After 2 months on the road skiing many of America’s best resorts there’s no better place to finish than Whitefish, way up in the wilds of Montana close to the Canada border.
Indeed Calgary is the closest major city, 5.5 hours drive north, and Fernie the closest main ski resort, 1.5 – 2 hours away.
The further north we went the wilder it got on this trip, and the plan was always to save Jackson Hole and Big Sky till next to last, so we were ski fit and ready for the challenges both of those present.
Sure, Whitefish doesn’t have steeps to rival Corbetts Couloir at Jackson, never mind the aptly named Big Couloir at Big Sky, but it does have 3,000 acres of unpopulated runs, including snow ghost glades, and great snow, plus incredibly beautiful views towards the peaks of Glacier National Park to the east and lakes to the west. It’s one of the all time great ski mountain vistas, backed up by a town that boasts
“Whitefish is not a ski town, it’s a town of skiers.”
Indeed it’s not a ski town, summer tourism is the biggie here, so there’s plenty of infrastructure in terms of shops, restaurants, brew pubs and distillery cocktail bars – like Spotted Bear Spirits who make some great mixes of local berries and their vodka, not to mention plenty of accommodation, but it all has to operate with reasonable prices to cater for locals in the other seasons. For us after 2 months of resort prices it was a nice change to eat out at half the price you pay in major ski resort villages here.
Which makes it a great deal for skiers, who can stay in the mountain village 7 miles/11km & 1500′ above it, or downtown using the free Snow Bus or self-driving up.
The terrain is so tasty personally I would rather be on mountain on a powder day, but both work – the road is easy, just watch out for the white tail deer and pheasants along the way.
Having a car is the way to do it, though if you want an alternative mode of arrival Amtrak trains run from Portland & Seattle via Spokane in the west or Chicago and Minneapolis in the east – like Banff in Canada, Whitefish ski resort originally got popular through rail packages.
Kalispell (Glacier International Airport) is just 19 miles from the ski hill, with daily flights from Seattle, Salt Lake, Denver and Las Vegas, so it’s easy enough to get to that way.
It is also an easy add on to the Canadian resorts of the Powder Highway, with similar snow conditions, spectacular views, and laid back, less populated feel as those resorts.
Small enough so you won’t lose friends or family skiing at different levels, but large enough to find your own space –
“We measure acres per skier, not skiers per acre”
is the catch cry, with 3,000 acres over 2400 vertical feet, and 3 express quads and other lifts enough to keep lift lines minimal.
The locals who ski love their powder days, taking themselves off work and their kids out of school whenever they can, which is our kind of attitude.
But you won’t find much “attitude” of the usual big resort variety – a lot of locals can ski well and go hard, a lot of others of all ages from tiny tots to those who make me feel young, share the slopes with laid back friendliness.
We’ll have more in Travel Bible 5 in July, but meantime check out