A Unique Spring Gathering

We’re on the last stretch of winter. Spring is in the air, and with it comes a more lackadaisical approach to our skiing and riding habit. It’s not that we are lacking enthusiasm, on the contrary, it’s more carpe diem-like. “Let’s make the most of what’s left! Today I’m going to wear my onesie!”

This weekend may seem like a typical spring weekend on the mountain. Costumes will start appearing, and one never knows what other antics may occur. If you venture to the north side, you will find a large gathering of revelers. Yes, they are snowboarders, and yes, they are competing in an event, but this is more than just a competition. It serves a greater purpose—it raises funds for preventing suicide and promoting mental health awareness in northwest Montana. It is also a pilgrimage of sorts, bringing friends back to the mountain for a weekend reconnecting with old friends, meeting new friends and remembering the ones we’ve lost.

The Nate Chute Banked Slalom and Boardercross has been a staple in our spring events schedule for two decades. Its longevity is noteworthy however, it is the vibe that gets you. Even if you are not a snowboarder, you can appreciate and relate to their purpose. It is a “contest for a cause” where the starting and finish lines are more about revelry than rivalry.

In 1999 Nate Chute was a Whitefish High School graduate, well-known snowboarder and snowboard instructor who worked at the Big Mountain Resort and Stumptown Snowboards, when he unexpectedly took his life. Nate’s friends, who wanted to help make sure a tragedy like this did not happen again, came up with idea for a snowboarding event in his honor which evolved to the establishment of the Nate Chute Foundation a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation dedicated to reducing suicide among young people in western Montana. The services and education they provide to schools, medical providers, and law enforcement is free of charge and supported by donations.

A portion of entry fees go to the Nate Chute Foundation however, the bulk of the funds raised—upwards of $35,000—come from the competitors each of whom receives donations from friends and family through gofundme.com. Donations can be made by anyone wishing to support the cause on this site, or by attending one of the other fundraisers.

Friday night Bonsai Brewing Project hosts For the Love of the NC Foundation Pint Night and Silent Action, 5-8 p.m. at the brewery. On Saturday the party continues on the mountain at the community night at The Bierstube starting at 4 p.m. The bar also will host a benefit night with a fundraiser keg for the Foundation and will host live music by the Badger Hound. On Sunday MacKenzie River Pizza in Whitefish will host their community night benefit. Dine in or take out and part of your purchase helps benefit the Nate Chute Foundation.

If you are on the mountain this weekend, it is worth stopping by the event and soaking in the atmosphere while you cheer on the riders.

Saturday’s banked slalom, which notably is the second longest banked slalom event in the U.S., begins in the trees between the Silvertip and Whitetail runs and continues into George’s Gorge finishing at the bottom of the gorge, directly underneath Chair 7. Each rider gets two runs and their best time is used as their final time. While riding Chair 7 you will likely see a competitor or two.

On Sunday the boardercross takes place on the Goat Haunt boardercross course. Heats of three to five riders will race the course to the finish with the top two riders moving on to the advanced round, and those who do not will be entered in a “Last Chance Qualifier” heat. There are a number of good viewing spots on the side of the boardercross course if you go down Goat Haunt.         

You can be a part of this event be volunteering. We are looking for intermediate skiers or snowboarders to help with course marshalling on the day of the races, and also building the banked slalom course alongside our events crew.  Volunteers will earn a lift ticket for the day of help and for another day within the next year. Please contact events@skiwhitefish.com or call 406-862-2910.

As we near the end of the winter there are many ways to celebrate the season. Whether you participate in events, wear a costume, or just share the mountain with friends and family, take a moment and remember all the other friends you’ve known and shared the mountain with and take a run for them.

For more information about the Nate Chute Foundation visit natechutefoundation.org.