AP NEWS

Whitefish Airport closed due to Nordic skiing race damage

July 9, 2016

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — The Whitefish Airport is still closed after the runway was damaged during a Nordic skiing event last winter, and it may be closed for the rest of the year.

Horses that were used to drag skiers during the skijoring competition caused significant damage to the runway and taxi area, Glacier Park International Airport executive director Cindi Martin said. The horses punched 6- to 8-inch holes in the turf-covered runway, Martin said. Skijoring, which originated in Scandinavia, is a sport in which a skier is pulled by horses, dogs or a motor vehicle.

The damage covers 7 acres, and repairs will cost about $23,000 to repair, she said. But organizers say the damage is only about $2,300 and they will pay for the repairs.

The Flathead Municipal Airport Authority owns and operates the Whitefish Airport, which is normally open from June to October, the Daily Inter Lake reported (http://tinyurl.com/gqsy3ct ).

Event organizer Dale Duff said the damaged occurred because of thawing weather during the event.

“The damage did occur, and we will pay for it,” he said. “We are insured and we will make sure the land is restored to good or better than it was before. We are grateful the airport authority has allowed us to use the airport, and we want to be good stewards of the land.”

The holes have been repaired and the grass replanted, but airplanes can’t safely land until the turf grows back, Martin said.

“The skijoring group used the airport free of charge. But we did require them to carry insurance and this should be covered under that,” she said. “We will submit a claim to their insurance.”

In May, the Flathead Municipal Airport Authority board voted to ban future skijoring at the airport.

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Information from: Daily Inter Lake, http://www.dailyinterlake.com

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