LOOKOUT PASS, Mont. - The arrival of spring means the end of the season for local ski areas.
The overall picture is a good one -- good late season snow and superb attendance. At Lookout Pass a fresh 7 inches of snow on Thursday meant good skiing for the few that showed up on Friday.
Low crowds at ski areas during the spring are the main reason the areas close as soon as it becomes unprofitable.
Lookout and Whitefish expect to set attendance records this year, and Big Sky is up 20 percent from last year; but that can't stave off the inevitable drop once people start springtime activities.
Simon Miller, Curt Bayer and their kids go skiing at Lookout almost every week. They're already looking ahead to rounds of golf later this month.
The other factor is the snow. At Lookout they could close on the weekend of April 13, or not even make their projected closure date of April 6. If the snow is bad, nobody will ride.
The snow for the 2013-2014 season was good, but not spectacular. Most of the snow base didn't accumulate until February.
At Lookout Pass the difference was enough to double the mountain's snowpack between February 1 and March 28. The rest of the state wasn't as extreme as the Bitterroot Range, with snowpack consistently above last year for Whitefish, Blacktail, Bridger Bowl and Big Sky.
Here is when your ski hill expects to close:
April 6: Whitefish Mountain, Blacktail Mountain, Lost Trail Powder Mountain, Lookout Pass
April 7: Discovery Ski Area
April 13: Montana Snowbowl, Red Lodge Mountain
April 14: Bridger Bowl
April 20: Big Sky Resort
Discovery and Lookout Pass both confirmed that they are looking at extending the season, so these could be subject to change.