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Officials explain approval of controversial Whitefish ultra marathon

Posted at 9:27 AM, Jul 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-09 12:29:02-04

WHITEFISH – A controversial Whitefish ultra-marathon that runs through grizzly bear habitat on Whitefish Mountain Resort is approved for mid-October.

Alan Myers-Davis with Whitefish Legacy Partners told MTN News that the marathon has been taking place for nine years and just so happened to change locations. Before, the marathon took place over in the Beaver Lake area.

This year, a permit requested to change locations of the 50-mile race so it would to start in downtown Whitefish at Depot Park and continue up the face of Whitefish Mountain Resort.

The permit was approved by Bill Mulholland at the Tally Lake District but was met with concern as the trails technically run through bear country.

Mulholland says he approved the permit because Whitefish Mountain Resort already has high recreational activity in the requested area.

“This already has that kind of activity taking place on it on a daily basis, so we’re seeing a large group of people moving through the forest, they’ll be making noise and doing those kinds of things. So, we recognize that we can never say that entering bear country is safe, we just feel that (this a place) an event like this can take place,” explained Mulholland.

Whitefish Ultra Marathon
A controversial ultra-marathon that runs through grizzly bear habitat on Whitefish Mountain Resort is approved for mid-October. (MTN News photo)

While Whitefish Mountain Resort is a popular recreational area where bear attacks historically have been low, Myers-Davis says Whitefish Legacy Partners already have safety measures in place.

“It’s not in the backcountry. The course is going to be extremely well marked so we don’t anticipate anyone getting lost up there and then we are going to track runners as they start the race,” said Myers-Davis.

“And then at each aid station, we’ll make sure the runners are checking in and coming through and if anyone is missing from that roster we know they’re within this section of trail.”

Myers-Davis reminds people the face of the mountain is in cell range, and to call 911 with any emergency. However, with each aid station, the race has volunteer bike patrols to monitor the race area.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Dillon Tabish offered up tips on how to stay safe while running on trails.

He told MTN News that if a runner comes across a bear, stop running, back away slowly, do not crouch down, appear larger raising your arms above your head.
Always carry bear spray.