The Bridger Bowl Foundation won't have to drum up as many donations for ski hill upgrades, thanks to a six-figure grant from the Montana Department of Commerce.

On Wednesday, the Department of Commerce announced that eight Montana tourism facilities, including Bridger Bowl's planned Alpine Cabin, were awarded grants totaling $500,000 from the state Tourism Infrastructure Investment Program.

The eight award winners were selected from 24 applications through a competitive process.

Bridger Bowl Inc. received more than $132,500, the largest amount awarded, for construction of the Alpine Cabin near two upgraded lifts on the ski area's north side.

“We applied in August. We then heard we were highly recommended by the scoring committee,” said Doug Wales, Bridger Bowl marketing director. “This is a brick-and-mortar type of grant, something we don't usually try for. But obviously it paid off.”

Funding for the cabin began with a memorial donation to the foundation, the nonprofit entity that allows people to make tax-deductible contributions to Bridger Bowl.

When Ric Jonas, a fan who regularly traveled from out-of-state to ski Bridger Bowl, passed away, his family foundation donated $70,000 to the cabin project.

“They kicked it off. Then we were able to get another $10,000 in donations, and I used it all as the match for the grant,” Wales said.

Funds for the TIIP come from the 4 percent Montana Lodging Facility Use Tax, which applies to all hotels and campgrounds. For every $2 of grant funds, local groups must match $1.

Still in the design phase, the 2,000-square-foot cabin will be located in the Limestone flats near the Alpine Lift on the north side of the area.

Skiers will be able to warm up, get a light lunch and “hang out on the deck to enjoy the mountain experience,” Wales said.

“That location is accessible to skiers with a wide range of skill levels,” Wales said. “It was always one of our goals, and with the new lifts, that area will get more popular.”

The target date for opening the cabin is this time next year, Wales said, although more money is still needed. The construction estimate is now around $400,000.

“We'll still be looking to raise a couple thousand more. We're considering having a donor wall in the cabin,” Wales said.

Department of Commerce Director Meg O'Leary approved the grants with input from the Tourism Advisory Council.

Other TIIP grants included $54,000 for improvements to the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary in Red Lodge and $80,000 for restoration of the Blackfeet Tribe's Chewing Blackbones Campground near Glacier National Park.

“These projects benefit Montana residents by bolstering the local economy and adding to their community's quality of life,” O'Leary said.

Created in 1995, TIIP has awarded $5.2 million to 114 tourism improvement projects across the state.

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