This week the Lolo National Forest approved plans to expand Montana Snowbowl ski area. Snowbowl has been pushing for expansion since 2004.
Because Snowbowl leases land from the Forest Service, any expansion must be done under their guidelines. The first step involves an environmental impact assessment, which was reviewed this past winter.
The plan approves expanding Snowbowl from 1,138 acres to 2,243 acres -- just over twice the current size.
The plan includes 32 new ski runs, four new lifts, another lodge, a new snow-making reservoir, and other irrigation and maintenance facilities.
The new facilities will be able to take on twice as many skiers when all the projects are completed. Construction could take up to 10 years.
Public comments on the amount of dust that would come off of a busy Snowbowl Road caused a short delay in the expansion's approval.
Lolo National Forest Supervisor Tim Garcia says that both the Forest Service and Snowbowl are working with Missoula county to reduce the impacts of roadway dust and issues cause by water runoff.
Besides the road issue, Garcia says improvements on Snowbowl's current property will be the first step before lift construction and other heavy work can be done. Work could begin this summer.