News from the snow
Whitefish Mountain Resort USA
Located in the old railroad town of Whitefish, just 60 miles south of the Canadian border, Big Mountain caters to skiers and snowboarders of all ability levels. Famous for its snow ghosts, uncrowded slopes, abundant snowfall and unsurpassed views, Big Mountain is among the 10 largest ski resorts in the U.S. offering over 3,000 skiable acres, 85 marked runs and eleven lifts including two high-speed quad chairlifts. They call the Flathead Valley of Montana "the last best place" . The sixty by sixty mile valley floor is dominated by Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, and Whitefish Lake, virtually at the foot of the Big Mountain. Considered the recreation capitol of Montana, the Whitefish region and Glacier National Park are winter sports enthusiasts’ playgrounds, offering not only world-class skiing and snowboarding, but also snow shoeing, Nordic trails, snow tubing, snowmobiling, cat skiing, ice skating, dog sledding and more. Whitefish boasts all the creature comforts of the more well-known resorts - including a jet-served international airport 19 miles (30km) away, luxury accommodations and fine dining - but what sets it apart from the rest is its remoteness, natural beauty and genuine hospitality. Skiing has been part of the Whitefish area for more than 60 years. In 1937, the Whitefish Lake Ski Club obtained a special permit from the U.S. Forest Service enabling them to build cabins and trails in the Hellroaring Creek region. Great Falls businessmen Ed Schenck and George Prentice quickly recognized the area’s potential and shortly after World War II they began efforts to develop a full-fledged ski resort on the mountain. It was a community enterprise from the start with local people selling shares of stock to meet payrolls, donating labour, preparing the slopes, even giving up free time to help push through an all-weather mountain road. On the morning of December 14, 1947, Schenck, Prentice and a thousand townsfolk stood on the slopes of the newly christened Big Mountain Resort to watch the brand new T-bar lift bring their community vision to life. Growth during those early years was steady and by 1960, the first major expansion of the resort was undertaken. Fifteen miles of new ski terrain were opened up that year with the completion of Chair No 1, aptly named Going To The Sun, in that for the first time skiers were effortlessly transported to the very summit of The Big Mountain. Eight years later Chair No 2 was built to replace the original T-bar lift. A T-bar was set in to the west and overnight accommodations were expanded with the construction of a 54 unit hotel, the Alpinglow Inn. Big Mountain soon directed its efforts toward catering to the increasingly specialized interest of modern day skiers. As a result, more beginner and intermediate level slopes were opened up in 1975 with the construction of the Tenderfoot Chair No 3, replacing the nearly 20 year old Poma lift. The first stages of an extensive Big Mountain Resort Master Plan were adopted during the 1985/86 season with the opening of the Summit House restaurant and the construction of Chair No 7 on the North Slope adding a further 75 acres of skiing terrain. The $4.8 million expansion of 1989/90 included replacing the original Chair No 1 with a new high speed quad, the Glacier Chaser, as well as installation of The Big Mountain’s first snowmaking system. New for the 1992/93 ski season was Chair No 6, the Village Lift. With it came 3 new beginner runs, an access trail - Home Again, and a skier bridge which allowed ski in/ski out access to virtually all lodging properties and private homes. New single-family home sites, townhouse sites, Ranger and Inspiration runs, and expanded snowmaking capacity were also added. The Outpost was constructed during the summer of 1993. Located at the base of Chair No 6, this facility contains a ski rental shop, ski patrol, lockers, and the Trail’s End Cafe. 1997 was one of the largest expansion years with investments of over $3.5 million, which included the building of a new high speed quad which halved the trip time of the old Chair 7 on the north side. The Hellroaring Lift was also constructed and work began on Kintla Lodge which opened for guests in December 1998. Located at the base of Chair 3, Kintla includes 2 and 3 bedroom slope-side condominium units, as well as new retail spaces. In the summer of 1999, initial development began on “Moose Run” that consists of 52 townhouse lots and one single-family lot. It is located slope-side along Chair 6 and will include a two-acre park with lighted hiking and biking trails. The Big Mountain Freestyle Team has one of only five permanent inverted aerial jump sites in the nation, and the only one that is available for season long competitions and training. Built by the Big Mountain and the Flathead Valley Ski Foundation in the fall of 1998, the jump hill has become a training site for Olympic Gold Medallist Eric Bergoust. The team also enjoys a permanent mogul training line where mogul skiers can ski 5 nights a week also. Plans are underway with more than $300 million to be spent on improvements over an 8 to 10 year period. Designs include more than 700 residential/lodging units, at least one hotel, condominiums and town homes, employee housing as well as approximately 80,000 sq ft of commercial space and a conference centre.
One of the largest resorts in North America with a surprisingly limited international reputation to date. Close to the town of Whitefish, which has more facilities and attractions.
To make each guests’ skiing experience more flexible and valuable, Big M is offering a “Lower Mountain” daily lift ticket this winter which is valid on the lower slopes of Chairs 2 and 3. This new ticket is designed for beginner skiers and snowboarders who are unlikely to be exploring the whole mountain and it may be upgraded to full mountain if they wish. Guests will also be able to demo brand new ski equipment from K2, Salomon, Rossignol, and Dynastar from Big Mountain Sports locations at the base area and summit of the mountain.
The Big Mountain Freestyle Team has one of only 5 permanent inverted aerial jump sites in the nation, and the only one that is available for season long competitions and training. Built by the Big Mountain and the Flathead Valley Ski Foundation in the fall of 1998, the jump hill has become a training site for Olympic Gold Medallist Eric Bergoust. The team also enjoys a permanent mogul training line where mogul skiers can ski 5 nights a week also. The Terrain Park and the halfpipe are both very skier friendly and have already produced some national free ride contenders.
A great way to get off the beaten track and enjoy the wilderness is snowcat skiing. Strong intermediate to advanced skiers and boarders can venture on to more challenge terrain beyond the ski area boundary and powder hounds can enjoy pristine snow, view the beautiful peaks of Glacier National Park and the Canadian Rockies and make fresh tracks with a professional guide. Snowcat skiing uses a unique combination of lift riding and snowcat riding (a snowcat is a smaller version of a piste groomer) to access the out of bounds terrain. Groups should be able to complete 5-10 runs per day, depending on the speed at which the group as a whole can ski. A lift ticket is required in addition to the snowcat ticket.
From mid-December through mid-March, as snow conditions allow, Big Mountain offers skiers and snowboarders the chance to play in the snow under the lights! This is a great way to either extend your ski day (it's free with a regular lift ticket) or just come up at the end of the day and enjoy some after-hours skiing. The mountain restaurants are open too so you can make a night of it.
All activities are flexible depending on the ages of the children. Kiddie Korner has 2 sleeping rooms and nap times are rotated throughout the day. Naps are not required for children but they do try to have quiet times for all children if naps are not taken. Open three evenings a week during night skiing (mid-December to mid-March). Reservations are required for infants under 14 months and strongly recommended for older children.
Discounts are availble to multiple children in the same rate schedule, ie two children at the full day rate or two children at the hourly rate. Parents are always welcome to check on their children at any time during the day. If the whole family isn't into skiing every day, snow tubing is a great option. Located above the Outpost Lodge at the bottom of Chair 6, the tubing lift will have riders at the top of the hill in no time. The minimum age for tubing is seven years.
For unusual dining options there are Moonlight, Dine and Ski evenings or Wagon Ride Dinners (see Apres ski section).
One of the most popular evening activities is the Wagon Ride Dinner. After a brisk ride to the livery barn, an all you can eat buffet is served with a delicious menu of Rocky Mountain Oysters, barbecue ribs and chicken, mashed potatoes, salad, biscuits, butter and homemade pie while there is a pasta option for vegetarians. Cowboy entertainment is provided. Still on the Cowboy theme the Horsepower Hour (sleigh ride) is a one hour sleigh ride with cowboy stories, a hot drink and cowboy rope tricks.
You could find out everything you need to know about Grizzly Bears with "Grizzlies Exposed". Local naturalist, photographer and Big Mountain ski instructor Tim Rubbert presents a free slide presentation on his favourite subject, the Grizzly Bear. Tim also does free day time cross-country tours for guests and isn a mine of information of local flora and wildlife.
On Tuesdays and Wednesdays after skiing its movie time in Mogul's Village Pub and titles such as "Big Mountain, Big Fun" and "Cool Winter". These films were shot on Big Mountain during the past few decades and are historical, hysterical and downright gorgeous.
Each Wednesday the Frabert Awards take place when the locals get together to honour a bumbling friend. Hosted by the Ski Patrol, Frabert is an event that has to be seen to be appreciated and there is a little free beer available.
There are several annual apres-ski event such as the Craw Fish and Beer Fest and you can vote for your favourite costume in the annual Alpinglow Employee Costume Contest.
Big M's Snowboard Team regularly participate in USSA competitions throughout the season in Halfpipe, Slopestyle and BoarderCross. The Boarder Course is located on the North Side of the mountain on "Whitetail" and is complete with table tops, major hits and gap jumps. The Terrain Park and the halfpipe are both very skier friendly and have already produced some national free ride contenders Snowcat skiing/boarding is available at Big M and its a great way to access out of bounds terrain away from the piste and venture on to more challenging terrain.