When they counted up the athletes attending the 2019 Bitterroot Winter Special Olympics Tuesday, the total was 145. That was a new record number. When you add the coaches and support staff that accompany each team, there were over 340 people at lunch on the first day of the annual event.

Organizer Randy Hodgson said that the number of people in the lodge was pretty much a "maxed out" number for the 38th annual competition. He said the loss of the Montana State Winter Special Olympics has put pressure on the regional events - and the Lost Trail Ski Area has one of the largest competitions in the state. There were no frowns during the perfect blue sky day, and everyone had a good chance at practicing their skiing, snowshoeing and more. Wednesday, they'll be competing for medals. But before that, they'll be at a Tuesday evening dinner and dance at Hamilton's Bitterroot River Inn. And maybe they'll spend some time in the pool.

Sentinel and Big Sky High Schools were hosts for this year's games. Special awards were presented to Farmers State Bank and Global Wireless for their support throughout the year. The Grand Entry was led by the Stevensville Post 94 Color Guard and skiers brought the US, Montana and Special Olympics flags down the main ski run to the Lost Trail lodge.

special olympics snowshoes
Snowshoes are flyin'! (Steve Fullerton, Townsquare Media)

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