The Ski Mountain
In operation since 1947, Whitefish Mountain Resort – locally known as Big Mountain- is an unmistakable peak at the northern end of the Flathead Valley. As one of the two destination resorts in Montana, it boasts 3,000 acres of varied skiing backed by fast lifts, 300 inches of snow annually and all the amenities a vacationer would expect. Extremely popular with Canadians due its proximity to the border (about 50 miles), the hill offers a mix of new amenities with old-style charm, complemented by friendly Montana hospitality. While not overlooked locally, Whitefish remains relatively unnoticed on the national scene, as evidenced by nonexistent midweek lift lines. Many living in the valley try to keep Whitefish a hidden gem, but after ranking as the 21st best resort in SKI Magazine’s 2014 Reader Resort survey, the secret is out.
The Mountain Experience
Whitefish sits solidly in an intermountain climate. Occasionally, it sees bitter cold spells similar to those frequent at higher elevation resorts. Other times, the Pacific moisture of Washington dumps wet heavy snow. But more often than not, the two mix pleasantly to create the ideal climate.
Instead of massive dumps, Whitefish tends to receive a little snow here and there. The snow stacks up nicely, and the hill isn’t very rocky, making for a snowpack that covers any hidden stumps or boulders. And while most days on the mountain are cloudy, there’s an upside: cloud cover keeps the snow soft overnight. Icy conditions aren’t a common occurrence here.
• Advanced: With 43 percent advanced and 6 percent expert, experienced skiers and boarders have a plethora of options. Much of the advanced terrain involves wide swaths of glades, some thinned and some a little tighter. The trees help shelter fresh snow from wind and sun, but if you want to dodge them all together, check out Slingshot, Grey’s Golf Course or the Nose of East Rim.
Current Snow Conditions
• Intermediate: Covering nearly everything that isn’t in the trees or steep, Whitefish’s intermediate terrain shines. Long fall lines and regular grooming allow for a surplus of choices. Chair 2—known as the Swift Creek Express—has plenty of options for intermediates looking to cruise on Ed’s Run or get their bump on Upper and Lower Mully’s.
• Beginner: With the addition of Chair 9 and the recently finished Base Lodge expansion, Whitefish invested in opening more beginner terrain. The Snow Sports School has expanded programs for every ability level, introducing more programs for young snowboarders in the last year.
• Terrain Park: Consistently one of the best parks in Montana, the Fish Bowl delivers more than its name suggests. The early season provides a solid feature line on Central Avenue for intermediate park skiers. Later in the season, the Depot (with smaller features) and Armory (with lots of airtime) come through. All of these areas/trails are located off of Chair 3 with the Magic beginner park located on the Big Easy carpet near the Base Lodge.
As one of the destination resorts in Montana, Whitefish can be uncomfortably busy during typical U.S. holidays: Christmas to New Year’s, Martin Luther King Day and Presidents’ Day weekends. Also note, many Canadians take advantage of their long weekends (they’re spoiled with a national holiday every month) and swarm the slopes. Midweek skiing from late January to mid-March leads to fast lifts, small lines and tons of terrain to yourself.
Bring your fog lens. The infamous clouds of the Flathead Valley often sock the mountain in a sea of grey. When the sun decides to shine take advantage and soak in views of Glacier National Park. Check the resort’s webcams—a gloomy day in the valley may mean bluebird skies on the mountain.
Concerned about getting to the hill? The free SNOW bus operates all winter long and lets you avoid the hassles parking and driving.
At the mountain, ski to Hellroaring Saloon (opt for the nachos) or Whitefish’s best après spot, The Bierstube. In town, check out the local’s favorite Great Northern Bar and Grill for cheap drinks and live music. Visit the sometimes overlooked Latitude 48 Bistro for upscale dining and an impressive wine list. If you like house music and a club scene, hit Casey’s. Clubbing isn’t very popular with Whitefish locals, rather expect a wild scene of tourists and rowdy Canadians. Even though Casey’s feels like a big city club, this is Montana – beards and flannels trump design brands and heels.
Whitefish. A former logging town, now with tempting restaurants and bars, that hasn’t lost its old-West sensibilities and charm.
Luxury homes to cozy nooks and everything in between are located both slopeside and a short walk from the lifts. Per usual, there are Ski-and-Stay specials that are worth researching. Most lodging options on the mountain are privately-owned but resort-operated condos. There are also many hotel and lodging options in and around Whitefish town. Use the “Explore Whitefish’s Best Ski Lodging Deals” box above and right to find your best Lodging choices.
Skiing with Kids
Whitefish has plenty of options for youngsters. Chairs 9 and 6 and the Big Easy carpet allow parents to keep the Base Lodge close at hand for hot chocolate breaks and tuckered tikes. The Ski/Ride School has programs for every level, and the Kid’s Center offers reliable child care if you want to hit the slopes sans kids.
Lift Tickets and Season Pass Cost
By David Steele