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Steep, deep, cheap: Turner gears up for season

by Brandon Roberts & Western News
| November 24, 2008 11:00 PM

Valley viewers keep a watchful eye as snow descends the alpine elevations, anticipating winter’s approach. For some, the snow brings visions of floating on fresh powder, flowing through first tracks then stopping to admire the beautiful s-curves.

The air is crisp, clean and clear near the 6,000-foot summit of Turner Mountain northwest of Libby. The snow crystals sparkle, weighing down branches, blanketing the 400-acre winter playground.

“We have got something for everybody,” said Bruce Zwang, who sits on the Turner Mountain Board of Directors.

Zwang said mountain enthusiasts can expect an expanded mountain for the 2008-09 season.

“We have expanded some of our gladed skiing, added more groomers, and there is one new ski run,” he said.

The new run is an offshoot of Mosey Down, which Zwang says the intermediates will really enjoy because it avoids the steep pitch on the way down.

“People will be able to bypass it with a real user-friendly offshoot that will hold the snow and groom real nicely,” he said.

Turner’s opening is dictated by snow accumulations, which have been mild to date. However, Zwang said it is common to be heading into Thanksgiving without much snow on the summit.

He added that the mountain should be open by Friday, Dec. 19 to begin the Christmas holidays.

The mountain’s only lift, a double-chair, offers access to Turner’s 20-plus runs and 2,110 feet of vertical.

The alpine playground “offers something for everyone,” Zwang said.

The runs are 70 percent black diamond, or expert, 20 percent intermediate and 10 percent beginner.

Zwang began his winter lifestyle at age 5 on Turner. He said it was only natural to volunteer to be a director.

“I do it for the love of the sport and the love of the mountain,” he said.

Turner saw close to 6,000 enthusiasts last season, which Zwang attributes to a great snow year, low rates, short lift lines and people seeking the throwback mountains instead of elite destinations.

“We are priced competitively, which adds tremendously to the experience,” he said. “We have seen a lot of traffic in from the Flathead Valley and northern Idaho.”

Zwang has kept a careful eye on the industry and the current economic trend. He noted some of the larger destination resorts will feel the impact more heavily than areas like Turner.

“We are value oriented and value priced, which puts us in a better position to weather the economic storm,” he said. “We are positioned real well to continue to draw locally and regionally.”

Two of Turner’s end-of-season events are March Crazy Days and the Top to the Dog relay race.

Crazy Days is known as a family-friendly event with costumes, contests and prizes. The early April Top to the Dog relay is for more of the extreme.

The race begins in the Turner parking lot, where one person “skins” or hikes the mountain on their skies to the summit, where the next leg awaits to ski back down. From there a runner sets pace to the East Fork crossing where they tag the final leg – a bicyclist who pedals to the finish line at the Red Dog.

The mountain has increased lift ticket prices by $2, bringing an adult day pass to $30, and the junior (18 and under) and senior (62 and up) ticket to $25 per day. Children 6 and under ski free.

Turner offers season passes and family seasonal passes, along with an early season deal, the five-day punch card.

The punch card gets people on the mountain five times for the price of four, but is only available to purchase before Christmas, and is non-transferable. Prices are $125 for an adult, and $105 for juniors and seniors.

Turner offers ski and snowboard rentals on site, along with lessons, food and beverages. 

The website, skiturner.com , is currently undergoing renovations. Information listed is outdated and Zwang said the site would soon be up and current.

For those just wanting a winter view, Turner allows the public to ride the lift at no charge.