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Schweitzer Critical of New Amtrak Baggage Fees
Outgoing Governor visits Whitefish to promote winter rail travel
Gov. Brian Schweitzer came to Whitefish on Nov. 15 to blast a new Amtrak baggage policy that would charge riders $10 for every pair of skis brought on board. - Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon.
WHITEFISH – Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer visited Whitefish on Friday to criticize a proposed Amtrak baggage policy that he says would unfairly affect the Flathead Valley.

This winter Amtrak is proposing a $10 baggage fee for skis and snowboards. Usually, passengers are allowed to bring four pieces of baggage, two of which can be carried on free of charge. Schweitzer said the proposed fee increase was a “knuckleheaded idea.” Whitefish is one of two places in America where people can ride the train to a major ski resort.

“This is a national policy singling out Whitefish, really,” he said inside the Whitefish Depot lobby on Friday afternoon.

Schweitzer sent a letter to Amtrak President Joseph Boardman blasting the new baggage policy, saying it could hurt tourism in the area and the town’s partnership with the government-run passenger railroad. According to Whitefish Mountain Resort, 14 percent of the skiers who come to Whitefish arrive on the Empire Builder.

Schweitzer said the fee would also be counterproductive to promotional discounts offered by Amtrak. During the winter months, passengers have been able to get a 20 percent discount on coach travel to Whitefish. According to the governor, skiers have purchased $300,000 worth of Amtrak coach tickets in the last two years alone.

Whitefish Mountain Resort central reservations manager Spencer Weimar said although the $10 fee is small compared to the overall cost of a ski trip, it could deter people from taking the train to Whitefish. The resort’s second and third largest markets are Seattle and Minneapolis, both of which are on the Empire Builder route. Weimar also said the new fees could have a negative impact on the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, which has a cross-country ski area.

The visit to Whitefish came a week and half after Attorney General Steve Bullock was elected to be Schweitzer’s successor. Although all eyes are on the man who will replace him, Schweitzer said his job is not done and he plans to stay busy right up until his last day on Jan. 7, 2013. Although Schweitzer was in town promoting Whitefish Mountain Resort, he has no plans to hit the slopes immediately after he and his wife leave Helena.

“Nancy and I are going to go someplace where we can put our toes in the sand and have a beer in our hand,” he said. “We’ll see how soon we get tired of the sun and sand and then we’ll come back and do some skiing.”
On 11-21-12, creedence commented....
Mercy Why would someone that was on vacation, planning to ski on the mountain, and buy a lift ticket, then be expected to pay ten dollars to check they skis when the taxpayer could just pick up the tab. Thank You Gov.
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