Whitefish: The Ultimate Guide

What do most look for in a snowboard/ski trip?

Whitefish Main St - Slight Angle Clean 1280Sure, we all want those deep azure blue sky “blower” powder days. Where it seems like you are riding through air and turns are immensely easy, but most of all we are looking for memories on our trips. Whitefish will not disappoint in both. As soon as your foot steps off of the plane this place seems different it almost seems magical.

Reasons to visit Whitefish

  • No Crowds
  • 3,000 acres of terrain
  • The local charm

There are no crowds, the locals smile and say “Howdy, welcome to Whitefish”. A town of less than 10,000 people with a ski resort with over 3,000 acres leads to powder days that you aren’t begging for more but rather begging for your legs to last one more run. Like Montana’s character, the snow reports and acreage are understated. Even though Whitefish rarely gets those infamous epic storms the Wasatch and Sierra Nevada’s receive when they do receive a 4 inch powder day at Whitefish it will ski as big as a foot of fresh snow anywhere else and nearly every acre of the mountain can be skied.

Places to eat, drink & be merry in Whitefish

What’s up with all the huckleberries in Whitefish?

The Northern Rockies are home to a unique fruit that can’t be grown in captivity and are still hand-picked in the wild to this day…we know it as the huckleberry. The legend says that huckleberries need grizzly bear droppings to grow. Who knows if it is true, but the huckleberry is definitely something to enjoy. Where can you enjoy them in Whitefish? For starters, Great Northern Brewery. At the brewery a beer called Wild Huckleberry Wheat Lager is produced.The unique use of huckleberries in the brewing process makes it one of the best fruit beers you will ever taste. You don’t drink beer? Well, head down to Montana Coffee Traders and get some of the most phenomenal tasting coffee in the country! Yes, you guessed it. They have a flavored coffee that has hints of huckleberries. Don’t do coffee either? Grab a slice of huckleberry pie at Loula’s Café. Depending on what is in season, they have all kinds of interesting and fantastic takes on what goes in a pie.

Big Mountain beckons you to visit

As “Big Mountain” has beckoned to be ridden by so many people it will call you from town to head up. As you walk up to the main lift, Chair 1, you might be shocked by the amount of folks standing at the lift line. Don’t worry, there is a reason why this place is called “Big Mountain”. As soon as you pull away from the lift all those people will suddenly disappear.

Starting the day off right

To start the day take a few laps down Toni Matt or Big Ravine to get an idea of the type of terrain that Whitefish has in store for you… You will notice that the trails are cut in a way that they seem to be like race tracks looping up and down and around perfect for taking long smooth carves. If the infamous fog rolls in and the reason why the top of Big Mountain has their trademark “Snowghosts” it’s time to jump into the trees to get your bearings. To find trees just drop off of any of the main groomed runs such as Toni Matt or Inspiration. For less steep terrain with trees head to the backside. The trail pitch is gentle and it is a great place to introduce your kids or your girlfriend to the “trees”. George’s Gorge has well-spaced small pine trees which help build confidence as well as learn how to do quick small turns with minimum risk.

Looking from the Summit of Whitefish towards Goat Hunt trail

Looking from the Summit of Whitefish towards Goat Hunt trail

If it is a sunny day be sure to head straight to Inspiration. There is a reason why this trail is called “Inspiration”… As you make the final turn from the summit onto Inspiration the horizon opens up the slope slowly drops down and Whitefish exposes the entire Flathead Valley in front of you with a view of the majestic peaks of Glacier National Park in the distance.

Terrain

Beginner

This mountain is perfect for families and inexperienced riders. Chair 6 – The Village lift is a nice place to learn that you get a feeling that you are within the ski resort, but at the same time separated from the more expert skiers on the mountain giving everyone an opportunity to learn without any pressure. Once you are ready to take some intermediate terrain head over to Chair 2 Swift Creek Express. Ed’s Run, Hibernation, and Hell Roaring are all good intermediate runs that are cut wide and a consistent pitch to make sure you have space to get used to skiing.

Intermediates

This mountain caters to intermediates besides the main runs such as Big Ravine, Toni Matt, and Bench Run if it snows, which is often, it might be time to try a black diamond such as Ptarmigan Bowl or Big Face. There are some trees and ungroomed, but the pitch is about as steep as Toni Matt. If you feel like getting your racing spirit going be sure to check out Moe-Mentum named after the famous Olympic Gold medalist who grew up racing down these same trails as a kid.

Expert

Looking for more steeps and challenge? Head over to Hell Roaring Basin. Make sure to “straight it” if you want to make it over to that part of the mountain since the cat track is flat. Upon arrival in Hell-Roaring the crowds disappear, the wind suddenly dies down. Snow flakes fall lightly in front you as if you were in a movie. Looking down from the cat track your breath begins to quicken as what lays in front of you… an ungroomed paradise filled with tight trees. As you begin to make your first turn you begin to understand why this is called Hell Roaring Basin. You begin to roar with excitement jumping from turn to turn being very aware of the tree wells. Since this is an ungroomed area we suggest riding with a partner and starting with Glory Hole followed by Gray’s Golf Course.

Flower Point – the newest addition

Just a few years ago another chair to the North side of the mountain was added. Before this, the terrain was originally out of bounds and only accessible via backcountry. Hell Roaring Basin is known for its seriously steep glades. Flower Point is a good intermediate to expert run for anyone not ready for Hell Roaring Basin. The steeper terrain is accessible to rider’s right by entering the trees immediately after getting off the lift. For more mellow terrain head to rider’s left and follow the cat track until you feel comfortable dropping in.

Local Freshies Tip: When choosing your line…Don’t ride directly under the chair. You’ll end up in a dead-end ravine and depending on snow levels you could fall through and end up wet!

Flower Point steep terrain on the right.

Flower Point steeps on the right

The upside, Flower Point’s terrain faces north. You can usually still find untracked powder stashes long after a storm. We discovered enough to ride all day until our legs burned! If there is a down-side, it’s the fact the lift is an old fixed-grip triple chair so it will take a while to get up. Relax and enjoy the scenery because it is definitely worth the wait. This stash is a great new addition for the resort. We highly recommend heading straight over once you reach the summit. These runs won’t disappoint!

Whitefish_Flower_Pt_chairAll these amazing things besides the skiing/riding have led to Whitefish Mountain resort posting the busiest ski season on record. Like all great things, this “secret” may have to come to an end…the question is when will this secret become known? My suggestion would be to come up sooner than later. When you do, remember, “Don’t tell anyone!”