Whitefish/Big Mt Ski Getaways
The northwest corner of Montana used to be a tough place to reach, a situation that suited many locals just fine. Its location off the beaten path meant that the sprawling terrain of Whitefish Mountain Resort on Big Mountain belonged to them and a relative handful of regular visitors. Some of those visitors, refugees from ski towns and mountains in the East or the Rockies that had gone glitz, settled down. Life was good.
Life is still good in northwest Montana, but Whitefish Mountain Resort, formally Big Mountain, is no longer an undiscovered gem. While it has yet to record the mega-numbers of visitors of a Heavenly or a Vail, easier access to the Flathead Valley and the regions natural charm have made Kalispell (20 miles south) one of the fastest-growing areas of the state. Several direct flights a day from the West Coast and major eastern cities to Glacier International Airport make visiting the resort much easier. More visitors have spurred the development of the resort's infrastructure, which in turn attracts more visitors. And more of them are turning into, well, if not locals, certainly residents.
For now, though, Whitefish Mountain can absorb the increase. With 3000 acres of terrain (plus another 1000 of permitted backcountry), a 2350-foot vertical drop, and a lift network that can easily keep ahead on even a busy day, the mountain remains uncrowded. Half the terrain is rated intermediate, another quarter or so beginner, while the rest - trees, bowls, glades and such - are for advanced skiers and riders.
Those advanced folks should ride the Glacier Chaser to the summit and drop into North Bowl Face or use Russ's Street and Inspiration to access more testing terrain. The intermediate Moe-Mentum runs through the middle of this area. Turn the other way at the summit for Hellroaring Basin. There's also a T-bar you can catch before the big bend in Russ's Street that delivers you to north-facing trees and glades. The terrain here can be further explored by booking a snowcat tour.
If big, wide, fast, and blue appeals to you, there are plenty of choices, which include Inspiration, Toni Matt, The Big Ravine, and Hellfire.
Wide open slopes, pick-your-own-line trees, bowls, glades, and whatnot are complemented by a big terrain park and a half pipe. Beginners have their own pod of trails near the base, but no good choices from the top.
Boarders tend to sport carving boards here, as the terrain encourages big, fast turns, but there's a multi-hit-and-trick park on Silvertail.