Tourism boosts state’s fortunes

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The lure of Montana’s open spaces and wild places continues to play a major role in the state’s economy.

A new report from UM Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research shows that last year 12.5 million visitors contributed nearly $3.4 billion in travel spending in the Treasure State. The study suggests that spending total could have been even higher — by about $240 million — had it not been for fires that plagued much of the state.

Out-of-state travelers now directly support about 39,000 jobs in Montana — a number that simply can’t be ignored.

While most of Montana’s tourists visit in the summer, the powdery ski slopes of wintertime continue to be a big draw as well.

Locally, Whitefish Mountain Resort is reporting a record season, having topped its all-time visitation total weeks before the lifts stop spinning. A great snow year certainly played a role in the visitation bump, but the resort’s commitment to improving infrastructure and keeping prices reasonable can’t be overlooked either. Congrats to the resort on a banner 70th season in business.

We’ll miss Sinopah

For 24 years Sinopah House in Kalispell was part of the crucial network for mental-health services, providing a therapeutic group home for adolescent girls. As of April 1, that service will no longer exist. Deep cuts in state funding for mental-health services, which somehow seem counterintuitive at a time when this kind of safety net is desperately needed, forced the closure of Sinopah House. The facility now will transition into an adult group home.

Sinopah House was developed as a local solution to a gap in mental-health care for a particularly vulnerable population: teenage girls. Through the years the facility’s dedicated staff worked one-on-one with these girls to develop individualized strategies for getting their lives back on track. We owe a debt of gratitude to the compassionate caregivers who made a difference in their lives.

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