Whitefish in Winter
Where to Base Your Adventure:
Izaak Walton Inn, Essex, Montana (406-888-5700). This historic hotel dates back to 1939 and once housed crews from the Great Northern Railroad. The inn is an easy walk or quick ski to Glacier National Park. Rooms are cozy, railroad-theme spaces, and the food at the attached restaurant is hearty and accommodates singles and families alike. Rent snowshoes or Nordic skis and explore the 30 kilometers of groomed trails at the lodge, or head into the national park. Guides are available, and recommended for newbies.
Kandahar Lodge (800-862-6094/406-862-6098; www.kandaharlodge.com) is a quintessential European-style ski-in/ski-out lodge. Rooms are pricey but worth every penny. After a day skiing Hellroaring Basin, head here for fine down-filled duvets, a Jacuzzi and sauna, hot cider and cookies, and one of the more romantic restaurants on the mountain, Cafi Kandahar.
Grouse Mountain Lodge (406-862-3000; www.grmtlodge.com) makes a good base for both downhill and cross-country skiing. Winter rates are affordable and packages including a Big Mountain lift ticket and transportation, an even better deal. There are 15 kilometers of groomed cross-country and skating trails accessible from the lodge.
If you stay at either the Kandahar or Grouse Mountain Lodge, call the Montana Adventure Company (800-321-8822) to help you arrange your winter activitiesfrom snowshoeing and skiing to dogsledding and ice-skatingin the Whitefish area.
What to Do and How to Get There:
Big Mountain (800-858-5439/406-862-1900; www.bigmtn.com), which offers over 3,000 acres of skiable land, is a must for any winter vacation in Whitefish. The Nordic Center at Big Mountain (406-862-1900) has 12 kilometers of groomed cross-country ski trails and offers rental equipment for both downhill skiers and snowshoers.
Glacier Park Ski Tours offers guided day trips in the national park on skis or snowshoes. Full moon tours run during full moons between December and March. Overnight ski tours can be made by prior arrangement. For more information, contact Rusty Wells at (406) 862-2790 or (800) 646-5043, ext. 3724.
Taking a class or field course with the Glacier Park Institute (406-755-1211; firstname.lastname@example.org) is an excellent way to experience the park any time of year. In winter, try snowshoeing with a naturalist to track and monitor lynxes, fishers, pine martens, and wolverines.
Kalispell is the closest airport to Whitefish, only 11 miles from town, and many hotels in town offer complimentary transportation to and from the airport. Whitefish is also one of the major stops on the Amtrak route between Chicago and Seattle.
For more information about winter recreation, lodging, and local transportation in Whitefish and Glacier National Park, contact the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce (877-862-3548/406-862-3501). Central reservations for several resorts and hotels in the area can be made by calling (877) 862-1505.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication