Mountain steepness for a once-a-year, barely intermediate skier: B
On-mountain food: C-
Lack of Crowds: A
Whitefish Mountain Resort, formerly known as Big Mountain, is in northern Montana, right on the border with Canada. In fact, on a clear day, you can see the Canadian Rockies from the top, and it makes for some beautiful pictures.
We flew into Glacier Park Airport near the town of Kalispell, which is only a 20-minute drive from Whitefish. The airport was small but efficient, and we felt like royalty when we noticed a woman with a sign with our name on it as we entered the terminal. I had reserved a rental car, like I did for every trip, but no one had ever greeted us upon landing! Boy, this sure ain’t Denver, where you stand in line for an hour just to get the keys, and then waste another hour being driven offsite to the car! Anyway, we were driven just a few miles off airport property to their rental office, offered free bottled water, given a free lift ticket to Whitefish Mountain Resort, and received the keys to a luxury Chrysler Pacifica crossover SUV. Wow, did I ever get a good deal!
There are two parking areas at Whitefish Mountain Resort: the base lodge and the village area. There is ample parking in the base area, because it’s so far from the main skiing. But there’s ample locker space, and all you have to do is take a lift up to the main area, and ski back down at the end of the day. So that’s where we parked every day.
Whitefish Mountain Resort has a nice long beginner run, and I think I only saw someone on that run once. So if you’re looking for a gentle, deserted place to practice, that would be a good run. But moving up from that gentle run is quite a leap. The lower frontside blues were a little too steep for me. The greens and blues on the back (north) side were actually easier, but everyone has to go down a pretty short, steep blue to get to the backside. My level of skiing must be common, because a lot of people linger for a while at the top of this section before getting up the nerve to go down. There’s also a runout area that goes uphill if you don’t complete the turn, and some people just use that to slow down, never even trying to turn!
When we were here a few years ago, it was called Big Mountain, and the food was frankly, awful. I hope their food has improved since their name change to Whitefish Mountain Resort. Food in the city of Whitefish, on the other hand, was excellent. We had a couple of delicious dinners at Pollo Grill, which appears closed now, and another wonderful dinner at Tupelo Grille. Tupelo is still getting great reviews! I believe I had the cajun penne pasta, which is pasta with grilled chicken and andouille (spicy) sausage, in a heavenly cilantro-chile cream. I ordered it because I would never have thought of combining all those ingredients together, and wondered what it would taste like, because it could be good. Well it was phenomenal! There were six others in our party and everyone loved their meal, so that’s a good recommendation.
We were there for the full moon one April, so I signed us up for the Moonlight Dine & Ski dinner at Summit House, the restaurant at the top. We took a gondola up and back, though some people did choose to ski down. The food was nothing to write home about, but the view of the full moon rising over the Canadian Rockies with the sky turning into the sunset colors of pink, purple, orange, and everything in between was worth coming up for.
A wonderful daytrip is to drive over to Glacier National Park, which is about 35 minutes away. The entire park is not fully open until summer, when all the snow and ice has melted away. But enough of the park was open that we got to walk around a beautiful glacial lake, and do some hiking in a wooded area that still had a lot of snow on the ground. I remember the hike as very scenic, because there was a stream running through an otherwise snow-covered area, surrounded by tall evergreens.
If you’re a solid intermediate skier and don’t like crowds, Whitefish Mountain Resort might be a good place to check out in the Pacific Northwest. But don’t come so late in the season like we did. With a peak elevation of only 7,000 feet, the lower runs can become slushy by March.