Montana Snowbowl volunteer ski patrol took a bold step this past year in fundraising for their organization. They invested funds in launching a Montana license plate for skiers and snowboarders.

Montana has 118 different license plates with the top seller being the one for Glacier National Park. Eric Weckenbrock, director of the Snowbowl volunteer ski patrol, does not anticipate coming close to its sales numbers, but does hope the Montana ski and board plate reaches sales of 1,000 this year. "The license plate is getting more recognition by the day," he told us. "We're anticipating sales to increase going into ski season."

The new license plate added in July features artwork of snowy mountains with a skier and a snowboarder. It includes the state's famous tagline, "The last best place." It is also generic to Montana snow sports rather than being specifically for Snowbowl or ski patrollers.

A portion of the purchase cost of the license plate and subsequent renewal fee goes to Snowbowl's volunteer patrol. "We've been operating so long at a razor thin margin," said Weckenbrock. The organization, like many volunteer ski patrol groups, operates on a shoestring budget with members buying their own uniforms, gear, and memberships in National Ski Patrol and its Northern Division.

"The cost of doing the plate was fairly sizeable for our patrol," explained Weckenbrock. The ski patrol had to advance funds to pay the state for the license plate's production and hire an artist to design it. But the return is already looking positive. "As of the end of September, we're well on our way to making our money back. We're anticipating more revenue from the plates than our annual budget," he added.

The volunteer Snowbowl patrol has plans to aid more than their own group with the license plate project. The group hopes to funnel additional revenue into Northern Division to help volunteer ski patrols of Montana, Northeast Wyoming, and North Dakota.

The plates are only available now to those with vehicles licensed in Montana. But Weckenbrock already has gotten a request for one from an Oregon resident. Montana permits sponsors of specialty license plates to offer souvenir plates, which would be available to anyone in or outside the state. The Snowbowl ski patrol may consider adding that option in the future.

The plate costs $40 to purchase and $20 each subsequent year in addition to the regular licensing fees. The plates are available at county licensing offices.

More information: Snowbowl Ski Patrol, Montana license plates.