Take a large-acreage ski area and a Montana location: the math adds up to runs with few people. Whitefish Mountain Resort sprawls with breathing room. Top it with colliding Pacific and Arctic weather systems dumping quality snow and the result yields long-lasting freshies.
For ski in-ski out lift access, stay in the upscale condominiums at Morning Eagle. Located in the upper village right across from the free bus downtown, the condos accommodate couples to large families in studios and one-, two- or three-bedroom units. Skier amenities add on underground parking, a fitness facility, hot tub and ski lockers.
After a condo breakfast, launch on Chair 1—the Glacier Chaser. As the lift climbs in elevation, the forest mutates from snow-cloaked trees to white ice-crusted gargoyles, bent and twisted. Each one unique, some snow ghosts curl over in arches, others resemble animals or dinosaurs.
PHOTO GALLERY: ALL THE POWDER, NONE OF THE PEOPLE
Snow ghosts haunt Whitefish Mountain
Copyright: Becky Lomax
To get oriented, explore front side cruiser runs yielding eyefuls of the valley below. Zip down Toni Matt, reveling in rollovers plummeting straight down toward Whitefish Lake. Pop over to Inspiration with its ridge traverse shooting towards the knife-edged Great Northern Mountain. You’ll often share Chair 1 rides with friendly locals who sometimes divulge their secret stashes.
For lunch, aim for the Summit House to revel in the jagged panorama of Glacier National Park. Just like the view, the burrito packs in mega-fuel in a huge package.
After lunch, try the backside runs on Chair 7, Big Creek Express. Starting on Goat Haunt, work across the patchwork of intermediate and advanced runs to Gray Wolf. This basin collects more snow than elsewhere on the mountain. Even days after a snowstorm, a dive into the trees yields fresh fluff.
For après, join locals and raucous Canadians in the Bierstube across from your condo. But beware of getting suckered into asking for a free ring... it’s not what you think.
For muscle recovery, sink into the outdoor hot tub with views on Morning Eagle’s top floor. Then, walk down the street to Café Kandahar for chef-owner Andy Blanton’s nightly tasting menu that pairs six courses with wines. Blanton relies on fresh, seasonal, local ingredients served with tasty, eye-satiating flair.
Café Kandahar at Whitefish Mountain Resort specializes in tasting menus with wine pairings.
Copyright: Café Kandahar
Follow your nose downstairs to the Morning Eagle Boardwalk, where Aunt B’s serves hot cinnamon rolls and espresso. Then, head for the summit to explore the east flanks. The narrow Moose Run squeezes like a steep natural half pipe. Runs off East Rim plunge into powder. Leave umph in your legs for Haskill Slide’s sharp pitches. For lunch, sail down lower Inspiration with some lazy groomer turns to the base lodge.
A skier descends Haskill Slide on a powder day at Whitefish Mountain Resort.
Copyright: Becky Lomax
In the Base Lodge Café, match the morning on the east side with an East Asian noodle bowl: Thai, teriyaki or stir fry, served in customary take-out boxes.
After lunch, tour Hellroaring Basin, a.k.a. West Bowl. Start with the longest run at the resort, the rollercoaster Hellfire, which nosedives short inclines and scurries around tree islands. Then, go off piste. Gray’s Golf Course provides the easiest powder drop while Picture Chutes and Slingshot hurtle down more direct routes. Each loop through Hellroaring requires riding three chairlifts. As part of the loop, you can ski all four groomers and one mogul run on Chair 2, Swift Creek Express.
Hellroaring Basin offers the Hellfire cruiser, chutes, glades and aprons at Whitefish Mountain Resort.
Copyright: Becky Lomax
Skip slopeside après in favor of hopping the bus to downtown Whitefish, which still holds remnants of its funky old ski town. Start at the Great Northern Brewery with a SnowGhost, named for the icons at the ski area’s summit. Tour the Central Avenue bars and order burgers with the locals at the Bulldog Saloon. Catch the last bus back to the resort by 11 p.m.
On the last day, rocket to the summit to ski the Bigfoot T-Bar, open Fridays through Sundays for the 2013-14 season. After a few short T-bar laps, hit the new runs cut through Stumptown and Window Pane. Groomers wrap around tree islands with plenty of places to duck into glades for freshies that build up during the week. Lapping these newest runs on the mountain requires circling between Chair 7 and the T-bar until installation of the new lift, planned for the 2014-15 winter.
A skier sinks into power in the trees at Whitefish Mountain Resort.
Copyright: Dave Ericson
For lunch, drop front side to Hellroaring Saloon. Sit on the deck overlooking the valley to share a giant platter of nachos, mounded with chicken and all the traditional toppings.
Finish on the front side with plenty of breathing room on Big Face moguls, the Langley trees and Good Medicine plunges. Then, swing through the snow ghosts to say farewell.