish Mountain Resort and the rest of the valley, said BMCA Executive Director Rick Cunningham, which includes those who don’t hit the slopes on a regular basis.

“This way we bring people up that may not ski but want to come up and see what goes on on the mountain,” Cunningham said.

Started about 10 years ago as a way to alleviate parking congestion on the hill and to help resort staff get to work, the SNOW buses now provide about 50,000 free rides each year for anyone heading up Big Mountain.

It’s especially helpful for tourists who fly in to Whitefish and don’t have means of transportation, Cunningham said.

The BMCA controls the SNOW buses’ day-to-day operations, though the group maintains a tight relationship with Whitefish Mountain Resort. The resort pays the lion’s share of the SNOW bus’ expenses through a large sponsorship, Cunningham said, but there are still other costs to be met.

The nonprofit also partially funds the resort’s shuttle and helps pay for the cost of plowing the road up to Big Mountain.

Annual brewfests are just one way to help support the BMCA’s bus expenses, which come out to about $200,000 during the four months of ski season, Cunningham said. The BMCA also hosts summer brewfests in Whitefish to gear up for the snow.

But the springtime fundraiser takes place when the mountain is still open for the winter, presenting an opportunity to exhibit the resort’s snowy features with a potential side of sunshine.

It’s an enticing combination on its own merits, but adding locally crafted microbrews and live music really draws a crowd. The 2010 spring brewfest attracted about 700 people, he said.

The event begins at 1 p.m. at the Whitefish Mountain Resort village and runs through 5 p.m. There will be 10 microbreweries slinging their wares, and Missoula musician David Boone will provide the entertainment throughout the day.

Tickets beforehand cost $20 and $25 at the door; patrons receive a commemorative glass and 10 beer tokens for that amount. Each glass holds six ounces of beer.

There will be an area for dancing as well as tents with heaters.

Designated drivers, which Cunningham said are a very important part of the afternoon even with the SNOW bus in operation, pay a $5 fee for entrance and non-alcoholic beverages.

Even with a sober driver, Cunningham strongly suggested that participants hop on the SNOW bus to get to the fundraiser. The bus will be running on its regular routes, and a schedule can be found online at www.bigmtncommercial.org.

The Third Annual Dummy Derby also takes place on the mountain on March 19. Participants attach dummies, which rules stipulate cannot currently be nor ever were living or breathing, to skis or snowboards then launch them off a jump on Lower Ed’s Run.

Entries must be family friendly, under 125 pounds and made of safe, non-toxic materials. Teams can enter their dummy for $20 and must have their entry ready at the upper village parking area by 1 p.m. on March 19.

Teams can include a maximum of four people, none of who will ride the dummy raft down the course, according to the event’s rules.

Judges will score entries on their originality and jump distance. The team with the highest score gets $500; the first launch begins at 4:30 p.m. For more information on the dummy derby’s rules and categories, visit www.skiwhitefish.com.

For more information on the 2011 Winter Brewfest, call the BMCA at 406-253-9192.
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