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First Impressions of Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana

You had us at hello - Whitefish Mountain Resort

A trip to Whitefish Montana to ski or snowboard may not be at the top of everyone’s list, but that’s just fine with me, as Whitefish Mountain Resort offers world class terrain with virtually no one here. I still can’t figure out why.

Arriving

Welcome to Montana

Welcome to Montana indeed!

Granted, I may have sampled some alcoholic beverages on the flight, though arriving at Glacier Park International Airport, I was a combination of excited and curious.

The stars had aligned and as it turned out, when Bryan contacted a friend who lived in the area (“in the area” in Montana refers to anyone within a 500 mile radius), it turned out she was moving… to Whitefish… the same weekend we were planning on arriving. How convenient.

As it turned out, the 4 bedroom house in Whitefish turned out to be more than adequate (thanks Dags), though our original plan would have also represented some of the best value I have ever seen anywhere in the world.

What’s the difference between Whitefish and Whitefish Mountain Resort?

Now let’s clear something up. The mountain is called “Whitefish Mountain Resort” and sits a few thousand feet (and a 10 minute drive) from the town of Whitefish in the valley below. Whitefish has almost everything you need, but another 15 minutes down the valley road and you have Kalispell, which definitely has everything you would expect in a larger town or even a small city!

So… back to the ski hill…

Get this, you can stay in a hotel on the mountain which is ski in/ski out, with lift tickets, hot breakfast and discounts on rentals and lessons for $86 plus tax. Wait, what? Yep… it seems they are pretty keen to get out of town visitors hooked and are willing to offer crazy deals to do so. There’s no doubt a deal like this is rare, but a great place to at least start your search is right on the deals page of the SkiWhitefish website.

Pete and Riley scope the vast terrain at Whitefish

Scoping the terrain and incredible views

 

Riley Polumbus, PR Manager and spokesperson for Whitefish Mountain Resort tells us that unlike many other resorts, 50% of lift ticket sales are locals and that is a huge number! Think about the amount of tourists who spend time skiing at resorts around the world and then consider a mountain that has half the people on it who actually live in the immediate area.

And that’s one of the reasons Whitefish for me has been a truly unique experience. No hype, no B.S. and locals that just love their home mountain (and why wouldn’t they living on the edge of the Glacier National Park). If you want to be genuinely immersed in a local experience but not sacrifice terrain or express lifts, then you really should put Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana on your list.

I digress.

We had reservations

Bryan and I had talked about a trip to Montana for a long time as neither of us have ever skied here (let alone visited) before. We had the same reservations anyone would have had and let me address those below:

It’s too cheap so can’t be any good

Seems counter intuitive, but maybe if Whitefish raised their prices, people would take the hill more seriously. Like I’ve already said, this place is everything you want and expect in a ski hill, but due to their allegiance with the locals, the management just doesn’t feel the need to increase prices and risk their relationships for short term profits. Huh. Imagine that.

Do we have to push start a plane on a runway to fly into Kalispell?

Nope. We flew on a full flight with Delta on a real plane with real jet engines and the Glacier National Park airport is, although small, exactly what you would hope for in a regional airport.

How many ridiculous flight connections do we have to make to get there?

Hard to believe, but you can fly from probably every single location in North America (and a bunch from international locations) with a maximum of one transfer! Flights arrive here every day from all the major hubs and access is easier that almost every other ski resort I’ve been to in North America. And get this, the airport is less than 20 minutes from town and even on a powder day, no more than 30 minutes for the actual ski lifts!

I like my shopping, food, bar and town conveniences… do they even have electricity in Whitefish?

This was a sort of serious question from me (not the electricity, I’m just having fun), but I was very surprised to discover how well equipped the town of Whitefish was. Plenty of bars to choose from, a range of dining options from the super cheap to pretty fancy and stores from cheap and cheerful to very high brow indeed.

Since no one really knows about this place, the terrain must be pretty boring

Pete skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort

The trees are perfectly spaced for all levels of skier

Um… nope. The terrain here is serious. Yeah, sure… it’s a great place for families (and you see plenty of them about) with green runs right from the mountain base and blue cruisers all over the resort with nightly grooming you would expect at any resort. But the real pleasure comes in the bowls, cliffs, rocks, trees, chutes and serious terrain to rival some of the best I’ve ever skied. Yes, it’s that good.

How crappy are the lifts at a small town ski resort?

How do express quad chairs sound? They have a few of those accessing the peaks. Sure, they also have some fixed grip chairs, but the beauty is that they access some very fun powder stashes and the ride is well worth it.

If not many people visit, is that because the locals hate visitors?

Apparently not. Although it’s pretty obvious I’m “not from round here”, the locals have been nothing but friendly and accommodating. At the restaurants, bars, on the ski hill and even in the street I’ve had pleasant conversations where we’ve shared stories from how dangerous Australian spiders really are, through to locals sharing their secret stash lines on the hill (or at least the ones they are happy to share).

They must not get any snow

Although our trip has seen a week of warmer weather and dare I say even some wet stuff down low, this is certainly not normal, especially for this time of year. Sometimes you get lucky with the weather and sometimes you don’t. Despite our lack of powder days here, we are assured that over 300 inches of powder falls here every season and the snow on the ground everywhere is testimony to the fact this is indeed a good year. As Riley tells us though, the snow falls here in smaller amounts, but just more often. Smaller storms litter the season giving refill on refill of fresh tracks. This week, we have had a little snow fall albeit heavier, though up high in the bowls, it is still skiing fantastic and I’ve been to plenty of places before where that is certainly not the case.

So what are the negatives of this place?

For me, cell phone and data reception *sigh*.

As someone who lives for connection to the outside world, I have struggled a little here. Where we are staying is a little out of the way though and once you are in town or on the hill, things get much better.

Long ski outs from short steep runs

Given the size of the resort and lower amounts of lifts, you can look at this another way whereby it reflects the distinct lack of crowds. As a snowboarder, I know Bryan isn’t a huge fan of some of the traverses or ski outs, but at least almost all of them don’t require you to unbuckle or push. Good new though, as one of these ski outs in question is under consideration for a new lift relocation, but more on that in an upcoming interview series.

No gondolas

Lol. Not really being serious here, but if you can’t live without them, you are in trouble here :)

Summing it up

Standing in a Montana bar, jam packed with locals wearing plaid and trucker hats, where I was one of only two without any facial hair whatsoever (I haven’t hit puberty yet, ok) listening to blue grass and the crowd moving as one, I had a moment:

String Dusters playing in Whitefish

The Infamous String Dusters playing in Whitefish

 

This was not on my “bucket list”, but it sure as heck should have been.

Whitefish Mountain Resort Montana, you’ve won me over and I’ll be back.

Enjoyed this? Here’s some other stuff we think you’ll find is awesome too!

Pete Kvist
Head Honcho of SRTV


Pete Kvist began skiing in Australia over 20 years ago and has been addicted to skiing and all things snow ever since. He has worked several seasons on the mountain as a lift operator and has also spent some time in ski resort media departments (so yes, he knows the tricks of the trade).

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