The Ski Mountain
The smaller of the two ski areas in Montana’s Flathead Valley, Blacktail Mountain is the down-home yin to Whitefish Resort’s yang. Unlike other ski hills, Blacktail allows you to ski down before taking a lift ride up due to the lodge’s mountaintop location. Three parking lots, three fixed-grip lifts, and one lodge say it all: this is skiing the way it used to be. Habited by local families and a small group of visitors, Blacktail has yet to experience anything close to crowding. Lake-effect snow can create powder days that Whitefish Mountain Resort never sees – it pays to check the snow reports. To top it off, fifth graders ski free.
The Mountain Experience
Instead of arriving at the base, the road winds thirteen miles from Lakeside, Montana to the summit of Blacktail. This makes the parking lot a little colder than usual but also allows you to ski right from the start—a neat reordering of the usual program.
A week of cloud cover in the valley can lead to big snow days here.
Because Blacktail Mountain is a small affordable hill for locals and families in the Flathead Valley, lift ticket and lesson prices match the hill’s value. Ticketing, lockers and rentals are located on the bottom floor of The Lodge. Find the cafeteria one floor above and Muley’s sit-down restaurant on the third floor. Fare is limited, so if you’re not into grease, brown-bagging may lead to a happier stomach.
As for crowds, several school districts have reading incentive programs that reward kids with mid-week ski trips but this is the only kind of crowd you’ll see at the hill.
Blacktail Mountain Ski Terrain
• Beginner: Cold Camp and Widowmaker offer rolling, comfortable slopes for beginners. The chair is slow, which can be helpful when explaining the ropes to little ones. A small carrot tow covers the bunny hill, just above the main lodge, where the little guys develop a true love for skiing.
If you’re new to skiing and want to explore the more advanced Whitefish Resort, for more affordable prices, try honing your skills here and then head up the valley to the big mountain.
Fixed grip chairs keep things casual, but the rides are long by resort standards. Wind on both Olympic and Crystal can make the ride nippy, so bundle up. Due to its positioning, Blacktail sees much less fog than Whitefish. For some families in the valley, this is a huge selling point.
Great for older groups or families that aren’t trying to break the bank. Blacktail is very affordable by most ski standards and usually remains open a weekend or two longer than Whitefish Mountain Resort, making it a great option for a late spring visit.
Sorry Charlie, but après skiing isn’t a term thrown around here. However, the nearby town of Lakeside might quench your thirst, especially at Tamarack Brewing. A local’s favorite, Tamarack showcases a large list of in-house microbrews and extensive menus, plus Trivia Night on Tuesdays. The valley’s largest town, Kalispell, has many low-cost restaurants and bars. Try MacKenzie River Pizza for hearty pies and a kid-friendly scene or experience the rowdier side of Montana at local’s favorite, Moose’s Saloon.
Whitefish. An hour away, near Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort, this former logging town now has restaurants, bars and old-West sensibilities and charm.
Blacktail Mountain Lodging
You won’t find any near the hill, but Kalispell has plenty of options like the Holiday Inn Express and the La Quinta Inn. For a step up, check for availability at the quaint Kalispell Grand Hotel or Hilton Garden Inn. Use the “Explore Blacktail’s Best Ski Lodging Deals” box above and right to find your best Lodging choices. Or for Whitefish, one hour away, use the “Explore Montana’s Best Ski Lodging Deals” box above and right.
The Blacktail website hosts a good list of options:
Skiing with Kids
Blacktail caters to beginners, intermediates and families. Everyone from the nice folks at the rental shop to ski school instructors offer special care to visitors.SKI TERRAINSNOW CONDITIONSTERRAIN PARK
Lift Tickets and Season Pass Cost
See Blacktail Mountain Lift Ticket Prices and Season Passes here. Ski free on your birthday with a valid ID.
By David Steele